ballet dancers

The Nutcracker. Linnar Looris and Katherine Precourt Photograph : Amitava Sarkar

HOUSTON, TEXAS – From November 25 – December 27, 2011, Houston Ballet will bring Texas its most joyous holiday gift, Ben Stevenson’s breathtaking production of The Nutcracker, seen by over 1,000,000 people since its premiere 24 years ago.  The beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve.  She encounters the frightful King Rat before embarking on a wondrous journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Young and old alike will experience the many special effects, including the Christmas tree which “grows” to 40 feet, 200 pounds of “snow” falling during the snow scene, and the firing of a cannon onstage.  Houston Ballet will give 33 performances of The Nutcracker, to a live orchestra, in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.  Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or logging on to Houston Ballet’s website.

For over one hundred years, the story of the ballet has proven irresistible to both children and adults alike. Set in nineteenth-century Germany, the ballet opens at a Christmas party at which the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer gives his little niece Clara a magical toy that takes her on an unforgettable journey.  From the battle scene between the Rat King and the Nutcracker in the first act to the cooks who fly magically through the air in the second act, The Nutcracker is sure to enchant audiences of all ages.  

Tickets are available at a discount for select performances of The Nutcracker, including evening performances on opening night Friday, November 25; Saturday, November 26; Sunday, December 4; Friday, December 9; Sunday, December 11; Tuesday, December 19; Monday, December 26; and Tuesday, December 27.  Matinee performances will also offer the discounted tickets on the following dates: Saturday, November 26; Sunday, November 27; and Monday, December 19.

The Nutcracker has a special place in Houston Ballet’s history as the first full-length work to enter Houston Ballet’s repertoire in a staging by Frederic Franklin, featuring scenery and costumes by the English designer Peter Farmer.  The company gave six performances of The Nutcracker in 1972 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, and has danced the work each December without fail for the following 38 years.  In 1976, Houston Ballet presented the production with revised choreography by the company’s new artistic director Ben Stevenson. In 1987, the current production with designs by Desmond Heeley, lighting by Duane Schuler, and choreography by Mr. Stevenson was unveiled to a glowing critical response.  

Today, the company gives 33 performances of  The Nutcracker at Wortham Theater Center, and the production plays a key role in Houston Ballet’s financial picture, drawing 67,925 (as of December 2010) theatergoers to Houston’s Theater District and bringing in over $3.4 million revenues in 2010. 

Houston Ballet’s performances of The Nutcracker are generously underwritten by United, Shell Oil Company, and Baker Botts L.L.P.


The Story of The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker doll.  One Christmas Eve, the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer arrives at the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas party and presents Clara with a special gift: a wooden nutcracker.  After the party, as the clock strikes midnight, Clara awakens to find the room filled with giant mice.  The nutcracker comes to her rescue and a fierce battle ensues as the nutcracker leads the toy soldiers against the mice and their leader, King Rat.  The nutcracker overcomes King Rat, and then is transformed into a handsome prince who takes Clara on a magical journey.

To the delight of Clara and the audience, the evening is filled with dance.  The Snow Queen leads eighteen snowflakes in a brilliant waltz in the Land of Snow, where the trees are laden with icicles.  Then the Nutcracker Prince takes Clara on a boat ride across the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Sugar Plum Fairy treats Clara to sweets and entertainment provided by the inhabitants of the kingdom: chocolate, a Spanish dance; coffee, an Arabian dance; and tea, a Chinese dance.  Next comes the comical Madame Bonbonaire whose huge skirt is filled with tiny clowns.  Then there is the Russian dance and the Waltz of the Flowers.   Finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance a grand pas de deux.  As the celebration draws to a close, Clara becomes sleepy.  She awakens back in her bed, as the nutcracker salutes his little princess Clara.


About Houston Ballet

On February 17, 1969 a troupe of 15 young dancers made its stage debut at Sam Houston State Teacher’s College in Huntsville, Texas.  Since that time, Houston Ballet has evolved into a company of 52 dancers (making it the United States’ fourth largest ballet company by number of dancers), with a budget of $19.2 million; a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, Wortham Theater Center; the largest professional dance facility in America, Houston Ballet’s $46.6 million Center for Dance which opened in April 2011;   and an endowment of just over $57.6 million (as of May 2011).

Australian choreographer Stanton Welch has served as artistic director of Houston Ballet since 2003, raising the level of the company’s classical technique and commissioning many new works from dance makers such as Christopher Bruce, Jorma Elo, James Kudelka, Trey McIntyre, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir and Nicolo Fonte.   Under the administrative leadership of managing director C C Conner since 1995, the company has maintained a strong financial position.    

Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally.  Over the last decade, the company has appeared in London at Sadler’s Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center, and in cities large and small across the United States.  Houston Ballet has emerged as a leader in the expensive, labor-intensive task of nurturing the creation and development of new full-length narrative ballets. 



WHAT:          THE NUTCRACKER (1987)

                        Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)                                                                              Choreography by Ben Stevenson, O.B.E.

                        Scenic and Costume Designs by Desmond Heeley

                        Original Lighting Design by Duane Schuler

                        Recreated Lighting Design by Christina R. Giannelli


Houston Ballet Orchestra conducted by music director Ermanno Florio on opening night Friday, November 25. Assistant conductors who will share the podium throughout The Nutcracker run will be announced.


Generously underwritten by: United, Shell Oil Company, Baker Botts L.L.P.



A little girl named Clara receives a magical nutcracker on Christmas Eve, and sets out on a wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets.  Featuring breathtaking scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Desmond Heeley, The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift: the ideal means of introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season.


WHEN:          November 25 – December 27, 2011


At 7:30 p.m. November 25*, 26*,

and December 3, 4*, 9*, 10, 11*, 16, 17, 18, 19*, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26*, 27*


At 2:00 p.m. on November 26*, 27*,

and December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19*, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27

* Indicates discounted performance.


WHERE:        Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center

                        501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston


TICKETS:      $19 – $105.  For tickets call (713) 227 2787 or 1 800 828 ARTS.

Tickets are also available at www.houstonballet.org, Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center and all Ticketmaster outlets at Fiesta and select H-E-B stores.


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