Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker Blends Holiday Cheer and Wonder With Its 1893 Chicago Backdrop
Lauren Katz, Third Coast Review
December 2, 2023
The basic plot of the famous The Nutcracker ballet is a familiar story. A young girl, Clara, receives the gift of a Nutcracker on Christmas Eve. That night, she has a beautiful dream in which the Nutcracker comes to life and becomes a dazzling prince. He takes her on a journey to far off and magical places. When she awakens the next morning, she is unsure of what was real and what was a dream. However, she knows that it was the best night of her life.
Nutcracker fans attending the Joffrey’s production of the piece will certainly recognize the main plot points. The young girl still receives the Nutcracker, and she continues on a journey beyond her wildest dreams. However, there are some shifts; since 2016, the Joffrey has staged its Nutcracker with a unique Chicago theme and backdrop. Here, the young girl’s name is Marie (Valeria Chaykina). Set with the backdrop of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World’s Fair), Marie and her young brother, Franz (Samuel Beukenkamp), live in a small shack with their widowed mother (Victoria Jaiani), a sculptor working on the fair. Marie receives her precious Nutcracker from the Great Impresario of the Fair (Edson Barbosa), a mysterious figure who not only designed the World’s Fair, but also has some magical tricks up his sleeve. When Marie and the Nutcracker (Alberto Velazquez) embark on their journey, the destination becomes a dream version of the World’s Fair. Countries from around the world are represented and given the opportunity to dance for Marie, the Prince, the Great Impresario, and Queen of the Fair (Victoria Jaiani).
I personally have seen my fair share of Nutcracker performances. This is only one person’s opinion, but I can say with certainty that it has been a long time since I was quite this awestruck by the holiday classic.