There is little else in the way of theatrical entertainment that says ‘Christmas’ quite like The Nutcracker.
After more than 100 years, Tchaikovsky’s stunning musical score, set against the story of an epic battle between mice and toy soldiers, still draws holiday crowds. Over the past several years, it’s turned into a sparkling annual tradition at Red Deer College as well.
Performances run Dec. 13th at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Dec. 14th at 1:30 p.m. on the College Arts Centre mainstage.
The Nutcracker is based on a book called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, published by German writer E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816.
Hoffman, a German writer, composer, caricaturist, and painter was known for his stories in which supernatural characters reveal people’s hidden secrets.
Of course, there’s the sweeping, elegant score written by Tchaikovsky as well. He began work on the project in early 1892 before beginning a tour of the United States, completing it later that summer.
Clara receives a cherished Nutcracker from her mysterious Uncle Drosselmier.
After everyone has gone to bed for the evening, strange things begin to happen. Clara watches as rats and soldiers battle for victory.
She is guided through falling snow and taken to the Land of Sweets where sweets from around the world dance in her honour.
Many versions of the story have been published as children’s books, and it’s been said that in his stories Hoffmann combined wild flights of imagination with vivid and convincing examinations of human character and psychology.
As a ballet, The Nutcracker made its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in December of 1892.
“Every year, I like to put a twist on the show in some way – sometimes it is in the little things like choreography or costumes and some years it is a theme – like this year,” explains director Tania Strader.
“Without giving too much away, the party scene is very traditional Victorian complete with some new costumes, however it is within Clara’s dream that the big changes in theme have taken place. Uncle Drosselmier has brought a new twist to the Victorian era Christmas party and this twist has changed Clara’s dream from the ordinary to the extraordinary!
“Her dream is a little more edgy than what her Victorian Age thinking would ever imagine,” said Strader, who has been involved with the production for about 15 years and has been directing it for more than 10 years now.
Strader said the classic production continues to draw audiences because of a sense of ‘timelessness’ about it. Plus, it’s just intrinsically magical.
“I think it is as Christmas as the tree. There is a certain magic about it that gives the audiences newfound excitement and hope during the season,” she explains.
“Younger audiences can relate to it because it is about a young girl and her dreams. The older audiences may relate to it as when times were more simple as well as remembering when dreams took them to places they had never been before.”
This year, there are 65 dancers from across Central Alberta involved in the production.
“Their ages range from five to 25,” she said. “There are so many returning dancers that they offer the new dancers in the show a sense of guidance and love for the ballet. The newer dancers look up to the returning dancers; they hear the stories from productions in the past and they look forward to creating their own.”
Of course, the musical score to The Nutcracker is half the show’s charm.
“Personally, I absolutely love it. It seems like a perfect fit to the dancing and choreography as well, which is so interesting.
“Every piece has so many nuances to it that it challenges me to create new life within the music,” she said. “Every year, I am also challenged to create a production that is unique as the dancers that sign up to be involved,” she added. “And every year, I form a deeper love for the ballet. I want to create more meaning within the choreography.
“I am constantly searching for the answers to why something is happening – there has to be a reason why, for example, that within Clara’s dream she sees dancing sugar plums and gingerbread kids!”
Tickets for all performances are available through the Black Knight Ticket Centre by calling 403-755-6626 or by visiting www.bkticketcentre.ca.