Review: The Nutcracker (Joffrey Ballet, 2018)

| December 6, 2018

Christine Rocas stars in The Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet Chicago

  

  

The Nutcracker
 
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choregraphed by Christopher Wheeldon
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)
thru Dec 30  |  tix: $35-$109  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Familiar holiday classic bursting with Chicago-centric charm, beauty

  

The Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet Chicago, Auditorium Theatre

    
Joffrey Ballet Chicago presents
    
The Nutcracker

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

The Nutcracker: a phrase that means many things to many people.

For ballet dancers, it’s a yearly ritual, one they’ve been performing since they were old enough to know the difference between first and fifth positions, an annual routine that often keeps them away from their families at Christmas but also keeps their ballet companies running. For families, it’s an opportunity for holiday bonding, however enthusiastic or reluctant different family members may be. For young audience members, this could be the beginning of a passion, perhaps a career. For some, The Nutcracker April Daly and Miguel Angel Blanco star in The Nutcracker, Joffrey Ballet, Christopher Wheeldonmay be the only ballet they ever see.

How to reconcile all of this?

In 2016, Joffrey Ballet debuted a new version of the Tchaikovsky classic: choreographed by ballet demigod Christopher Wheeldon, this Nutcracker isn’t set in a large mansion full of wealthy people. Instead, it’s both humble – the Christmas party is a potluck of simply dressed immigrants who bring a small tree and plenty of good cheer – and Chicago-centric, set in the months before the 1893 World’s Fair. Mysterious family member Drosselmeyer is now the Great Impresario, a character loosely based on Daniel Burnham, who (among many other accomplishments) is responsible for Chicago having an open and accessible lakefront. Instead of a privileged little girl who receives a nutcracker as yet one more gift, the central character is Marie, the daughter of a sculptress of modest means, who loves her mother and younger brother and is thrilled to receive a special present from the Great Impresario himself.

This Nutcracker, now in its third year with Joffrey Ballet, remains the same in terms of dreamy scenery, candy-colored costumes, Tchaikovsky’s iconic score and the warm glow of love. Two years after its world premiere, the Joffrey Nutcracker is still an emotional journey, full of surprises and delights around every corner, and the enduring power of innocence.

Cara Marie Gary stars in The Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet ChicagoChristine Rocas and Temur Sulashvili star in The Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet Chicago Temur Sulashvili stars in The Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet ChicagoThe Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet ChicagoThe Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet Chicago at Auditorium Theatre

Along with the Burnham-like figure presiding over the magic, Chicago and the World’s Fair are lovingly illustrated in every aspect of this Nutcracker. The ballet’s second half is famously Marie’s dream, the Land of the Sweets and dancing confections in pastel tulle with the Sugar Plum Fairy its benevolent leader. In the Chicago-centric Joffrey adaptation, Marie dreams of the Fair itself. The Waltz of the Flowers is a glorious gathering of excited fairgoers in dashing top hats and spring frocks, eagerly pointing out the wonders around them. Arabian Coffee is still sensual and contortion-like, Spanish Hot Chocolate brisk yet romantic, but the Russian dance is now Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a lasso-wielding cowboy and his saloon girls. With every new twist, Wheeldon injects fresh whimsy into an old chestnut (pun intended).

The Joffrey dancers, energetic and athletic, only add to the magic. Though the cast rotates, every track is beautifully rendered no matter who is dancing. Opening day’s Marie was Anais Bueno, her wide eyes and glowing smile just as lovely as her precise technique. Dylan Gutierrez’s Great Impresario was a perfect blend of imposing and kind, and his pas de deux with Jeraldine Mendoza’s Columbia (this Nutcracker’s equivalent of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Gutierrez’s real-life romantic partner) breathtaking at every turn. As always, Rory Hohenstein’s Buffalo Bill didn’t disappoint, full of down-home swagger and impressive lasso-twirling. Joffrey’s The Nutcracker is bursting with charm: there’s something for everyone, wrapped in an exquisite package of dance, history and family. Nostalgia never looked so good!

  
Rating: ★★★★
  

The Nutcracker continues through December 30th at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map).  Tickets are $35-$109, and are available by phone (312.386.8905) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at Joffrey.org(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

  Derrick Agnoletti stars in The Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet Chicago

Photos by Cheryl Mann


  

artists

Joffrey Ballet company

Derrick Agnoletti, Yoshihisa Arai, Amanda Assucena, Edson Barbosa, Miguel Angel Blanco, Evan Boersma, Anais Bueno, Fabrice Calmels, Valeria Chaykina, Nicole Ciapponi, Lucia Connolly, April Daly, Derek Drilon, Fernando Duarte, Olivia Duryea, Cara Marie Gary, Anna Gerberich, Stefan Goncalvez, Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, Dylan Gutierrez, Rory Hohenstein, Dara Holmes, Yuka Iwai, Victoria Jaiani, Hansol Jeong, Gayeon Jung, Yumi Kanazawa, Brooke Linford, Greig Matthews, Graham Maverick, Jeraldine Mendoza, Xavier Nuñez, Princess Reid, Aaron Renteria, Christine Rocas, Alonso Tepetzi, Elivelton Tomazi, Alberto Velazquez, Joanna Wozniak, Valentino Moneglia Zamora, Joan Sebastián Zamora

behind the scenes

Christopher Wheeldon (choreographer), Ljova (Act 1 party scene music arrangement), Brian Selznick (story), Nicolas Blanc, Adam Blyde, Suzanne Lopez (staging), Julian Crouch (set and costume design, mask creation), Natasha Katz (lighting design), Basil Twist (puppetry and effects), 59 Projections (projection design), Jacquelin Barrett (choreographer’s assistant), Suzanne Lopez, Caitlin Meighan, Michael Smith (children’s ballet masters), Frank McCullough (assistant scenic designer), Jon Goldman (assistant lighting designer), Tandem Otter Productions (puppetry and effects built by), Cheryl Mann (photos)

Alonso Tepetzi and Cara Marie Gary star in The Nutcracker by Christopher Wheeldon, Joffrey Ballet

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Category: 2018 Reviews, Auditorium Theatre, Dance, Holiday Show, Joffrey Ballet, Lauren Emily Whalen

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