For families seeking onstage holiday entertainment, The Nutcracker is a sure bet, thanks to Tchaikovsky’s glorious music and the unforgettable characters taken from a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann.
There are dozens of traditional stagings at Dallas-Fort Worth venues this season, and some will even guest-star national and international talent. But several fun spoofs and irreverent takes on Clara, the mouse battle, and the Land of Sweets will make their way to the stage, too.
So, whether you like your Nutcracker with sugar, salt, or something spicier, there are plenty of ways to get your Nut fix in this year. Here are 11 recommendations in order of appearance on DFW stages, but keep in mind that there are many more around town.
For the whole family
The Moscow Ballet
This touring Russian company returns to Dallas every year with The Great Russian Nutcracker, and makes use of local children each time. It’s traditional Russian, meaning some of the Americanized character names we’ve come to know are a bit different. This production is known for its award-winning principal dancers, lavish costumes in the style of the Victorian era, many backdrops created by La La Land set concept designer Carl Sprague, and its Russian focus, including life-sized Matryoshka dolls. Performed November 18-19 at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. Tickets are $28-$130.
Ballet Frontier of Texas
Since Fort Worth’s Ballet Frontier of Texas opened its big new studio a few years ago, the quality of the dancers has skyrocketed. Artistic director Chung-Lin Tseng’s The Nutcracker is one of the most traditional, and makes fine use of a young cast. It’s November 18-19 at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets are $30-$40.
Texas Ballet Theater
This is the big ticket, and it's worth the money. Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker is a grand spectacle with plenty of laughs, too, because Stevenson is a master at creating physical comedy. This year it will be extra special, because TBT is doing a dancer swap with the Queensland Ballet in Australia. Dancers from each company will swap places for two performances. TBT’s Samantha Pille and Jiyan Dai will travel to Australia the week of December 16, and Yanela Pinera and Camilo Ramos will travel to Fort Worth to perform the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Nutcracker Prince on December 20 and 22 at Bass Hall. The TBT Nut begins with performances November 24-December 3 at Winspear Opera House in Dallas, and then has three weeks at Bass Hall, December 8-24. Tickets are $20-$135.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre
Of the many pre-professional companies in DFW, LakeCities Ballet Theatre is one of the best bets. It also is the rare Nut performed to live music, played by the Lewisville Lake Symphony. This year, guest artists Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theater and Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet will star. It runs November 25-26 at Lake Dallas High School. Tickets are $25-$45.
Ballet Ensemble of Texas
Ballet Ensemble of Texas is another terrific choice because of the direction of Allan Kinzie. This year BET alumna Emily Dixon is the Sugar Plum Fairy with local favorite Shea Johnson is her Cavalier. It is performed December 1-3 at Iring Arts Center. Tickets are $25-$30.
Collin County Ballet Theatre
This is probably the biggest local production with an orchestra that has a sizeable budget: The Plano Symphony Orchestra. Performed December 1 and 3 at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson; and December 16 at Centennial High School Theatre in Frisco. Tickets are $27-87.
Russia’s premier ballet company — and they have the best in the world — won’t tour to DFW, but you can catch its traditional and long Nutcracker (more than three hours) in movie theaters via the Fathom Events programming. It will screen at 12:55 pm December 17 at NorthPark Center 15 and Cinemark 17 with IMAX in Dallas; and Tinseltown Movies 17 in Grapevine. Tickets are $19.50.
The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents a Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker
This is more theater than dance, and it’s altogether daffy — and undeniably fun. This year, the annual MBS Productions original work — about a small-town production of The Nutcracker that has to suddenly replace its dancers with a traveling troupe of burlesque dancers stranded in a snowstorm — will take place in the Addison Theatre Center's mainstage space. It runs November 24-December 26. Tickets are $22-$40.
The Nutty Nutcracker
Texas Ballet Theater takes its annual one-night break from the big run of The Nutcracker for this madcap version, which is co-created with the dancers and brings in characters, themes and music from American culture. That usually means pop culture, but this year, expect to see more politics than usual — especially since the ballet is Russian. Ahem. It’s always wacky fun. It takes place 8 pm December 15 at Bass Hall. Tickets are $45-$200.
The Nearly Naked Nutcracker: A Burlesque Ballet
Viva’s Lounge in the Design District is the local palace for the resurging art form of burlesque, and this one draws a crowd. The annual burlesque take on The Nut is all kinds of treats, with burlesque women and men stripping and doing aerial feats to traditional and non-traditional versions of Tchaikovsky’s music. Presented by Broads and Panties Burlesque on December 15-16. Tickets are $22.
This is a musical comedy that you can only see on the big screen. It brings the folklore of Chelm (a fictional town of fools) underscored by a Klezmer-ized orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s score, including original lyrics that celebrate Chanukah. Shown at the Cinemark 14 in Cedar Hill; and NorthPark Center 15 and Cinemark 17 with IMAX in Dallas one day only, December 19. Tickets are $19.50.