Not My Nutcracker: An A-Z Guide

The 40-foot tree stands in George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” is one of the focal set pieces in the performance.

The weather outside is frightful, but the city of New York is quite delightful, especially during the holiday season. For first timers, or any timers, who are lucky enough to spend this magical time of year in such a magical place, the city is your oyster when it comes to decking the halls and whatnot. And everyone, at least once, should experience the holiday rite of passage that is “The Nutcracker.”

Disclaimer: “The Nutcracker” is not just for children. The eponymous Nutcracker Prince and the infamous Land of Sweets welcome audiences of all ages, opening a world of battling mice, dancing candy and talking toys for younger audiences while revisiting a childlike wonder and nostalgia for older attendees.

Picking the perfect “Nutcracker” for you and yours can be as stressful as trying to follow the complicated, original E. T. A. Hoffman storyline. But in a city as big as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, New York City offers a “Nutcracker” suited for any and all tastes.

George Balanchine’s
“The Nutcracker”

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I want to start big, and by big, I mean 140 dancers, 62 musicians and over 30 stagehands big. New York City Ballet is one of the most prominent ballet companies in New York, and pretty much the world, and its “Nutcracker” couldn’t be more extra.

Choreographed almost a century ago by the company’s founder George Balanchine, City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is still as exciting as its opening night. The choreography is bigger, the dancers are better, and at $85 a ticket, it is the priciest production in town, but for good reason. Take the nearest cab or train uptown to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to experience the magic of imagination in this definitive New York treat.

Nov. 26 – Dec. 31

at David H. Koch Theater.

Tickets start at $85.

“Great Russian Nutcracker”

Are you looking for the magic of imagination but for a college student’s budget? Look no further. Similar in grandeur, but different in style, the Moscow Ballet’s regal “Great Russian Nutcracker” is rooted in pure classicism. Before ballet made its way to North America, Russian ballet companies were shaping the art form with greats like Enrico Cecchetti and Marius Petipa, the latter having choreographed the original production. The “Great Russian Nutcracker” is an essential and financially accessible production for anyone looking to dip their toes into the expansive world of classical ballet.

Dec. 9 at Kings Theatre.

Tickets start at $27.50.

“The Yorkville Nutcracker”

“The Yorkville Nutcracker” features equally exciting choreography and scenery and even includes New York City Ballet principal dancer Abi Stafford as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Performed at Hunter College by the professional dance troupe Dances Patrelle, “The Yorkville Nutcracker” is the New Yorker’s “Nutcracker.” The Big Apple-themed production nixes the Land of Sweets for beloved New York City landmarks like the Botanical Gardens and Central Park.

Dec. 7-10

at The Kaye Playhouse.

Tickets start at $65.

Keith Michael’s
“The Nutcracker”

A swift departure from the aforementioned textbook productions, Keith Michael’s “The Nutcracker” is an outrageous and updated retelling of the holiday classic that still preserves its warm and family-friendly spirit. Set in the Art Nouveau style of the early 1900s, this loud and highly stylized production is a prismatic feast for the eyes, notably featuring larger-than-life polka dot mice and dancing chopsticks, danced by New York Theatre Ballet. This revamped classic, with its discounted tickets, is an obvious must-see for those still on the fence about the holiday rite of passage.

Dec. 15-17

at Florence Gould Hall.

Tickets start at $24.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 27 print edition.

Email Ryan Mikel at [email protected] 

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