Enter the rehearsal studios of the Joffrey Ballet these days and you will find Christopher Wheeldon, the director and Tony Award-winning choreographer of the Broadway hit, “An American in Paris,” creating a dramatically re-imagined version of “The Nutcracker” that is set for its world premiere in December at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre.
In one room, four couples are learning a grand pas de deux. In another, a pack of Styrofoam rats — puppets impaled on wooden sticks manipulated by dancers who can barely contain their giggles — are popping up in every corner.
For a closer look at the magic and mischief in store, mark your calendar for 11:30 a.m. Sept. 8. That’s when the Joffrey will offer its two-hour, first behind-the-scenes look at the new work with a live stream rehearsal. A one-day-only video opportunity — showing Wheeldon at work with the Joffrey dancers —- will be accessible for viewing via the Joffrey’s online YouTube channel.
This “Nutcracker” preview follows the immensely popular live stream rehearsal of Wheeldon’s re-imagined “Swan Lake” that was performed by the Joffrey in 2014. In addition to seeing the choreographer coach the dancers for his new production, the company’s artistic director, Ashley Wheater, will conduct a brief interview with Wheeldon during a rehearsal break. The live stream will be produced by Big Foot Media.
As previously announced, the backdrop for Wheeldon’s new “Nutcracker” is Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair as seen through a child’s eyes. And its realization includes an impressive team of collaborators including Tony Award-nominated set and costume designer Julian Crouch; author and illustrator Brian Selznick (the Caldecott Medal Award-winning author of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film, “Hugo,” directed by Martin Scorsese); Obie and Drama Desk award-winning puppeteer and MacArthur Fellowship recipient Basil Twist (“The Addams Family,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show”), six-time Tony Award-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz (“An American in Paris,” “Once,” “Frozen”), and Tony Award-winning projection designer Ben Pearcy (“An American in Paris,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Big Fish”).
“The Nutcracker” will run Dec. 10-30 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress. Single tickets ($35-$170), are available at the box office inside the Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph, the Auditorium Theatre Box Office, and online at http://www.Joffrey.org. You may order by phone at (312) 386-8905.