Chicago Dance Review: THE NUTCRACKER (Joffrey Ballet at Auditorium Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on December 8, 2013

in Theater-Chicago


Joffrey Nutcracker - Rory Hohenstein & Christine Rocas, photo by Herbert MigdollNow in its 26th annual presentation, the late Robert Joffrey’s evergreen staging of Peter IlyichTchaikovsky’s beloved Christmas ballet blesses both the Auditorium Theatre and the dance pilgrims who flock to it, eager to be astonished. Still sumptuous with Oliver Smith’s lavish and fast-paced scenery, based on the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo’s legendary 1940 staging (itself inspired by the original Petipa/Ivanov production for the Maryinsky Ballet), this is as authentic a Nutcracker as a big budget and superb ensemble could deliver.

Joffrey Nutcracker - Caitlin Meighan (center) & Children's Cast, photo by Herbert MigdollSet in an American Victorian parlor, then moving to the Land of Snow and finally to the Kingdom of Sweets, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s delightful 1816 tale of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” regales us with the magic of Dr. Drosselmeyer: His goddaughter Clara (Caitlin Meighan when I saw it) manages to defeat the Mouse King (Guillaume Basso), thus breaking the curse that had confined Drosselmeyer’s nephew inside a toy nutcracker. This Christmas Eve celebration features maiden aunts, a governess, guests, servants, maids and four mechanical dolls brought by the scene-managing Drosselmeyer. After the lights are extinguished, the mischievous Mice will play, happily to be defeated by a ragtag group of seven different dolls and soldiers, officers and intrepid Clara herself.

Joffrey Nutcracker - Dylan Gutierrez & Jack Thorpe-Baker (1), photo by Herbert MigdollAfter the “magic battlefield,” the rest is sheer celebration: The now freed Nutcracker Prince (Rory Hohenstein, defying gravity more than Elphaba ever could), accompanied by the omnipresent Drosselmeyer (Matthew Adamczyk), visits the Snow King and Queen (towering Fabrice Calmels and effervescent Kara Zimmerman). In this Currier & Ives-style winter lake a ton of snow acc0mpanies the classical ballet as the snowflakes waltz with the Snow Winds and 12 children comprise the Snow Tree Angels.

Joffrey Nutcracker - Francis Kane (Mother Ginger) & Childrens Cast, photo by Herbert MigdollThe final peregrination takes us to the realm of the Sugar Plum Fairy (winsome Christine Rocas): In her calorie-laden palace of sweetmeats, assorted divertissements await the American travelers—novelty showcases depicting chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, tea from China, nougats from Russian, three Marzipan Shepherdesses, Mother Ginger and her diminutive Polchinelles, and the spring-like, pastel Flowers, creating a bouquet in their famous waltz. It’s a virtual cascade of choreography, as supple as the score and eclectically exotic enough to suit this world tour of diverse dance. It’s all capped by a splendid pas de deux between Rocas and Hohenstein, as perfect a partnership as Gilbert and Sullivan and without the quarrels. After this delight, Clara and her godfather ascend in a hot-air balloon much like one that a certain wizard borrowed from the Omaha State Fair and took to Oz.

This is hard-core enchantment, major make-believe that delights every sense but smell. (You can all but taste the sweets in the second act.) Some cash cows are worth revival–for much more than the money.

Joffrey Nutcracker - Ricardo Santos & Caitlin Meighan, photo by Herbert Migdoll

photos by Herbert Migdoll

The Nutcracker
Joffrey Ballet
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E. Congress Parkway
scheduled to end on December 28, 2013
for tickets call 800-982-2787 or visit

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit

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