Visually gorgeous: Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker captivates audiences

The Joffrey Ballet’s incarnation of The Nutcracker – now in its 27th year – is a remarkable blend of old world and new style, and is presented with the unparalleled artistry patrons the world over expect from The Joffrey. And if your little ballerina-in-training has yet to experience the real live ballet, this would be a heck of a primer.

If you go

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker

The Auditorium Theatre


50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago

Through Dec. 28, 2014

Fans of Tchaikovsky’s beloved composition, as well as the book “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” (penned in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffman), are well-versed with this tale: little Clara (sometimes Marie) is gifted a special Nutcracker soldier by her eccentric, yet magical, Godfather Drosselmeyer one Christmas – and then things get interesting.

This particular production is one of the most visually gorgeous things I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing onstage. I know I wasn’t alone, either; the packed theater was filled with captivated audience members, ranging in age from toddlers to grandparents. We collectively held our breath when the Sugar Plum Fairy was lifted to impossible heights and cheered when the Nougats from Russia spun and leapt dizzyingly around the lavish set. (The appearance of Lincoln Park High’s own chamber singers on the night we attended was a fantastic touch, too, as those kids have serious pipes and presence.)

Cozying back and letting yourself be enveloped into this vibrant, Christmas card of a world is one of the loveliest ways to celebrate this holiday season. (It would make a fairly spectacular gift or date night, too.) And at just over two hours (including one intermission), it felt like a manageable amount of “don’t fidget” time for my five-year-old. (And okay, for myself as well.)

As an added dose of Christmas glitz and glamour this year, my daughter and I attended The Nutcracker Family Dinner immediately following the matinee, hosted by The Women’s Board of The Joffrey Ballet. For the uninitiated, some call this decadent party “the family event of the year.”

After the trolley ride from the theater to the Radisson Blu Aqua, children were invited to decorate bags with which to fill from various candy stations around the lobby. From there, the fun never let up; jewelry-making and toe shoe-designing were among the stops, as well as magic tricks and a glittery manicure.

And I’m afraid the bar has been set a tad too high for my daughter, what with the kiddie mocktail she sipped as she donned her personalized and graffiti-decorated winter hat and rubbed elbows with ballerinas and their families. Dinner itself was a wonderful affair. It was served family-style, featured traditional Thanksgiving favorites, and was capped off with a trip (or two) to the cupcake bar. Followed by a deejayed dance party. Followed by another cupcake. This year’s event raised over $82,000 for Joffrey Productions, which includes community engagement programs that facilitate dance opportunities for kids of all economic backgrounds.

Chicagoans, you should jump at the chance to attend this elegant – and ridiculously fun – party next December. I can honestly say that, come Christmastime, there’s no other shindig in town quite like it.

Nora has the hat to prove it.

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