Nothing quite communicates that we’re in the heart of the Christmas season like productions of “The Nutcracker.” Since making its debut in 1892, composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s two-act ballet masterpiece has grown its legend around the world. Without a doubt, some of the best renditions can be seen in Southern California, including the Inland Pacific Ballet’s production at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside, which runs from Saturday, December 11th through Sunday, December 19th.
The Inland Pacific Ballet, led by Executive Director Zaylin Cano, makes its long-awaited return to the Inland Empire after sadly going dark not unlike other theatre and dance companies in 2020. This time, in accordance with several COVID-19 safety protocols, attendees will be able to experience “The Nutcracker” spectacle of 60 dancers, beautiful sets by Nancy Seruto and Daniel C. Nyiri, ornate costumes by Jeanne Nolden, lavish lighting by Eric Larson, a towering Chinese dragon, and some of ballet’s most breathtaking choreography. And there is arguably no better setting than the 92-year-old historic Fox Performing Arts Center (also referred to as the Riverside Fox Theater) to house the holiday staple which has regularly entranced crowds since the last century. The famed site, which can be found on 3801 Mission Inn Avenue, was interestingly used by not only Hollywood during the Golden Age of cinema to preview films, but also as a temporary dormitory for soldiers during World War II. The Fox Performing Arts Center has since been a living landmark that hosts some of the finest entertainment in the region.
The plot of “The Nutcracker,” similar to December traditions like Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” is refreshingly straightforward — a main reason why it appeals to a wide swath of audiences. Marius Petipa’s libretto, which is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” is notable for its exciting shift from reality to fantasy. The adventure begins on Christmas Eve at the home of Herr Stahlbaum, who is with his wife, children and their friends. The spotlight is especially on Stahlbaum’s eldest child and daughter, Clara, who is paid a visit by her uncle and godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, an inventor and magician. He brings over dolls, including a wooden Nutcracker, which is broken by Clara’s brother, Fritz. However, when the clock of midnight strikes, the Nutcracker becomes gloriously life-sized, introducing a sudden conflict within his realm of existence. Clara finds herself in the middle of a battle between the Nutcracker (and his soldiers) and the Mouse King (and his mouse army), which seemingly has at stake the Nutcracker’s true form as a human prince. Following an auspicious outcome, the Prince and Clara enter the Land of Snow, before making their way into the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the magnificent Sugar Plum Fairy. It is in this sweet, festive place where confectionery delights (e.g., chocolate, coffee, candy canes) from around the globe are merrily celebrated via crowd-pleasing dances representing the Spanish, Chinese, Arabian, and the Russians.
Adults and children alike, who experience the Inland Pacific Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” are bound to be mesmerized by not only Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, but the awe-inspiring visuals of seeing inanimate objects — such as snowflakes, flowers, and gingerbread soldiers — come to vivid life and grand jeté across the stage. Another expected attraction is the stunning image of falling snow, which will certainly add to the scope and surrealism of the ballet.
The Inland Pacific Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside (3801 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA 92501) will run from Saturday, December 11th through Sunday, December 19th.
Performance dates and times: Saturday, Dec. 11th at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm; Sunday, Dec. 12th at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm; Saturday, Dec. 18th at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm; and finally Sunday, Dec. 19th at 1:00 pm.
For Tickets (use Passcode SAVE30 for 30% off), please visit Ticketmaster. The Fox Performing Arts Center Box Office can be reached at (951) 779-9800.
For more information about the ballet company, go to ipballet.org or call (909) 482-1590.
Last but not least, kindly keep in mind that, in order to attend, every individual must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 via an approved single or double dose (and be at least 14 days out) or a negative test result within 72 hours of showtime. A printed copy proving vaccination or a negative test result is preferred, but attendees can also show a digital copy or QR code on their phones. Once inside the venue, audience members are expected to wear their masks unless actively eating or drinking.