New Jersey Stage logo
New Jersey Stage Menu

The Nutcrackers Are Back and the Memories of Childhood Return

By Bruce Chadwick

originally published: 12/08/2023

The Nutcrackers Are Back and the Memories of Childhood Return

It is the holiday season and so the Nutcracker ballet, that timeless gem of Christmas, is back, too. There are a thousand fascinating stories to tell about the Nutcracker, now and in the past, and this is one of them – that of Ethan Stiefel, artistic director of the American Repertory Ballet, when he was a kid.

There is much to enjoy about the Nutcracker, the holiday ballet playing all over the state now that it is the holiday season. There is Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music, fabulous dancing, all the kids in the production, the duels, the big mice.

“No. No. No. For me, it’s when the boy, Fritz, goes wild and breaks up the Nutcrackers,” wails Stiefel. American Repertory Ballet is staging the Nutcracker is staging The Nutcracker in Trenton (Patriots Theater at the War Memorial on December 9th) and New Brunswick (State Theatre New Jersey from December 15-17) and recently presented the show in Princeton (McCarter Theatre) and Red Bank (Two River Theater).

Why Fritz?

“When I was ten I was in the Nutcracker for the very first time and I played Fritz and I loved, just loved, to break all the Nutcracker dolls. It was the only time I my life when my mother did not yell at me for breaking things,” said Ethan Stiefel.

Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info

Ah, beloved childhood memories...

Today, Stiefel is in charge of the American Repertory Ballet, one of the country’s premier dance companies, and they stage the Nutcracker all over New Jersey each Christmas season.

The Nutcrackers Are Back and the Memories of Childhood Return

The magic of the show is undeniable, but Steifel thinks it is a combination of factors that make the ballet so popular everywhere it is staged.

“Oh, it is all those kids on stage. It is the memorable music. But it is many things. The midnight party scenes, the mice come to life, the little soldier battles with the mice, the little boy and little girl. It is all the grandparents taking their grandkids to the performance for the very first time. It is the ballet and the holiday season. You mix them up and stir a little and you have the magic of the Nutcracker. It is the same every year, too. No super tech stuff. The show has been playing for around a hundred years and it is just as joyous now as back then. It’s not one thing – it’s everything.”

Stiefel understands why so many people love the Nutcracker and always will.

“It is a family thing. You go to see the show with your parents when you are ten and you come back with your kids when you are 35. Then, of course, later on, when you are 50 or 60 you bring your grandkids back to see the show. This goes on and on in city after city, state after state. The Nutcracker is America’s dance spectacular,” he said.

The Nutcrackers Are Back and the Memories of Childhood Return

Stiefel, who has danced with ballet companies all over the world and directed shows all over the world, loves coming back to the State Theatre in New Brunswick every year to stage the ballet.

Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info

“The Nutcracker is a tradition in America and places like the State Theatre in New Brunswick honor it as so. The theater is very old and you sit in it and remember all the ballets there, the shows, and all the history. The building, the theater itself, does that to people.  It is a tradition in America. It is not all over the world. The New Zealand ballet did not stage it at all for the three years I was with it. Many producers in theaters in Europe do not stage it each year. I think Europeon theaters are realizing the beauty of the Nutcracker now and adding it to their yearly schedule, but it sure took them a long time,” he said. “In America it is an annual event. You know winter is here, that Christmas us here, because the Nutcracker is here.”

He thinks the ballet is the foundation of advance in the American art scene. “It is America’s introduction to ballet. People see it as children and get attracted to ballet as an art form. People see the Nutcracker, enjoy  it and then start going to other ballets. The Nutcracker is the introduction to all of ballet in all of America,” said Stiefel.

For more information or to purchase tickets for The Nutcracker at State Theatre New Jersey, click here.


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.



New Jersey Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty

Sunday, April 21, 2024 @ 2:00pm
Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC)
30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood, NJ 07631
category: dance

Click here for full description

Step Afrika!

Sunday, April 28, 2024 @ 7:00pm
Count Basie Center for the Arts
99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701
category: dance

Click here for full description

iTardeada de Cinco de Mayo!

Sunday, May 05, 2024 @ 6:00pm
The Vogel
99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701
category: dance

Click here for full description

Click here for more events

Listings are available for $10 and included with our banner ad packages.

Click here for more info.



American Repertory Ballet presents Ethan Stiefel's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- Prepare to be enchanted once again! American Repertory Ballet (ARB) proudly announces the return of Ethan Stiefel’s celebrated production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, May 10-12, 2024 at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center.

RVCC to Present Student, Faculty Dance Performances

Fairy Tale in Motion: Ballet Arts and Adelphi Orchestra Present The Sleeping Beauty

Ocean County Library Manchester Branch to Feature Kozak Ukrainian Dance Ensemble

Click here for more event previews

New Jersey Stage

© 2024 by Wine Time Media, LLC
PO Box 811, Belmar, NJ 07719

Nobody covers the Arts
throughout the Garden State
like New Jersey Stage!

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms. If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and on our RSS feed

Art | Comedy | Dance | Film | Music | Theatre | Ad Rates | About Us | Pitch a Story | Links | Radio Shows | Privacy Policy