The classic tale of the Mouse King, Christmas magic and the late-night battle between good and evil is coming to the stage at the Centre In The Square, but with a Canadian twist.
The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition will see dancers from Canada’s Ballet Jörgen leap, twirl and pas de bourrée their way through the Christmas Eve classic in two shows on Dec. 28.
Based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann story from the 1800s, and set to the original score by composer Tchaikovsky, this interpretation puts pieces of early 20th century Canadiana in the mix.
Bengt Jörgen, choreographer and artistic director for the ballet company says The Nutcracker will incorporate classic Canadiana with backdrops inspired by the Group of Seven.
“It is set in 1912 in a Northern Ontario village called Bisset and Frank Carmichael’s painting Church and Houses at Bisset is the jumping off point to the story,” he said. “When you enter the theatre, you are basically sitting in the painting. All of the backdrops and themes are from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (in Kleinburg).”
Upping the Canadian content, the story is moved from its German setting to the lakefront areas that inspired the artists who became the Group of Seven. Klara and the Nutcracker Prince are still front and center, but inhabit a world that includes a wintry schoolhouse in Bisset and the wetlands of Algonquin Park. It’s a Canadian landscape filled with snowflakes, Mounties and charming woodland creatures. And there’s the art itself: along with Carmichael’s piece, the gallery has allowed the use of Tom Thomson’s Snow in the Woods (1916) and L.L. FitzGerald’s Trees and Wildflowers (1922).
The ballet company performs the story of Klara, an immigrant who is discovering Canada through a unique lens. She joins a Christmas Eve party, reunites with her sister and they travel through the traditional tale of The Nutcracker.
“As the clock strikes midnight, everything changes, all this magic happens and all the toys grow in size,” said Jörgen, adding that the rest of the show is uniquely Canadian. “You get to meet all these different characters. In our case, you get to meet all these different animals that are found in Algonquin Park.”
In addition to the traditional Nutcracker characters, this version has added loons, birches, dragonflies, beavers and squirrels, among others.
The show started off the Christmas season in Sudbury in mid-November, and Kitchener is one of the ballet company’s last stops before heading into their new year performances. Even though The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition performances take place just after Christmas Day, Jörgen hopes the show keeps the Christmas spirit going to the end of the month.
“Hopefully, the audience leaves with a smile on their face. We want them to have a great time, and if they have family there that the kids really enjoy it. We want them to feel enriched musically and visually,” he shared, adding that he hopes the show inspires theatregoers to keep coming back. “Maybe they will engage in more arts because it is something they really enjoyed seeing.”
There are both afternoon and evening performances of The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition, giving families a chance to bring their kids without having to stay up too late.
“It is a very fun show, and is very accessible. It is easy for kids to follow and I think that is what we really set out to do. We just want kids to enjoy the story,” said Jörgen.
The holiday show isn’t the only one Ballet Jörgen performs throughout the year, but once the temperature drops, the company is all about The Nutcracker.
The show takes the stage at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 28. Tickets, $28 to $78, are available from the Centre In The Square box office, online at www.centreinthesquare.com or by phone at 519-578-1570.