Septime Webre, himself, set the tone for his production of The Nutcracker when he came out to introduce the ballet and extend a warm welcome to the audience. His relaxed, playful intro acknowledged the all-ages crowd, particularly as he primed us on how to cheer for the dancers: “Bravo!” for male dancers, “Brava!” for ballerinas, and “Bravi!” for everyone and everything. And he encouraged us to use them liberally during the performance.
Of course, we didn’t need any prompting. From the moment the ballet began, we had plenty to applaud as we were transported to the show’s magical world of…Georgetown. Yes, Webre puts his signature on the production with a 19th-century Washington setting and other hints of “DC” as the performance progresses – George Washington as the Nutcracker, Anacostia Indians, an appearance by news anchor Maureen Bunyan – a touch that added to the fun, intimate feel of the experience.
Here, I should note that this was Owen’s first Nutcracker performance in his nearly six years, and my first live one in a very long time. (It was just the two of us since I thought bringing Sasha to a two-hour performance might be pushing my luck, despite her recent theatre-going breakthrough.) I was excited to see how he would like the show, since he loves dance – both watching it and grooving himself — but usually prefers more modern genres, like hip hop.
But let’s get back to the “magical” part, which starts with the Christmas party in the Stahlbaum family’s ballroom. The set itself is superb, decorated for the holidays with a grand-yet-cozy feel, and the Christmas tree as a focal point. Guests are dressed in beautiful period costumes and dance their way through the scene as they greet each other and the audience.
When Clara’s dream sequence begins it gets even better. The set changes to become the bottom of the tree to demonstrate scale. And the toys that come to life under it wow with spectacular performances that are spirited and colorful and keep the audience focused on the stage. Owen sat up intently as criss-crossing lines of toy soldiers, an adorable troupe of clowns , brilliantly garbed Indians, twirling forest animals, and more enchanting characters lit up the stage with thrilling, dramatic dances in the first act.
Intermission came after an hour, perfect timing for an audience filled with young theatre-goers. We got up to stretch our legs and peer into the orchestra pit, which held the first musicians that have played the score for the production in a few years, as taped music had been used when the company experienced financial troubles.
The second act began after about a 20-minute intermission with a breathtaking set of the Potomac River and glimmering cherry blossoms at its edges. The performances in this act as Clara and the Prince visited the Land of Sweets were beautiful, though I did notice Owen start to squirm a bit by then. That’s understandable as it was a long time for a young child to sit. And while absolutely mesmerizing to me, the Dance of the Sugar the Sugar Plum Fairies and the like lacked the big theatrics that hold a five-year-old’s attention as the numbers in the first act did. But when it was all over and I asked Owen how he liked the show, he gave a very enthusiastic, “I liked it!” And when we ran into his friends after the show, they ardently echoed his sentiments.
As for me, I give it a big, “Bravi!”
Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker is running at the Warner Theatre through December 24. Tickets are $40-110 and available for purchase through Ticketmaster. Goldstar also has discount on tickets for performances on select dates.
*I recommend this show for children ages 4 and up, depending on how well they sit through theatre performances and how much they like ballet. The entire production is a good two hours, so kids who aren’t into this kind of theatre would probably get antsy.
*Metered parking is available, though it’s hard to score a good spot in that part of town. There are several parking garages nearby the theatre which cost anywhere from $14-$20.
*Give yourself some time to get in the theatre and find your seats. The lobby is small and can get crowded, and there may be a wait as ushers direct people to seats.
*Snack and drinks are available for purchase ($5 popcorn, $4 soda), and you can bring them into the theatre. Souvenir Nutcracker dolls are also sold in the lobby.
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to The Nutcracker from the Washington Ballet, but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
Enjoying last weekend's superb weather at the Capitol Reflecting Pool, post-Botanic Garden visit.
Holiday activities dominate this weekend round-up, but there are a few non-seasonal recommendations for all the Scrooge types, too. See a family-friendly film about Andy Warhol, visit Santa in his workshop, jam to folk music for children, sing along to holiday songs. That’s just a small sample of all there is to do; read on for the rest. Happy Weekend!
‘Tis the Season – The holiday season is in full swing, and DC is chock full of fun ways to celebrate it. A few special events are mentioned below, and this post listing DC’s best has even more recommendations. Think holiday train displays; festivities at the Botanic Garden, and at the National Harbor; light shows; a boat parade; and even more.
Holidays on Stage – Enjoy the ultimate holiday classic The Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet at Warner Theatre or catch a tot-friendly version at The Puppet Co. Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead Scrooge on A Christmas Carol journey at Ford’s Theatre. Get details on these live shows and others at local theaters this season in this post about holiday entertainment.
