Dancing snowflakes, a land made of sweets, toys that come to life...the Royal Ballet’s staging of The Nutcracker is the most child-friendly ballet in the world. First of all, it’s the perfect length. It’s made up of two acts, each less than an hour, making it perfect watching for kids. There’s also a break in-between giving the whole family plenty of time to grab a snack or go to the loo.
Most of all, though, going to see The Nutcracker is a bit like how Christmas felt when you were a kid, which makes it irresistible for grown-up ballet first-timers. Here’s everything you need to know before catching it live on the big screen with us.
Your tweet-sized summary
Where you know the music from
The score is a compilation of Tchaikovsky’s best-known pieces. Take the brilliant Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, which he composed using a twinkly instrument called a céleste:
Recognise it? It crops up constantly in popular culture. A Cadbury’s ad from the 1970s was so popular that a whole generation can’t help singing, “Everyone’s a fruit and nut case.” Hedwig’s theme in the Harry Potter films uses a Nutcracker-inspired céleste.
Here it is in a gorgeously animated section of Disney’s Fantasia (1940):
Where you know the story from
It’s not just the music that’s familiar. The Nutcracker story has been told many times. The ballet itself was inspired by the book ‘The Story of a Nutcracker’ by Alexandre Dumas, and Dumas‘ story was an adaptation of the dark fairytale ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’, written by E.T.A Hoffmann in 1816. Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, with Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, is just the latest version of the fairytale.
Why this one’s so magical
The Royal Ballet version sees the story brought to life by some of the best dancers in the world. You’ll see all the incredible pirouettes and arabesques you expect from ballet, but also a range of fun set-pieces, from robot-dancing windup toys to skittering mice. There’s every kind of dressing-up costume.
Why you need to see it on the big screen
Snuggled up with your family on comfy seats in the dark is the best way to watch any Christmas show, and on the big screen, you’ll get a close-up view as the magic unfolds. You’ll see how high the dancers leap, hear how softly they land and catch every little detail in the gorgeous costumes and sets. And when reality shifts at the stroke of midnight, sending you down to the size of a toy and the Christmas tree up to the size of a mountain, you’ll gasp along with all the kids in the room.
Here’s how people reacted to seeing The Nutcracker live at Vue: