The Nutcracker dazzles children’s eyes, but it also confirms their deep suspicion that toys come to life, even when no one is looking or poking them repeatedly with cattle prods. Feel the season’s electricity with this GrouponLive deal to see Carolina Ballet's The Nutcracker at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. For $55, you get two tickets for seating in the rear of sections F–H or J–K on Sunday, November 25, at 2 p.m. (up to a $111.50 value, including all fees). Doors open at 1 p.m.
Based on a novel by the 19th-century romantic fabulist E.T.A. Hoffman, The Nutcracker weaves a magical tale of holiday adventure. Clara, the story's heroine, receives a nutcracker from her godfather, a wizardly toymaker named Drosselmeyer. Sneaking downstairs to see the toy after everyone else has gone to bed, Clara suddenly finds herself caught in the middle of a pitched battle between the toys and an army of mice. After saving the nutcracker with a well-thrown shoe to the Mouse King's head, Clara and her now-living prince venture into the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets to celebrate amid the dances of nimble snowflakes, the regal Sugar Plum Fairy, and seasonally confused vampires.
Tchaikovsky’s score features some of the most recognizable tunes in the repertoire, repurposed beyond the ballet world in works including Disney's Fantasia, which naturally chose to illustrate the music’s delicate beauty with dancing mushrooms and leaping radishes. Notable sections include the “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” which floats weightlessly above the angelic voices of a youth choir, and the second act's medley of exotic national dances, including a Spanish bolero and Russian Trepak. The music-box-like theme of the “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” springs from a celesta, a new instrument Tchaikovsky came across in Paris and hurriedly inserted into the score before his musical rivals could make use of its haunting, bell-like sound.
At age 5, Carolina Ballet director Robert Weiss witnessed an enchanting production of The Nutcracker that inspired him to later pursue a two-decade career as a dancer with the New York City Ballet. Also fascinated with magic since he was a child, Weiss resolved to stage a reinterpretation of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet that combined the lush music and pageantry of the traditional production with the jaw-dropping effects of a Las Vegas illusionist. Teaming up with Vegas' Rick Thomas, Weiss re-creates The Nutcracker with reality-defying effects, including an early showstopper in which Drosselmeyer crushes his nephew in a cabinet, puts him in a bag, and draws him out, returned to full size. The revamped show has earned praise from such outlets as the News & Observer, which gushed about the "gasps after each eye-popping illusion, the applause for the handsome new sets, and rapt attention from all the children."