The Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker returns to Wortham after two years. Here’s what to expect

The Houston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is exactly as audiences remember it. And it’s a good thing.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the beloved holiday production is back on stage at the Wortham Theater. Until December 24, 31 performances are scheduled for dance enthusiasts of all ages to experience Clara’s magical journey to the Kingdom Sweets.

“People are ready to see it. Our sales have been fantastic,” said Jim Nelson, executive director of the Houston Ballet. “The opening weekend is 90% sold. Like going back to the Nutcracker Market, people want their traditions back to normal. “

Well, as normal as you might expect. The Houston Ballet requires that all patrons wear a mask inside Wortham.

“Like the (‘Jubilee of Dance’), we urge everyone to get vaccinated, but it’s very difficult to manage and we want to attract mom and dad and grandmother and kids,” says Nelson. “We balance business continuity and reasonable security precautions. We surveyed our audience after the September program and 90% were vaccinated. Hope this inspires a real sense of confidence. “

In order to prioritize the health and safety of the dancers, all performers in the show are aged 12 and over. It’s a change from previous years to ensure everyone on stage is fully immunized – and, Nelson adds, it’s a move consistent with major ballet companies across the United States.

In the past, artistic director Stanton Welch had chosen dancers from the age of 6.

“He created roles for all levels of our (Houston Ballet) Academy so that as they progress they have something to look forward to as they get older,” said Nelson. “It’s something really special about ‘The Nutcracker’.”

The season marks the fifth presentation of Welch’s interpretation choreographed on the timeless score of Pyotr Tchaikovskuy and larger-than-life landscapes created by renowned designer Tim Goodchild.

It is by far the largest production of the Houston Ballet – 22 trucks deliver the huge plays. “’The Nutcracker’ is bigger than most Broadway shows,” Nelson says. “It’s a big logistics project.

The entire Houston Ballet Company, in addition to over 100 Academy students, will be presented this year. On Friday’s opening night, soloist Harper Watters replaced Principal Connor Walsh as Nutcracker Prince due to a last-minute injury. Other high profile cast members included Allison Miller as Clara, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama as Drosselmeyer and Yuriko Kajiya as Sugar Plum Fairy.

A crowded and energetic crowd showed up at the Wortham Theater Center for the premiere performance. Before the ruby ​​red curtain rose, costumed “The Nutcracker” characters appeared on both sides of the stage to remind audiences that masks were mandatory throughout the performance.

“If they fall at any point, we can send rats to escort you out of the theater,” a voice warned over a speaker. The ticket holders laughed and the show began.

During the intermission, one spectator whispered to another, “I used to dance with the St. Louis Ballet and this ‘The Nutcracker’ is the best I have ever seen. Better than anything in New York.

Spontaneous applause sounded repeatedly throughout the production. A standing ovation rocked the audience before the final note of the Houston Ballet Orchestra.

Nelson is encouraged by the quick response and hopes customers will take advantage of a new “Nutcracker” offering: Sunday night performances, which also serve as valuable days.

“This is our most affordable ticket. And at 6:30 p.m. the kids can be in bed by 9:00 p.m.,” he suggests. “This is by far the biggest and most lavish holiday production in the world. We truly believe this is the jewel in the crown and hope people come out of it.”

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