Whether it's a first time experience or an annual holiday tradition, attending a performance of Joffrey Ballet's annual visit of Robert Joffrey's "The Nutcracker" is a ticket to a land where beauty and fantasy rule supreme.
Now in its 26th annual run at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, it continues until Dec. 28.
During the opening weekend, I attended Saturday night's performance and brought my good friend and former Times editor Melinda Mitchell Moore as my guest, since she told me she had never attended the Joffrey production. During her 20 years a community editor at The Times, she had published many stories during her two decades in her newspaper section about the array of young talent from our Region who have performed in beloved stage story with the Joffrey.
(Of the 118 children in the 2013 production, you can look for Kaci King, 9, of Valparaiso, who studies jazz dance at Eclipse Performing Arts Centre in Chesterton dancing as a snow tree angel in the ballet this season.)
Melinda, who has seen other runs of "The Nutcracker" through the years, mentioned to me on the drive home she was surprised at a few of the scene and story tweaks with the Joffrey's imagining of this centuries old classic.
I reminded her that when Robert Joffrey choreographed "The Nutcracker," he replaced the traditional European setting with a 19th century American home, populating it with toys from his own childhood underneath the "Great Christmas Tree" of the Stahlbaum Family.
Today, his original production calls Chicago home, while combining classical grace with entertaining action with maintaining the purity of Robert Joffrey's original choreography sparkled with elegant costumes, an extravagant now familiar set by Oliver Smith and of course, the favorite giant Mother Ginger puppet created by Kermit Love.
The story remains classic and true-to-form: Following a lively party on Christmas Eve, familiar characters Clara (played with grace and wonderment by Elizabeth Hansen) and her mysterious godfather Dr. Drosselmeyer (the unyielding talented Lucas Segovia) embark on a magical adventure, encountering a battle between toy soldiers and legions of mice, before being whisked away with the Nutcracker Prince (boundless Ogulcan Borova) to an enchanted forest by the elegant Queen and King of Snow (regal duo Matthew Adamczyk and Alexis Polito), then being delighted by an exotic array of dancing confections from the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy (floating wonder Yumelia Garcia).
Joffrey Ballet Co-Founder Gerald Arpino also contributed to Robert Joffrey's version, having choreographed the Land of the Snow scene, which closes Act I, and the Waltz of the Flowers in Act II.
The Chicago Philharmonic, led by the masterful means of Joffrey Music Director Scott Speck, provides live accompaniment of the classic Tchaikovsky score for every performance.
Tickets are $31 to $132 at (800) 982-2787 or joffrey.org.