Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’ dances into Kennedy Center for Thanksgiving weekend

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'The Nutcracker' at Kennedy Center (Part 1)

Are you looking for something festive to do with the family this Thanksgiving weekend?

Take them to “The Nutcracker” at the Kennedy Center this Wednesday through Sunday.

“You think Christmas, holidays, ‘Nutcracker,’ they kind of connect without a new sentence being formed, right?” Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney told WTOP. “On top of that, to have it at the Kennedy Center, our nation’s theater, it’s just a spectacular way to usher in the holidays and I can’t dream of a better way to do that.”

Set on Christmas Eve in 1882, Clara’s family hosts a holiday party in their Georgetown mansion. When her mysterious godfather Drosselmeier presents Clara with a nutcracker, she’s suddenly plunged into a magical world of the Rat King and Sugar Plum Fairy.

“Nutcracker’ is a great chance to see the holiday through a childlike heart and childlike eyes,” Carney said. “It’s the story of Clara and her adventure into the Land of the Sweets.”

Not only is the story timeless, the music is iconic. It remains one of just three ballets written by Tchaikovsky, but all three are masterpieces: “Swan Lake” (1876), “Sleeping Beauty” (1889) and “The Nutcracker” (1892). This weekend, the score will be performed by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra under the direction of Ramona Pansegrau.

“That very famous what we call ‘The March’ in the first act,” Carney said. “Of course there’s the famous Russian Dance in Act Two, which is one of many divertissements that are performed. … Of course there’s the Sugar Plum Fairy Dance. These are just classic tunes, which are played everywhere during the holidays. It is quite a gorgeous score.”

Carney himself choreographs the dance numbers, including the Grand Pas de Deux.

“I’m very happy with the choreography and the way that it has come to life,” Carney said. “Choreographically, I was very conscious of the wide variety of ages that come to see our production of ‘The Nutcracker.’ It was very important for me to be able to connect with a child that’s 3, 4, 6 years old, as well as a young couple, as well as grandparents.”

It’s all set against beautiful visuals thanks to costume designer Holly Hynes, set designer Alain Vaës and lighting designer Trad A. Burns. The production cost over $2 million.

“There’s the party scene, a classic Victorian parlor with a big grandfather clock in one corner, this beautiful Christmas tree decorated in another corner and big bay windows in the back,” Carney said. “There’s the battle scene where the Christmas tree grows! We have a Christmas tree that grows to two stories tall, 28 feet tall, right before your eyes.”

Find more ticket information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'The Nutcracker' at Kennedy Center (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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