The Joffrey Ballet has been keeping details of the scenario for its new $4 million production of “The Nutcracker” under wraps to a great extent. But slowly, more details about the ballet — which is being choreographed by Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon (director-choreographer of the Broadway hit, “An American in Paris”), and been given a fresh, Chicago-oriented story line (devised in collaboration with author-illustrator Brian Selznick (a Caldecott Medal Award-winner for “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”) _ are being divulged.
Here is the description just released by the Joffrey about its world premiere production at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, with 27 performances running Dec. 10 – 30:
A ballet in two acts, ‘The Nutcracker opens on Christmas Eve, 1892, as workers from around the world construct the Chicago Columbian World’s Exposition, set to open five months later. Marie and her younger brother Franz arrive at home — a little shack where their mother, a sculptress, is creating a masterpiece that will preside over the fair. Workers from the fair soon arrive at the shack as a festive Christmas party begins. The creator of the World’s Fair, the mysterious Impresario, and his apprentice Peter, arrive to entertain the workers with an enchanting vision of his fair while distributing gifts, including a nutcracker for Marie. That evening, Marie awakes to an epic battle between toy soldiers and mice led by The Mouse King and the now life-size Nutcracker, where she unexpectedly saves the day. Following their victory, Marie, the Impresario and the Nutcracker, now transformed into a Prince, set sail into the night. The ballet’s second act begins as they arrive on shore, greeted by the Queen of the Fair who grants them a visit to a dream-like World’s Fair. They move from pavilion to pavilion, where countries from around the world are represented. As the dream comes to a close, the Fair explodes with light and Marie suddenly awakes to find it is Christmas Day.
In a prepared statement, the Joffrey’s artistic director, Ashley Wheater noted: “The World’s Columbian Exposition changed Chicago history, heralding its stature as a great American city. This was a time of optimism and dynamic growth. Having settled the frontier, America embraced its place in the world. Imagine visiting the Fair, with its massive scale, gleaming architecture, exotic foreign pavilions and raucous midway. For a visitor, young or old, the experience must have been wonderful. Christopher Wheeldon and his creative team have captured this spirit in our new ‘Nutcracker.’ Perhaps more importantly, they have found fresh meaning at the heart of the ballet’s story. Rather than arriving at the ‘land of sweets’, Marie’s fantastic journey brings her to a loving home in a new land.”
The Chicago Philharmonic, led by Joffrey music director Scott Speck, will perform the classic Tchaikovsky score for every performance. The full Joffrey company also will be joined onstage by more than 90 young dancers from the Chicagoland area, and young vocalists from four different local children’s choirs.
Preview performances of Wheeldon’s “The Nutcracker” will take place Dec. 1 – 4 at the University of Iowa’s new Hancher Auditorium. A longstanding artistic and creative partner to the Joffrey, Hancher Auditorium originally commissioned Robert Joffrey’s version of “The Nutcracker” in 1987.