It doesn't matter one bonbon that the story line of the much-celebrated holiday ballet "The Nutcracker" doesn't make a lot of sense.
A mysterious magician for an uncle? Fighting a mouse king and his soldiers with a slipper? Having coffee and tea come alive?
But who cares if it doesn't make sense? "The Nutcracker" has the fantasy elements of a dream, that's for sure, but the reason we go see it is for the Christmas pageantry and drama of the first act--Clara's wild about the Nutcracker she receives as a gift, brother Fritz breaks it, and Clara determinedly nurses it back to health, until she goes to sleep and things get crazy--and the sheer artistry and spectacle of the second half, where dancers dressed as candy perform to Tchaikovsky's soaring, incredibly lovely music.
A good production of "The Nutcracker" has a Christmas party and dancing that will warm anyone's heart, costumes that will keep little girls (and big girls, too) rapt with their beauty, charm and humor in the second act, and athleticism and grace in dancing that will wow audiences of all kinds.
To help you find a production, we've listed several in the Chicago area.
- Barrington: Barrington Youth Dance Ensemble (BYDE) presents "The Nutcracker" Dec. 6, 7 and 8 in the Barrington High School Auditorium. Click HERE to purchase tickets, or call (847) 382-6333.
- Lake Zurich: Illinois Youth Dance Theatre presents "The Nutcracker" at the Lake Zurich Performing Arts Center Dec. 20, 21 and 22.
- Chicago, downtown: The Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker." Dec. 6-28, Auditorium Theatre, 60 E. Congress, Chicago. http://www.joffrey.com/nutcracker . It's a splurge, but it delivers an unforgettable experience. $86 to $127; some consolidators such as goldstar.com have discounts.
- Chicago, near north: The House Theater of Chicago's 'Nutcracker' does not have ballet, and it's a modern but no less heartwarming take on the classic production. It's gotten rave reviews from Chicago critics, and an easy $10 to $25 price point. At Chopin Theater at Division, Milwaukee and Ashland, Chicago.
- Schaumburg: Schaumburg Dance Ensemble's "The Nutcracker" at Prairie Center for the Arts, Dec. 6 to 15. Features professional dancers a cast of nearly 100 and original costumes. $18-$26.
- Libertyville: Dancenter North performs "The Magic of the Nutcracker" Dec. 7 and 8 at Libertyville High School. http://www.themagicofthenutcracker.com/The_Magic_of_the_Nutcracker/Home.html
- River Forest: Ballet Legere's "The Nutcracker" at Dominican University, Dec. 12 to 14. Features professional dancers. http://events.dom.edu/ballet-legere-29th-annual-production-nutcracker
- Highland Park: North Shore School of Dance's 25th Annual Nutcracker. Dec. 7 and 8 performances. A one-hour show featuring 75 dancers, including professional dancers. At Lake Forest High School. $15-$22. http://northshoredance.com/productions/
- Rosemont: Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker. A touring production; expect a professional performance from a largely Russian-trained cast. Dec. 8. $38-$100.
- Hinsdale: Salt Creek Ballet Nutcracker, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
- Skokie: Salt Creek Ballet Nutcracker, Dec. 14 and 15.
- University Park: Salt Creek Ballet Nutcracker, Dec. 7.
- Evanston: Dueling Nutcrackers, Classical and Jazz. At Nichols Music Hall. Dec. 8 at 9 a.m.; produced by the Music Institute of Chicago. $10 per family, up to six members.
- Naperville: DanceWest Ballet Presents the Nutcracker, Dec. 13 to 15. Cast includes professional dancer; performed at North Central College.