Stagings of The Nutcracker, the ballet by Pytor Ilych Tchaikovsky that premiered in 1892, have become an area holiday tradition.
Loosely based on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by German storyteller E.T.A. Hoffman, Tchaikovsky’s dance adaptation is a tale of one family’s annual Christmas celebration broken into two acts with different dramatic intents.
The first details the events of an annual Christmas party. The guests arrive, the tree is lit, merriment ensues, and gifts are exchanged. Things heat up, however, when the children’s godfather, Drosselmeyer, arrives. He is an eccentric, a toy maker and, secretly, a magician. His gift for his goddaughter, Clara, is a nutcracker doll coveted by all the other children.
As the party winds down and the guests exit, Clara falls asleep with the nutcracker in her arms. The second act of the ballet is a vividly surreal dream that includes a falling flurry of snowflakes, refreshments masquerading as dancers — Arabian coffee, Spanish chocolate, Russian tea cakes — and the arrival of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The original ballet received a lukewarm reception. Not until a 1944 Christmas revival of the work in San Francisco was the holiday tradition born. That’s particularly true of northwest Ohio/southeast Michigan, which will offer seven unique productions of the work this year.
■ Ballet Theatre of Toledo opens its 13th annual production of the work this weekend at the Valentine Theatre. Choreographed by Artistic Director Nigel Burgoine, it features guest principals Dawnell Dryja and Branden Reiners of the Grand Rapids Ballet Company.
Music is provided by BTT’s own orchestra under the baton of Lloyd Butler, assisted by members of Masterworks Chorale. Celebrity guest appearances include Tony Geftos and Heather Pollauf from WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and Chris Vickers of WTOL-TV, Channel 11.
As a special treat for the younger audience members, Santa Claus will be in the Grand Lobby of the theater at every performance for free pictures with the children. Burgoine said, “Every child who comes to see him with receive a gift worth $50.”
Tickets are available for performances 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Nov. 26 at the Valentine Theatre, 400 N. Superior St., Toledo. Tickets are $25-$50 and available at 419-242-2787 or valentinetheatre.com. Special pricing is available for military families.
In addition, the Ohio Arts Council has made a donation to the organization to allow the company to collaborate with the Adopt American Network to allow families with adopted children to attend a special 2 p.m. Friday performance for free. The Friday performance is also open to people with special needs, assisted living seniors, and home-schooled children. Tickets are $10 for these groups and must be purchased in advance at 419-861-0985 or ballettheatreoftoledo.org.
The following weekend, BTT will take the production on the road for a performance 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Ave., Sandusky. Tickets are $10-$35 and available at 419-626-1950 or sanduskystate.com.
■ Toledo Ballet celebrates its 77th annual Nutcracker with a closer collaboration with the Toledo Symphony.
The two organizations have joined forces since the 1940s, and this year the company has committed to presenting the work with the full orchestra in the pit.
In addition, the production will join the orchestra’s annual holiday series, which includes Christmas at the Peristyle (3 p.m. Dec. 2) and the annual Handel’s Messiah (4 p.m. Dec. 3).
The TB production, the longest-running annual staging of the work in the United States, will be 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 9 and 2 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Stranahan Theatre, 4645 Heatherdown Blvd. Tickets are $24-$56 and available at 419-246-8000 or toledosymphony.com.
■ Perrysburg Academy of the Performing Arts offers a novel take, complete with dancing candy canes, Rockettes, angels, and Chinese tap dancers. Performances are at 2 and 5 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Maumee High School Performing Arts Center at Maumee High School, 1124 Saco St., Maumee. Get tickets and more information at perrysburgacademy.com.
■ The River Raisin Ballet Company bills its Nutcracker as a spectacle that both children and adults will cherish forever. Directed and choreographed by Gail Choate-Pettit and Melissa Moore, the cast includes dancers from the Monroe County area and beyond. Headlining the cast are principals Fiona Cameron-Martin from the Romanian National Ballet and Darrell Haggard from the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.
This year, to keep the production fresh, the company has made changes to the choreography and costumes. The theater lobby has been transformed into a land of sweets with merchandise, cookies, and beverages for purchase.
The show runs 7 p.m. Dec. 1, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 2, and 3 p.m. Dec. 3 at the River Raisin Centre for the Arts, 114 S. Monroe St., Monroe. Tickets are $15-$20 and available at 734-242-7722 or riverraisincentre.org.
■ The Tecumseh Center for the Arts presents its annual Nutcracker at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Tecumseh Center for the Arts, 400 N. Maumee St., Tecumseh, Mich. Tickets are $13-$15 and available at thetca.org.
■ Ann Arbor Ballet stages its Nutty slightly later in the season. Their performance incorporates pre-show festive music by area Suzuki violin students and a boutique of unique holiday gifts.
Performances are 7 p.m. Dec. 15, 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 16, and 1 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $15-$30 and available at muto.umich.edu. Find more information at 734-763-8587 or annarborballettheatre.org.
■ The Neos Dance Company stages a unique 1940’s wartime version of the ballet set in small-town Findlay at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Marathon Center for Performing Arts, 200 W. Main Cross St., Findlay. Get tickets at marathoncenterarts.org.
Contact Wayne F. Anthony at: email@example.com.
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