Monday December 17 12:26 pm

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 provides the Background for "The Nutcracker"

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As the lights dim, The Nutcracker logo fades out and replaced by projections of real Chicago newspaper headlines and stories proclaiming the Columbian Exposition – the Chicago World’s Fair. One of those headlines mentions that building the Fair is creating jobs for immigrants.

The Great Impresario of the Fair (Fabrice Calmels), flourishing his cape, shows VIPs around the site, also pointing out important features on a model. Outside the site, people go about their business, passing the fences around the construction.

Some teenaged boys (Derrick Agnoletti and Hansol Jeong) have managed to sneak onto the grounds. After crawling through the fence, they jostle each other around as the Impresario’s Apprentice (Graham Maverick) passes by pulling a wagonload of packages. Franz (Dylan Sengpiel or Bennett Parker) steals a tall, red box. Marie (Cara Marie Gary), his sister, tries to stop him, but he tosses it to one of the boys and they play keep-away. Franz hides the package under his jacket.

When they get home, where their Mother (April Daly) is working on a sculpture for the Fair, Franz hides the package in a cupboard. Marie is frightened of the mice which share the site – and their shack.
Workers begin to arrive at their shack, bringing decorations and food for a Christmas celebration.

The Workers: Amanda Assucena, Valeriia Chaykina, Lucia Connolly, Olivia Duryea, Yuka Iwai, Gayeon Jung, Yumi Kanazawa, Chloé Sherman, Fernando Duarte, Stefan Goncalvez, Riley Horton, Greig Matthews, Aaron Renteria, Alonso Tepetzi, Elivelton Tomazi and Alberto Velazquez.

The Great Impresario projects a silhouette of the Fair, entertaining the workers with a glimpse of what they’re building. With Peter’s help, he rewards the workers with bonus envelopes, then he gives each child except Marie a gift. When he gives Marie a very familiar red box, Franz runs to check the cupboard, which is empty. Marie is thrilled with her nutcracker until Franz knocks it to the floor, breaking it. When the Great Impresario fixes it, Marie hugs him.

After Mother tucks her into bed – with her nutcracker – Marie has a really vivid dream in which the Fair’s Rat Catcher (Dylan Gutierrez) is transformed into the Rat King (Gutierrez). She is surrounded by giant Rats (Derrick Agnoletti, Raúl Casasola, Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, Riley Horton, Hansol Jeong, Masanori Takiguchi) battling toy soldiers (Evan Boersma, Stefan Goncalvez, Greig Matthews, Aaron Renteria, Alonso Tepetzi, Joan Sebastián Zamora).

A life-sized Nutcracker (Alberto Velazquez) is fighting the evil Rat King but Marie saves the day! Then the Nutcracker miraculously transforms into a real Prince (Velazquez).

Suddenly, the Great Impresario appears, whisking Marie and the Prince into a giant sleigh and they sail away. On the ice, the Snow Soloists, Amanda Assucena, Gayeon Jung, Yumi Kanazawa and Christine Rocas are joined by the Ice Cavaliers, Stefan Goncalvez, Greig Matthews, Alberto Velazquez and Joan Sebastián Zamora. The snow dance is exquisite, as are the ice blue costumes.

The Snowflakes are Valeria Chaykina, Lucia Connolly, Olivia Duryea, Dara Holmes, Yuka Iwai, Michelle Kenyon, Brooke Linford, Daniela Maarraoui, Jacqueline Moscicke, Chloé Sherman, Olivia Tang-Mifaud and Joanna Wozniak.

As their ship makes land, the Queen of the Fair (April Daly) welcomes them with an incredibly graceful solo. The Great Impresario leads Marie and the Prince through the exhibits of the Fair, but not before Marie and the Prince have a chance to dance together.

Frequently, they are joined by the other Fair visitors, the men in top hats and white tuxedos, the women in graceful dresses with pastel ruffles: Anais Bueno, Nicole Ciapponi, Lucia Connolly, Olivia Duryea, Dara Holmes, Yuka Iwai, Jacqueline Moscicke, Joanna Wozniak, Evan Boersma, Raúl Casasola, Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, Riley Horton, Hansol Jeong, Greig Matthews, Alonso Teptzi, and Joan Sebastián Zamora.
In the Spanish Pavilion, Spanish Dancers Amanda Assucena, Christine Rocas, Edson Barbosa and Stefan Goncalvez stomp with a flamenco flair.

In the Arabian Pavilion, the Arabian Dancers, Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez take sensual to a whole new level.

A Chinese Dancer (Elivelton Tomazi) and two Chinese Dragons celebrate Chinese New Year.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is a featured act on the Fair’s sideshow. Buffalo Bill (Rory Hohenstein) demonstrates his roping and leaping skills while his Wild West Girls (Brooke Linford, Chloé Sherman and Olivia Tang-Mifsud) dance backup.

