Even after more than 100 years, the magical tale of Clara, the Nutcracker, the Rat King, the Sugar Plum Fairy and other delightful dancing characters — backed by Tchaikovsky’s masterful score — spellbinds audiences around the world. For many people, attending their local production of “The Nutcracker” is a holiday tradition.
If that describes you, then you probably attend the same production every year. However, if you want to consider a change of venue, or this is your first time attending in the Valley, you should know your options.
Keep reading for four local performances that are worth your time and one very special option no true fan will want to miss.
1. Ballet Arizona
Arizona’s premier ballet company puts on one of the best performances of “The Nutcracker” outside of New York — and Alistair Macaulay of “The New York Times” said it, not us. The production features highly elaborate sets and costumes, unique choreography by Artistic Director Ib Andersen, and the best dancers in the Valley.
Note: Due to budget cuts, the performance this year will use recorded music instead of the live Phoenix Symphony.
Where: Phoenix Symphony Hall, 75 N 2nd St, Phoenix
When: Friday, Dec. 9 to Saturday, Dec. 24, most days
More info: http://balletaz.org
2. Phoenix Ballet
Though not as well known as Arizona Ballet, the 34-year-old Phoenix Ballet features top students from the Master Ballet Academy, plus it brings in professional ballet stars such as Sophia Lucia, Juliet Doherty and Avery Gay. The performance features full costumes and sets, plus unique choreography from Artistic Director Slawomir Wozniak. Oddly enough, Phoenix Ballet does offer live music from the Phoenix Symphony — at least for one weekend of performances.
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams, Phoenix
When: Friday to Sunday, Dec. 9-11 and Thursday to Saturday, Dec. 22-24
Cost: $25 to $80 (Dec. 9-11 with Phoenix Symphony), $22 to $67 (Dec. 22-24 without Phoenix Symphony)
More info: http://www.phoenix-ballet.org
3. Ballet Etudes
A pre-professional group out of the East Valley, this season sees Ballet Etudes’ 30th year performing “The Nutcracker.” Enjoy watching some of the best young dancers in the East Valley, plus elaborate sets and costumes. There are two East Valley performance locations.
Where: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue, Chandler
When: Friday to Sunday, Nov. 25-27, and Friday to Sunday, Dec. 2-4
Cost: $25 or $29
More info: http://chandlercenter.org
Where: Mesa Arts Center, One East Main St, Mesa
When: Friday to Sunday, Dec. 9-11
Cost: $27 or $31
More info: http://mesaartscenter.com
4. Ahwatukee Foothills Nutcracker Ballet
For the 17th year, the beloved local Ahwtaukee Foothills Nutcracker Ballet offers a performance for the whole family. Originally started by Ahwatukee resident Kimberly Lewis of Dance Studio 111, and now under the direction of Artistic Director Jill Hammond, this production relies on a cast of younger dancers, from ages 3 to 22. However, it still features full sets and elaborate costumes.
Where: Desert Vista Fine Arts Theater, 16440 S 32nd St, Phoenix
When: Saturday, Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m.
Cost: $18 to $40
More info: http://www.afnutcracker.com/
5. Southwest Youth Ballet
A pre-professional ballet company based in Chandler that focuses on dancers 13 to 18, the Southwest Youth Ballet, under the direction of Artistic Director Yen-Li Chen, produces its own yearly version of The Nutcracker. In addition to the usual sets and costumes, the performances feature a live soundtrack courtesy of the Chandler Symphony.
Where: Higley Center for the Performing Arts,
When: Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m.
More info: https://higleycenter.ticketforce.com/
Bonus: Moscow Ballet
Who better to perform a Russian ballet than a Russian ballet company? For one night only, the Moscow Ballet returns for their annual performance of “Great Russian Nutcracker.” In addition to award-winning dancers, their version features 9 elaborate sets with a Russian flare, a cannon that shoots roses, a “Dove of Peace” with a 20-foot wingspan, a 3-headed Rat King and more interesting twists on the usual tale.
Where: Comerica Theatre, 400 West Washington St., Phoenix
When: Thursday, Dec. 22 at 7 p.m.
Cost: $20 to $150
More info: http://www.nutcracker.com
– Justin Ferris, Phoenix.org