It's inevitable that whenever December rolls around in the United States, The Nutcracker takes over the schedules of dance companies big and small. Indeed, this December there are more than a dozen dance companies in and around Chicago presenting their versions of The Nutcracker.
Although some may tire of this odd sugary dance confection famed for its battle between toy soldiers and mice and a nearly plotless second act full of dancing divertissements, The Nutcracker remains a reliable work to introduce children to the glories of ballet. LGBT audiences should also take pride in The Nutcracker, since it was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, one the most famous gay composers in history.
So consider some of the following Nutcrackers for the holiday season.
Unquestionably the biggest and most lavish version of The Nutcracker in Chicago is the one put on by the Joffrey Ballet at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Created in 1987, The Nutcracker was the final large-scale dance piece created by company co-founder Robert Joffrey before he passed away from AIDS the following year.
Unlike other companies that use recorded music, the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker features live orchestral accompaniment by the Chicago Sinfonietta. There's also a live choir that sings in the snowy Act I finale. This might help to explain why the Joffrey's Nutcracker has the top ticket price in town, but you do get what you pay for in this production. Following a tour to Los Angeles, Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker" runs for 20 performances between Dec. 9 through 27 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Tickets are $30-$115; call 800-982-2787 or visit www.joffrey.org .
The 1995 arrival of the Joffrey Ballet to Chicago eventually meant the eclipse of the famed Ruth Page production of The Nutcracker that successfully played many years at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place. The Civic Ballet of Chicago now stages Page's choreography for The Nutcracker, which is seen at two suburban locations. There are two 3 p.m. matinees on Dec. 10-11 at Elgin Community College's Blizzard Theatre, 1700 Spartan Dr., Elgin. Tickets are $27; call 847-622-0300. The production then moves to the Lumber Center for the Performing Arts, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake. Performances are 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 17; 3 p.m. Dec. 18. Tickets are $23-$31; call 847-543-2300 or visit www.civicballetofchicago.wordpress.com .
Von Heidecke's Chicago Festival Ballet teams with the New Philharmonic for its "The Nutcracker," one of the few suburban productions that features a live orchestra. It plays at College of DuPage's McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. Performances are at 7 p.m. on Dec. 16-17 and 2 p.m. on Dec. 17-18. Tickets are $27-$37; call 630-942-4000 or visit www.chicagofestivalballet.com .
Competing with the Joffrey Ballet in terms of the scale of venue, the Moscow Ballet brings The Great Russian Nutcracker to the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont. There is just one performance at 3 p.m. on Dec. 10. Tickets are $26-$86.50; call 800-745-3000 or visit www.nutcracker.com .
If you are truly adverse to dressing up to go out to the theater, then wear whatever you want to see New York City Ballet's famed production of George Balanchine's version of The Nutcracker via a HD movie theater screening simulcast live from Lincoln Center in New York. The screening is 5 p.m. Dec. 13 at participating movie theaters. Visit www.fathomevents.com for a list of locations and to buy tickets.
If you don't want to head out to the suburbs to see a non-Joffrey production of The Nutcracker, then stay close to home with Ballet Chicago and its rendition at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Performances run Dec. 10-18 with curtain times at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays and an extra 7 p.m. show Dec. 16. Tickets are $22-$32 and $18-$26 for students and seniors; call 800-982-2787 or visit www.balletchicago.org .
Although many suburban ballet companies utilize mostly local dancers for The Nutcracker, professionals are frequently brought in to dance the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy, her Cavalier and the Snow Queen and King. Salt Creek Ballet promises dancers from American Ballet Theatre and other international performers to guest in its production of The Nutcracker, which plays at the Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University, 1 University Parkway, off I-57 at Sauk Trail, University Park. Performances are at 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 10. Tickets are $33-$40; call 708-235-2222 or visit www.centertickets.net .
Salt Creek Ballet's production of The Nutcracker then moves to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. Performances are at 3 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18. Tickets are $31.50-$39.50; call 847-673-6300 or visit www.northshorecenter.org .
These are just a few of the version of The Nutcracker with ties or locations close to Chicago. If you're tired of ballet versions of The Nutcracker, be sure to check out such variations like The House Theatre of Chicago's stage version of The Nutcracker at the Chopin Theatre (playing now through Dec. 30); The Nutcracker on Ice at the Robert Crown Center in Evanston from Dec. 9-11; or even The Nutcracker on Horseback at the Noble Horse Theatre, playing now through Jan. 1.
Bucking the trend of dancing Nutcrackers this December is Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, which presents the premiere of "Chicago Women in Song" as part of its 15th-anniversary season finale at 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at Millennium Park's Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St.
Chicago Women in Song also features other new works and repertory classics for this benefit event. Tickets are $40-$65, with $150 VIP tickets; call 312-334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org for more information.