The Nutcracker For Chicago

I just saw this article on NextCity about the Joffrey Ballet’s effort to “make a new American Nutcracker” by setting the story in Chicago during the 1893 Colombian Exposition/World’s Fair. (The Joffrey has long had a version of Nutcracker that was set in America in case you were wondering if there was an “old” American Nutcracker.)

The article asks, “Is This the Most Graceful Urban Planning History Lesson Ever?” which is an entertaining concept in itself. But the Joffrey company tries to put an authentic American flavor to the story in this most recent version choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon,

The show then depicts immigrant construction workers at a modest Christmas party — a far cry from the traditional setting of an opulent upper-class home. It revises protagonist Marie (sometimes called Clara) from a rich girl dreaming of exotic sweets to the child of an impoverished single mother, dreaming of a visit to the multicultural exhibits at the upcoming exposition.

Part of the idea is to capture the childlike wonder that the real exposition evoked. “The World’s Fair was a truly magical turning point for this city,” Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater explained

PBS created a documentary explaining the concept and process behind creating the Joffrey version last year. They do some amazing things with their re-imagination of the story, including puppets by Basil Twist. Not to mention dancing walnuts–because you know, how can you have a nutcracker and no nuts?  Nearly every production of Nutcracker has been violating the rule of Chekov’s gun.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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