Six reasons Nevada Ballet Theatre’s ‘The Nutcracker’ remains a classic holiday must

NBT’s The Nutcracker runs through December 24 inside the Smith Center.
Photo: Virginia Trudeau / Courtesy

1. It’s a local favorite. For nearly 40 years, Nevada Ballet Theatre has delighted Las Vegas audiences with a production of The Nutcracker. In 2012, with the opening of the Smith Center, NBT presented a new Nutcracker specifically built for Reynolds Hall. Choreographed by James Canfield, it features awesome goodies, such as a 34-foot-tall Victorian dollhouse. The uniquely Vegas production has come a long way since the days of scavenging for casino performance spaces. Says NBT artistic director Roy Kaiser: “My ultimate goal is for everybody in Las Vegas to come experience us.”

2. It's a holiday tradition. The entire storyline of The Nutcracker focuses on one very special Christmas present. Holiday magic is built into the bones of the production, which makes it a great activity to pass on through the generations. “In the early 20th century it became a yearly event around the holidays in major cities,” Kaiser says. “Families create a tradition around it. Young parents bring their kids because their parents brought them. It’s just a wonderful event to experience around the holidays.

3. It’s a dancing rite of passage. “Most professional dancers’ first exposure to ballet was via The Nutcracker,” says Kaiser, who performed his first Nutcracker in 1979. He’s gone on to dance in countless versions of The Nutcracker and later oversaw productions. More than 30 dance students perform in this production, the youngest of which is 8. Kaiser adds that these children’s roles get dancers and fans hooked.

4. The music is timeless. While there are many differently choreographed versions of The Nutcracker, Kaiser says the one thing they all have in common is the music, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. “The score is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. It’s also very recognizable. You hear different parts of the Nutcracker score around the holidays—in elevators and department stores.” For certain performances, a live orchestra will play.

5. It’s got fun extras. “I want people to know that as soon as they walk through the door of the Smith Center, they will be taken to a holiday fantasyland,” Kaiser says. In addition to the ballet itself, choirs and musical groups will perform in the lobby before the show. The Troesh Theatre has been transformed into The Nutcracker Wonderland, with photo opportunities and Christmas storytelling. And on December 16, there’s a special Sugar Plum Party ($40-$60). “It’s creating the complete experience for our patrons,” Kaiser says.

6. It’s a no-pressure performance. Even if it’s The Nutcracker, ballet can be intimidating to many folks. But Kaiser says there’s no reason to stress. “Don’t put any pressure for yourself—show up, come in sit down and just take in what is happening onstage,” Kaiser says. “It’s just movement to music, plain and simple. If we do it well, the story is conveyed through that movement. There’s no secret language and nothing people have to study up for to enjoy the ballet.”

THE NUTCRACKER Through December 24, times vary, $29-$179. Reynolds Hall, 702-749-2000.

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