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Nutcracker (Act I) [1967, Chicago, Civic Opera House]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0160
Run Time
0h 36m 7s
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 there every holiday season 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 and scenery by Rolf Gérard.

This film appears to represent a recording of Act I from the ballet in Chicago two years after its premiere.  Full sets and curtains, costumes, and orchestra are present.  The film is shot from the Civic Opera House's mezzanine.
The film opens with a shot of a stage, where the first curtain rises to reveal a second curtain, in front of which eight young girls enter in Victorian style party clothes.  After they group themselves into two circles of four, eight boys follow them onstage.  All then join hands and dance together, at first as an ensemble and then in couples.  Finally, four adults enter and navigate through the group, carrying gifts over their heads.  The children soon grow impatient, trying to peak behind the curtain, and after a bit more dancing the curtain is raised to reveal a large Christmas tree at the center of the Stahlbaums' living room, with adults milling about in front it.  

The children sit down in a long row to marvel at the scene.  They then run upstage, one at a time, to receive their gifts; Fritz then gifts Clara (his sister) with a dancing doll.  Afterwards, the boys assemble to do a dance while the rest look on; Clara soon joins for a pas de deux with Fritz at center.  The girls are given a quick turn to dance with their dolls before the boys again take the stage; finally, all children dance together in couples.  Next, the adults enter to dance with their children.  Just as they complete the dance, Herr Drosselmeyer appears and a spotlight is shined on him.  He delights the children with magic tricks, and eventually brings out two human-sized dolls that dance on their own.  When their dance is done, Drosselmeyer brings out two more; these two, dressed as soldiers, inspire imitation in the children.  He finally puts them away, one at a time, and brings out a final gift: a nutcracker.  The children gather 'round, all hoping to receive it, while he demonstrates its nutcracking abilities.  Finally, he gives the Nutcracker to Clara, who dances with it happily until Fritz runs up, steals it, and breaks it jealously.  The girls, especially Clara, are all very upset, but Drosselmeyer bandages it up with an arm sling.  Then, as Clara settles down to care for her damaged toy, the rest of the children are seated for story time.  One boy sneaks away to help her, and in response Fritz leads a group of boys to run off and torment him over it--twice.  It is then time for one final adult dance; all adult couples, even the grandparents, participate.  Afterwards, the party winds down and the guests all begin to head home.  Drosselmeyer is the last to leave, placing the Nutcracker under the tree winkingly as he exits.  

In the darkness, giant mice scurry into and around the living room (only their silhouettes against the Christmas tree can be seen on camera).  Clara appears in her nightgown with a candle in a spotlight; she is frightened my the mice and by Drosselmeyer, who mysteriously appears as well.  While the mice continue to terrorize Clara, Drosselmeyer pauses in front of the tree and reveals the Nutcracker as a real boy.  In awe, Clara joins him while Drosselmeyer magically removes the living room furniture (the setes are pulled offstage), makes the tree appear larger and brighter, and summons Clara's bed to come pick her up.  Once he leaves, however, the mice return, so the Nutcracker launches into a battle with them as Clara looks on.  Toy soldiers appear to assist him against the mice army and the Mouse King (but the stage-wide battle isn't visible due to the low lighting conditions).  When the Nutcracker is on the verge of being defeated, Clara intervenes by throwing her shoe at the Mouse King, allowing the Nutcracker to slay him.  As the mice carry off their dead leader, the scenery changes again to reveal a large, snowy forest.

As the Nutcracker leads Clara into the forest, the Snow King enters, carrying his Queen, and it begins to "snow" onstage.  The film's sound cuts out at this point.  The two dance a pas de deux, which ends with the King carrying the Snow Queen offstage, just as they entered.  The sound then cuts back into the film.  At this point, one can make out individual "snowflakes" entering and flitting about stage; Clara and her Nutcracker scurry through the flurry as well.  This is followed by a snowflake ensemble dance, occurring first in clusters and then a large group.  They then line the stage to allow the King and Queen to reenter for a grand pas de deux.  They occasionally switch formation during the couple's dance.  When it is complete, the two greet Clara and Nutcracker and send the two on their way to the Kingdom of Sweets.  The King then lifts up his Queen one final time and the curtain drops as they slowly spin at center.  Applause is audible in the darkness; the film ends there.
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich (is composer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Dolin, Anton (is performer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)