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It's Time – Presents Under the Tree, Cold Weather, Carolers, Santas Everywhere You Look – and the Nutcracker, and the 50th Anniversary of It Here, Too

NEWS | FEATURES | PREVIEWS | EVENTS


By Bruce Chadwick


originally published: 11/29/2022

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The holidays are here and, with them, a dozen or more productions of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’ fabled and warm-hearted ballet the Nutcracker, with its lovable kids and fierce mice. This year, too, we need colorful hats and loud horns to welcome it back because this is the 50th anniversary of the New Jersey Ballet’s Nutcracker, started so long ago by dance troupe artistic director Carolyn Clark and as welcome this year as then.

There are Nutcrackers all over the place. The biggest is that one by the New Jersey Ballet, which opens Wednesday, November 30th at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway and then on December 3-4 goes to the Bergen County Performing Arts Center in Englewood. The New Jersey Ballet then moves to the Levoy Theater in Millville on December 11 and then goes to the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, for a run that starts on December 16 and continues to December 27. Somewhere in the middle if all those performances the veteran ballet company will celebrate its 50th .

 50!

Whew!

That’s a lot of dancing, Nutcrackers, happy kids and Sugar Plum Fairies. The New Jersey Ballet does not monopolize the Nutcracker show, though. The Christmas classic is being staged all over the State.



 
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Other Nutcrackers:

The American Repertory Theater is staging its version of the Nutcracker at the Patriots Theater of the War Memorial in Trenton on December 11, and at the State Theatre in New Brunswick from December 16-19 (it previously staged Nutcrackers at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton November 25 and 26). 

There will be Nutcrackers at the Villa Victoria Theater in Ewing by the Roxey Ballet from November 26 to December 4.  Another will be presented at the Stockton Performing Arts Center, at Stockton College, by the Atlantic City Ballet December 9 and 10. The Ballet for Young Audiences presents The Nutcracker on December 10 at the Grunin Center in Toms River. The Jersey City Nutcracker returns to the Nimbus Arts Center in Jersey City with performances from December 9-23.  A production will be presented in Red Bank at the Hackensack Meridian Health Theater at Count Basie Center for the Arts by the Company of Dance Arts December 9 – 11. The Moving Youth Dance Company presents one at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway on December 4. And the State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine comes to NJPAC in Newark on  December 18.

There will be a rather boisterous Nutcracker by the Atlantic City Ballet in the showroom of Caesars Palace Hotel Casino on December 17. Yes, slot machines, poker tables and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Or how about the rather wild and annual Hip Hop Nutcracker, starring Kurtis Blow, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on December 17?

The Nutcracker, it seems, has always been around somewhere. The ballet by Pytor Tchaikovsky was first staged the week before Christmas in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The kids loved it, their parents loved it. Everybody loved it. Well, not everybody. The critics hated it. They didn’t like the music. They didn’t like the dancing. They didn’t like the adults on stage. They didn’t like the kids on stage. I don’t think they liked Christmas, either.

It succeeded despite them.

In the Nutcracker, evil, human sized mice invade a household when the kids are trying to get to sleep after a Christmas party. The mice do battle with the Nutcracker soldiers, who come to life to defend the kids. Wow! Grab your sword!

Since 1892 in Russia, the ballet has been staged just about everywhere. Some said they saw the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing in a crater when Americans landed on the moon back in 1969. It is now a happy staple of the holiday season everywhere.

What makes it so special, year after year, throughout all of America? Why this one ballet instead of so many others?

David Tamaki first saw a New Jersey Ballet production of the Nutcracker when he was four. “Hooked on it ever since,” said Tamaki, now the managing director of the New Jersey Ballet. “I think here you have great dancing, beautiful music, a lot of fighting, kids in colorful costume, an epic story and, most of all, lots of holiday cheer. It is, simply put, holiday magic.”



 
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And there is plenty of it, everywhere you turn. “Here at the New Jersey Ballet we always made it a point to stage the ballet at numerous venues throughout the state. You can’t come to us? We’ll come to you,” he said.

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The ballet makes half a dozen stops each holiday season at venues throughout the state and those visits helped to make the ballet so beloved, said Tamaki. The New Jersey Ballet’s Nutcracker tour kicks off November 30th and then travels across the state. “The touring we do also increases the statewide visibility of the company,” said Tamaki.

The ballet is traditional, too, and has enthralled generation of families. “I’ve seen grandparents, their adult children and little grandkids together at the Nutcracker. There’s timeless charm in it for everybody,” said Tamaki.

He thinks, too, that large theaters such as the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown have a system to make sleighs and carriages ‘fly’ over the stage. The show has several scenes in which people are carried through the air, and quite gracefully. “When you sit in the theater and see that, it makes the story really big and grand,” said Tamaki.

It is a ballet for all. “Nine or ten year old kids love the big party on stage and especially the battle between the good guys and bad guys. They love the bright color, the clowns, and the plot that pits good vs, evil. The parents’ view is different. They want their kids to experience live theater, to soak in that gorgeous music and watch dancers, often  time for the first time. I think the Nutcracker is an ‘inspirational’ ballet, too, and parents want their kids to understand that. The same is true for grandparents.  I think our Nutcracker, all Nutcrackers, have wonderful choreography and parents want their children to absorb that in the show, too.”

It is also a show that fills up any stage, large or small, and is a delight for the eyes. “We’ll have 25 or so dancers in several scenes in the show,” Tamaki said. “It is, at heart, a large ballet, not a small one, and when you get a lot of people out there, and a lot of props, it becomes a very big baller and all audience like that.”

So, for all of you headed for any of the many Nutcrackers in the State, open your eyes and ears, prepare for a gorgeous ballet and, most of all, bring your sword and get ready to do battle with the dastardly Mouse King!

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Bruce Chadwick worked for 23 years as an entertainment writer/critic for the New York Daily News. Later, he served as the arts and entertainment critic for the History News Network, a national online weekly magazine. Chadwick holds a Ph. D in History and Cultural Studies from Rutgers University. He has written 31 books on U.S. history and has lectured on history and culture around the world. He is a history professor at New Jersey City University.






EVENT CALENDAR

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My Fair Lady

Saturday, January 28, 2023 @ 2:00pm
State Theatre New Jersey
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
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My Fair Lady

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State Theatre New Jersey
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
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Broadway Bound by Neil Simon

Saturday, January 28, 2023 @ 8:00pm
Algonquin Arts Theatre
60 Abe Voorhees, Manasquan, NJ 08736
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Lucky Chops

Saturday, January 28, 2023 @ 8:00pm
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One Sopac Way, South Orange, NJ 07079
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Dru Hill – 25th Anniversary Tour

Saturday, January 28, 2023 @ 7:00pm
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30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood, NJ 07631
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Shorts Program #1 – Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 5PM!

Saturday, January 28, 2023 @ 5:00pm
NJ Film Festival
71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
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