"The Nutcracker" to begin its 40th year in Houston

November 17, 2012 10:16:16 AM PST
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Houston Ballet performances of the Tchaikovsky classic "The Nutcracker."

The holiday ballet was first performed by the Houston Ballet in 1972. At that time, it was the company's first use of a live orchestra.

The ballet has a special place in Houston Ballet's history as the first full-length work to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire in a staging by Frederic Franklin, featuring scenery and costumes by the English designer Peter Farmer. The company gave six performances of The Nutcracker in 1972 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, and has danced the work each December without fail for the following 40 years.

In 1976, Houston Ballet presented the production with revised choreography by the company's new artistic director Ben Stevenson. In 1987, the current production with designs by Desmond Heeley, lighting by Duane Schuler and choreography by Stevenson was unveiled.

The newest version is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It has been seen by more than one million people since it premiered in 1987.

The beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She encounters the frightful King Rat before embarking on a wondrous journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets.

Young and old alike will experience the many special effects, including the Christmas tree which "grows" to 40 feet, 200 pounds of "snow" falling during the snow scene and the firing of cannon onstage.

Principal dancer Amy Fote will make her final appearances with Houston Ballet as the Sugar Plum Fairy at select performances of "The Nutcracker." She joined Houston Ballet in 2005 and says she has danced in a production of "The Nutcracker" every year since she was eight years old.

This year will also feature soloist Aaron Robinson dancing as the Prince for the first time in Houston.

Houston Ballet will give 37 performances of "The Nutcracker" from November 23 to December 30 in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. For tickets or more information, call 713-227-2787 or visit www.houstonballet.org.

We sat down with demi-soloist Lauren Strongin, who will play the Sugar Plum Fairy in select performances, to learn more about what's in store this year. Click here to watch our interview with Strongin.

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In conjunction with performances of Houston Ballet's "The Nutcracker," the audience is invited to participate in the "Mistletoe on the Go!" fundraiser December 17-23i. A 15-foot candy cane with a 4-foot hanging mistletoe (the largest in Texas) will be on display at Fish Plaza in front of Wortham Theater Center. Attendees to "The Nutcracker" are invited to take photos under the mistletoe and post their "kiss-mas" photos at www.Facebook.com/visitdowntownhouston. For every photo posted, $1 will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, up to $5,000.

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