Crack Open the Holiday Season with The Nutcracker!


Jack Pasquale

Based off E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s memorable score has made this holiday extravaganza famous worldwide for both its dream sequence tale and infectious music. The Nutcracker is a holiday classic and a New York institution on the same level as the New Year’s ball drop, Thanksgiving Day Parade and Statue of Liberty. This year’s production has local ties with Bronxville School’s Caroline O’Hagan, featured in the critical role of Marie!


While COVID put a damper on performances, the Nutcracker has bounced back stronger than ever with a cast of 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 40 stagehands and more than 125 children, in two alternating casts. The Nutcracker originally premiered before Christmas in 1892 and had its New York City Ballet premiere in 1954. Over years it has become an annual right of passage for aspiring ballet dancers, accomplished professionals and the crowds that line-up to buy tickets. 


The story of The Nutcracker is familiar to most – a family’s celebration is interrupted by a rude brother, who breaks a nutcracker in a jealous fit. His sister, Marie, falls into a deep sleep that evening, only to be awakened and taken on a fantastic journey, where the nutcracker transforms into a boy after fighting off giant rats. The magical tale features ballet dancers representing the fantasy world’s various lands. In the end, Marie and the boy are transported away but we don’t know where they are going. Did she wake up from a dream? Did they fly away to another land? After 130 years, audiences still don’t have the answer! 


There are different versions of The Nutcracker performed all over the world, each with its own twist. There was even a battle of The Nutcrackers on TV, where performances competed for top honors. Some performances are made modern, while others remain classic. New York City Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker is always one of if not the best. The high quality production matches Tchaikovsky’s famous score. Whether its witnessing the Christmas tree grow from 12 to 40 feet, being mesmerized by the Dance of the Snowflakes or hearing Tchaikovsky’s familiar music live, seeing this amazing annual production is certain to make you happy and excited for the holidays! 


The Facts (source: New York City Ballet):

  • The giant Christmas tree grows to a full height of 41 feet and weighs 1 ton
  • 57 people work backstage to coordinate the scenery, lighting, and costumes during each performance
  • 62 musicians play in the orchestra for each performance
  • 150 costumes appear onstage in each performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. The only costumes still in use from the original 1954 production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® are the Grandmother’s cape and the embroidered appliqués on the women’s costumes in the Tea dance
  • The music for the violin solo during the change of scenery in Act I is actually taken from Tschaikovsky’s score for the ballet The Sleeping Beauty
  • The Sugarplum Fairy’s tutu is made of 7 layers of tulle
  • Between 600 and 700 lighting instruments are used in the stage lighting for the production
  • Tschaikovsky based the music for the Coffee dance on the melody of a Georgian lullaby
  • The bodices of the dresses worn by the women in the Hot Chocolate dance are decorated with small cameo pictures of New York City Ballet Founders Lincoln Kirstein (on the soloists) and George Balanchine (on the corps de ballet dancers)
  • There are 144 jingle bells on each of the Candy Cane costumes
  • Mother Ginger’s skirt is supported by a 40-pound metal frame
  • Most of the scenery in the production is actually painted fabric
  • The Dewdrop costume is adorned with 65 crystal dewdrops
  • The special instrument played for the Sugar Plum Fairy’s solo is a celesta. Tschaikovsky used the newly-invented celesta to make the music for the Sugar Plum Fairy sound like the “sprays of a fountain” as the choreographer Marius Petipa requested


Location: Lincoln Center, New York

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, one intermission.

Ticket Price Range: $60 to $200