As the holiday season kicks into high gear, so does the prevalence of area productions of Tchaikovsky’s classic fairy tale ballet, “The Nutcracker.”
Each production has its own special qualities and unique highlights, whether it’s the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra swelling Dixon Hall for the Delta Festival Ballet version, the New Orleans Ballet Theatre’s debut at the Orpheum Theater or the Jefferson Performing Arts Society’s ambitious debut production inside its new home on Airline Drive.
If there’s one constant about “The Nutcracker,” it’s in its universal appeal in American culture as way to experience ballet and classical music at their most accessible — especially for children, whether they’re in the audience or onstage.
“I think that it is the one show that introduces children to ballet,” said Ballet Hysell’s Diane Carney, much of whose choreography will be used in JPAS’s production. “It’s magical, and there’s this progression you see in the children who perform in it. First they’re animals and then they perform as children and then they perform as Clara. It can be a stepping stone for them.
“It’s just a magical story of fun.”
Delta Festival Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
Friday, Dec. 18, 7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 19-20, 2 p.m.
Tulane University, Dixon Hall
For artistic directors Joseph Giacobbe and Maria Giacobbe’s 34th annual production of the holiday classic, the Delta Festival Ballet has paired the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra with a dream couple: Russian ballerina Irina Sapozhnikova as the Sugar Plum Fairy with American Joseph Phillip in the role of her Cavalier. The two will be coming in from the State Primorsky Opera and Ballet Theater in Vladivostok, Russia, especially for this appearance (their only U.S. date). Their “Snow Pas de Deux,” to end Act I, gives the audience a double-shot look at their work in every performance.
While Sapozhnikova hails from Russian, Phillips left the American Ballet Theatre for Vladivostok in 2013. He’s been called “ballet’s golden boy” by On Pointe magazine. He performed in New Orleans in 2008 and 2010.
“I love the way he dances,” said Joseph Giacobbe, who saw Phillips perform as a 16-year-old, including trips to the Crescent City. “And he loves to come to New Orleans. He noted that Philips and Sapozhnikova have performed opposite each other frequently, “so it’s not two people shaking hands and starting to perform a dance together.”
The LPO will be conducted by Glenn Langdon.
Tickets are $65 Orchestra Rows A-L; $55 Orchestra Rows M-V; $58 First Balcony; $38 Second Balcony Rows A-C; $28 Second Balcony Rows D-G.
For information, call (504) 888-0941 or visit www.deltafestivalballet.com.
New Orleans Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker”
Friday-Saturday, Dec. 18-19, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 20, 2 p.m.
Orpheum Theater, 129 Roosevelt Way
The newly renovated and reopened Orpheum Theater enjoys another first: a production of “The Nutcracker,” under the direction of the New Orleans Ballet Theatre’s Gregory Schlamel.
Schramel works with his wife, associate artistic director Marjorie Hardwick Schramel, who’s run the Schramel Conservatory of Dance since January 2006. Together they’ve been working to build an all-professional dance company, and moving from Loyola’s Roussel Hall to the beautifully renovated Orpheum represents a nice first for NOBT as well. The best part? The theater’s fly system, which will allow the production design to create more of a three-dimensional view of the staging.
“There is a whole bunch of things we can do now that we couldn’t do before,” Schramel said. “It’s a big deal to make the fantasy come true.”
The downside? The lack of an orchestra pit will force the production to use prerecorded music. That shouldn’t affect the beautiful dancing expected from Adrianna de Svastich, who will perform as the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Sergey Kheyliq, who will perform as the Snow Prince and Sugar Plum Fairy’s Cavalier.
JPAS’s “The Nutcracker”
Saturday, Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 20, 2 p.m.
Jefferson Performing Arts Center, 6400 Airline Drive
If you thought Gregory Schramel was excited to bring “The Nutcracker” into the Orpheum, imagine Jefferson Performing Arts’s Dennis Assaf as he prepares to stage his first “Nutcracker” inside the new Jefferson Performing Arts Center that was decades in the making.
Assaf answered in the most classical, high-brow-culture way: “It’s really cool.”
These are the words of a giddy and ambitious man who has pretty much shot the moon on this production, which features a “Nutcracker” set purchased from the Kansas City Ballet — “It’s gonna take us five years to pay that off,” he said, half-jokingly? — and staging pyrotechnics courtesy of the Louisville, Kentucky-based ZFX Flying Effects company. This should translate to moments such as Clara, on her visit to the kingdom, flying in on a sleigh with by two angels flying next to her.
“We’re going to become flying fools in our new performance center,” Assaf said with a laugh.
The production also features direction from Diane Carney and dancers from her Ballet Hysell. The nearly all-New Orleans cast features ToniAnn Chetta as the Snow Princess. Kimberly Matulich Beck as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Darren Pietri as the Snow Prince and Brazil’s Diogo de Lima as the Snow Prince (Brazil). New Orleanians Sophia Beck Zollinger and Arden McKee will share the role of Clara in the two shows.
Tickets $60 orchestra, $50 mezzanine, $40 balcony.
Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker”
Saturday, Dec. 26, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Saenger Theatre, 1111 Canal St.
This is an excellent opportunity to catch a touring version of the production (and enjoy a spectacle-caliber version) if you missed the many local productions presented before Christmas. The Moscow Ballet is touring the nation with this show, including other Louisiana dates, and features Russian dancers as well as puppets and lavishly created costumes and sets.
That set has undergone a recent makeover thanks to the contributions of Academy Award-nominated production designer Carl Sprague, whose Oscar (as a group) nods include Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums,” David Fincher’s “The Social Network” and the New Orleans-shot “12 Years a Slave.”
“The scale of it is magnificent,” said Sprague, who noted that backdrops are 30 feet high and 50 feet wide.
Tickets range from $25-$110. saengernola.com