The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker
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Hundreds of cinemas across America have been switching over from their usual fare of romantic comedies and blockbuster action flicks to make way for a more unusual show: The Nutcracker ballet. Nearly a thousand cinemas, including at least one in all 50 American states, is expected to broadcast a high-definition live showing of New York City Ballet’s production of the classic Christmas ballet, which is set to Tchaikovsky’s famous score.


And whether traditional,  jazzed up or semi-nude, The Nutcracker is now firmly entrenched in the American seasonal landscape; much in the same way pantomime is to the British celebration of Christmas. There are 12 separate stage versions in Los Angeles alone, plus five in New York and seven in Chicago – and the number of stage production across America could also hit the thousand mark once all the small-town and amateur shows are included.


But The Nutcracker comes far from being uniform across the country. There is several jazz versions, and at least four have taken their inspiration from 1950s Harlem. A remarkable 33 productions feature live horses (what was it someone said about working on stage with children and live animals?). Even here in Seattle, apart from the traditional offering, there is the all-productions sold-out Land of Sweets, a burlesques version featuring semi-nude dancers and advertising itself as a “bawdy makeover” of the original – all a far cry from the ballet’s first performance in Imperial Russia in 1892, when it got its premier in St. Petersburg.


 The Nutcracker has come to dominate America’s Christmas experience. For this reason, shopping malls and high street shops are usually surrounded by giant toy soldier figures from the ballet, such as this one standing guard to one of the floors at Seattle’s downtown Pacific Mall.


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