See the Farewell Tour of Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker

After 28 years, one of Chicago's classic holiday traditions gracefully waves goodbye

By Jamie Bartosch,

A scene from the Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker — Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Cheryl Mann

It's one of Chicago's most popular holiday traditions – and this is the last year you'll be able to see it.

The Joffrey Ballet's production of Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker is in the midst of its final performances, now through December 27th. It will be replaced in 2016 by a different "re-envisioned" version of The Nutcracker by Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris).

While there are many productions of The Nutcrackeraround Chicago at this time of year, Robert Joffrey's stood out as the classic. For the past 28 years, the acclaimed ballet company's namesake has put on a family-friendly show with spectacular dancing, colorful costumes and extravagant staging. It's all done to the beautiful and instantly recognizable Tchaikovsky score, performed live by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra.

Including intermission, the two-act show is two hours long. The perfect length.

A scene from the Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker — Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Cheryl Mann

Some parents in the mostly adult audience bring along their dressed-up children to watch the dancers tell the Victorian-era story of a young girl's Christmas Eve dream. It includes sugar plum fairies, a snow queen and king, battling mice, toy soldiers, Russian dancers and other fun characters. 

However, we wouldn't recommend this ballet for little kids; maybe third grade and up. (Tip for parents: they have cushioned seat boosters if you need them. Just go to Patron Services in Aisle 1.)

The storytelling and set design of this year's performance might not have rivaled that in previous years. But make no mistake, this is still a gorgeous ballet, with spectacular dancing, costumes and music. It is well worth the ticket price.

There are many talented children in the cast, and impressively, the Joffrey has included a boy in a wheelchair. It started years ago when a young boy came to a Nutcracker audition in a wheelchair. Joffrey Ballet co-founder Gerald Arpino was so inspired by the child's confidence, he decided to always cast the role in the show.

A scene from the Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker — Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Cheryl Mann

Since this is "the farewell tour" for Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker, catch it while you can.

If you plan on seeing the show, located at the Auditorium Theatre, an excellent spot for a pre-show dinner – a 5-minute walk down Michigan Avenue – is the Spanish tapas restaurant Mercat a la Planxa. The menu's filled with small, shareable plates and extremely flavorful dishes like bacon-wrapped lamb loin brochettes, or the Serrano ham and fig salad. Delicioso. 

Don't forget you only have until December 27th to witness this last run of a beloved holiday tradition!