There are Venetian Masked Dancers, Valeriia Chaykins, Gayeon Jung and Yumi Kanazawa.

Mother Nutcracker (Fernando Duarte) chases a group of Walnuts.

The Queen of the Fair and her partner return for a final dazzling pas de deux.

Waves and Dragons: Michelle Kenyon, Maria Jose Esquivel Losada, Rachel Lovett, Daniela Maarraoui, Ayuko Ogino, Margarida Trigueiros, Evan Boersma, Zachary Boresow, Jose Pablo Castro Cuevas, Jonathan Philbert, Aaron Renteria, Masanori Takiguchi and Valentino Moneglia Zamora.

Northwest Indiana note: Kelly Boersma, the new principal of Frank H. Hammond School in Munster, is a very proud Mom. Her son, Evan Boersma, just joined the Company a few months ago!

In most cases, I’ve credited the adult dancers above. I do think that everyone, including the child dancers should be recognized, so here they are.

The Worker Girls: Aerin Sofia Abad, Cecelia Buday, Anna Chin, Tori Coates, Jane Kadlec, Jessica Lancaster, Isabella Josephine Libke, Luella Nandra, Zoe Russo, AnaCecilia Grace Schildwachter, Isabella Grace Shaker, Viviana Smith.

The Teen Worker Girls: Ella Almer, Paige Kingston, Calla Norsman and Emily Price.

Children playing Ragamuffins/Rates, Juliana Maia Apezzato, Rachel Dickinson, Kaitlyn Gerrick, Zoli Gottlieb Fenves, Meika T. Haywood, KJ Jacoby, Emilie Sandoval, Benedict Santos Schwegel, Takuto Suzuki, Lucas Tishler and Hikaru Tsubota.

Soldiers/Nutcrackers: Isabella Maia Apezzato, Payton Boddy, Anna Creech, Alyssia Duda, Betsy Finley, Jorja McNIckels, Kendyl Muhr, Jillian Pfaff, Jennivive Silva, Mia Soderquist Hansen, Ava Estelle Trandel and Colleen Underriner.

Cavalry: Jessica Agbefe, Angelina Cadetto, Babette Caldwell, Devon Cleary, Loyan Ebba Gould, Chloé Hernandez, Claire Kellar and Morgan Miller.

Junior Snowflakes: Geneviève Demaret, Ava Elliott, Chloe Gavrilos, Kamara I. Hackle, Leela Kammula, Jasmine Mullick, Morgan Sirek and Jocelyn Suastegui.

Little Snowflakes: Cecilia Diaz Renz, Abigail Egan, Ava Jolie Fischer, Giana Fresco Burciaga, Isabella Garcia, Jillian Kadlec, Pia Larking, Talia Lee, Inaya Lian Abdul Malik, Isabella Merritt, Leilani Mojica, Mia M. Morris, Liv Nandra, Mia Carina Prado, Skylar Raphael, Yuria Tsuchiya Roebke, Aurelia Ava Sebastian, Clara Schlachter, Ganga Singh, Pfifer Sprull, Kailiana Stanczak, Savannah Streiff, AnaKaterina Cosette Sweis and Niza Casali Torres.

Walnuts: Aerin Sofia Abad, Kathleen Bowey, Cecelia Buday, Tori Coates, Zoli Gottleib Fenves, Jand Kadlec, Jessica Lancaster, Luella Nandra, Sophia Rose Puljic, AnaCecilia Grace Schildwachter, Isabele Joie Schuerman and Isabella Grace Shaker.

The Joffrey Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” runs through December 30th at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway, Chicago. The best parking option I’ve found is the Park 1 lot on the corner of Wabash and Van Buren, however, the price has been raised during the run of “The Nutcracker”.

Running time is just about 2 hours with an intermission. Remaining performances are: Thursday, December 14th at 7:00 pm; Friday, December 15th, 7:00 pm; Saturday, December 16th, 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm; Sunday, Dec. 17th, 2:00 and 7:00 pm; Wednesday, December 20th, 7:00 pm; Wednesday, December 20th, 2:00 and 7:00 pm; Thursday, December 21st, 2:00 and 7:00 pm; Friday, December 22nd, 2:00 and 7:00 pm; Saturday, December 23rd, 2:00 and 7:00 pm; Sunday, December 24th at 2:00 pm; Tuesday, December 26th, 2:00 and 7:00 pm; Wednesday, December 27th, 2:00 pm; Thursday, December 28th, 2:00 and 7:00 pm; Friday, December 29th, 2:00 and 7:00 pm; Saturday, December 30th, 2:00 pm.

Tickets range from $35-$165. FYI (312) 386-8905 or www.joffrey.org.