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Nutcracker (Act I) [1965, Chicago, McCormick Place]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0156
Run Time
0h 33m 20s
Date Produced
Ruth Page's version of the popular ballet "The Nutcracker" was premiered at McCormick Place's Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, on December 26, 1965. After this, it was presented at the Chicago Civic Opera House in 1967 & 1968; it was then presented at McCormick every holiday season from 1971 through 1997. The ballet uses Tchaikovsky's original score for the story by E.T.A. Hoffman; it was produced by Edward G. Lee, with costumes by Rolf Gérard and scenery by Sam Leve.

This film appears to represent a rehearsal of Act I from the ballet, recorded either just before or around the time of its premiere; while the stage holds full scenery, the dancers are wearing practice clothes.  The role of Herr Drosselmeyer is performed here by Anton Dolin; Snow Queen and Snow Prince are danced by Patricia Klekovic and Kenneth Johnson.  The ballet's music is played on a piano out of frame.
The film opens with a distant shot of a stage, whose scenery is set to represent a Victorian living room (the Stahlbaum house) with a large fireplace and even larger Christmas tree. This is the beginning of the 'party scene.' Adults seem to be milling about in the background (perhaps putting the final touches on the tree), but more prominently, a group of young boys and girls enters and performs an ensemble dance. Adults soon corral the children into groups, and they appear quite anxious to approach the tree. After a bit more dancing and waiting, they are invited forward to receive their gifts, after which the central gift (a doll for Clara) is brought forth. The children then take turns dancing in groups: first the boys, then the girls with their dolls, then the boys again, and finally the boys and girls together in couples. Next, the adults enter and dance with their children in couples. Just as they finish, Herr Drosselmeyer enters with his own gifts. After a bit of magic and movement around the stage, he brings forth a large closet-like box, out of which two life-size mechanical dolls emerge. The dolls do a dance on their own; after them, two more are brought out and they dance as well. The children mimic some of the dolls' steps, but they are eventually put away; one remains a bit longer to lead the children in a final dance, but Drosselmeyer soon carries her offstage as well. This leaves one final gift, which he reveals to be a nutcracker. The children do a desirous dance around him as he demonstrates its cracking abilities. He gives the gift to Clara, but before she can enjoy it for long, Fritz (her brother) wrests it from her and stomps on it, breaking the toy. Clara and the other girls are highly upset, so Drosselmeyer sympathetically wraps the Nutcracker in a sling. Then all of the girls but Clara exit and the boys gather for story time, but one sneaks away to help Clara put the Nutcracker to bed. The other boys then catch him and tease him (twice) before the girls and the rest of the adult guests return for a final dance (mainly by the adult couples). Finally, all of the guests leave the Stahlbaums' party. Drosselmeyer is the last to leave, and he places the (magic) Nutcracker under the tree on his way out.

Soon, giant mice begin scurrying about the living room and a sleepy Clara, here to check on her Nutcracker, is astonished. Then the Mouse King arrives and frightens her. Eventually, Drosselmeyer enters and reveals the Nutcracker to be a real boy, after which the sets melt away to reveal a wonderland of snow and trees. Once Drosselmeyer exits, the mice reappear and the Nutcracker battles them, joined by a small army of toy soldiers. In the final duel between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, Clara intervenes and throws her shoe at the Mouse King, allowing the Nutcracker to slay him and win the battle. As the mice carry their dead king away, the little Nutcracker pulls Clara into his magical land behind the Christmas tree.

The Snow Queen and Snow Prince then enter and perform a pas de deux; once they've completed it, snowflakes begin to enter stage one by one. Then, the snowflakes dance in groups, eventually lining the stage to allow the Snow Prince and Queen a modified grand pas de deux at center. Once this is complete, little Clara and her Nutcracker enter stage to be greeted and sent on their way. The Snow Prince then lifts his Queen a final time, spinning her in the air while the snowflakes flutter around them. When the music stops and all break character as if the curtain had dropped, the film ends.
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich (is composer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Klekovic, Patricia (is performer)
Johnson, Kenneth (is performer)
Dolin, Anton (is performer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)