Santa on the Ellipse – The National Christmas Tree was illuminated by the First Family last night, so festivities at President’s Park have officially begun. See the tree, a model train zipping around it, the Yule Log, and holiday displays representing all 50 states. But the biggest thrill for kids, by far, will be Santa’s Workshop, which is an actual little cottage on the Ellipse grounds, just down the path from the tree. There, guests can check out St. Nick’s “operations,” complete with a Naughty & Nice meter, letters to Santa stacked up on desks and posted on walls, sketches of toys, and a conveyor belt loaded with presents to be distributed to kids around the world. This is all there for kids to peep as they wait in line to meet Santa himself and sit on his lap for a photo op. It’s open this Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-4:30pm then again from 5:30-9:30pm. Beware that the line can get long — I’ve heard of waits up to 40 minutes — so plan accordingly. Read about our experience there last year.
Bethesda Winter Wonderland – Celebrate the holiday season in downtown Bethesda with a variety of free performances, a live ice sculpting presentation in Bethesda’s Veterans Park, and a visit from Santa Claus. Festivities kick off this evening with a concert at 8pm, and continue tomorrow with ice sculptures in Veterans Park (located at the corner of Woodmont & Norfolk Avenues) from 1-2pm, then a student concert and visit from Santa from 2-4pm. Admission is free.
Scribble, Art, Pop! – Kids can explore art through filmat The National Gallery of Art’s monthly film program. This weekend they’ll present a series of animated shorts that celebrate the qualities that make artists. Guests can get a glimpse into the life and art of Andy Warhol in the fun and gentle film Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Andy Warhol, a family-friendly biography of Warhol and an introduction to pop art, along with a few other animated shorts about art, all of the kid-friendly variety. Sessions are at 10:30am on Saturday and 11:30am on Sunday in the East Building Auditorium. The program is free, and seating is offered on a first-come, first-seated basis. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Renwick Holiday Festival – Celebrate the holiday season in presidential fashion at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. Go on a scavenger hunt through the exhibit Something of Splendor: Decorative Arts from the White House, where you might spot Grace Coolidge, Dolly Madison, and Teddy Roosevelt; enjoy a family day filled with music, crafts, and activities inspired by the exhibition. Create your own presidential china patterns, make holiday ornaments, and warm up with some hot apple cider. The event takes place on Saturday from 11am – 2pm. Admission is free.
Folk Jam for Kids – Boston roots musician and family entertainer Alastair Moock will perform an all–ages concert at Jammin’ Java on Saturday at 10:30am. The concert celebrates the release of Moock’s new CD entitled “These Are My Friends,” which just won a 2011 NAPPA Gold Award. The show is part of the venue’s ongoing family concert series. Tickets are $10 and available online or at the box office.
DIY Holiday Cards – Kids can exercise their creativity and get into the holiday spirit at a special Holiday Card Workshop hosted by the National Postal Museum on Saturday, from 12 – 3:30pm. Artist Thalia Doukas will provide stamp-centric inspiration and mailable ornaments that guests can use as they create two holiday cards. Be sure to make time before or after to explore the museum, which is full of interesting exhibits, many of them interactive.
Holidays Around the World: Kwanzaa – This holiday season, the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone is celebrating winter holidays around the world. On Saturday from 11am – 4pm, drop in to learn all about Kwanzaa, a holiday focusing on the values of African culture. Kids can make family tree place mats and mishumaa, traditional Kwanzaa candles. Admission is free. The Museum is located at National Harbor, so you can combine it with a visit to the Gaylord National Resort for Christmas on the Potomac.
Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long – Belt out the season’s most popular tunes at Wolf Trap’s annual gathering on Sunday at 4pm. Along with the opportunity to sing Christmas Carols and Hannukah songs along with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area, you can enjoy a performance by the United States Marine Band. While admission to the event if free, Wolf Trap will be participating in Toys for Tots by collecting new, unwrapped toys at the entrance to the Filene Center before the Sing-A-Long. Donations are strictly voluntary and not a requirement. Parking is also free, though limited, so plan on arriving early.
Annual Holiday Sing at the Atlas – The annual free Holiday Concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Capital City Symphony the Congressional Chorus, and the American Youth Chorus, is an H Street holiday tradition. Shows take place on Sunday at 4pm & 7pm. I checked the status of tickets on the website, and while it’s sold out, a note says to “Please come the day of the performance to join the waiting list. In years past, everybody has got in.” Hey, it’s worth a try. And if you don’t get in, you can grab a bite at one of the many eateries along the corridor or head up the street to Union Station to check out the Holiday Train Show.
The Puppet Co.'s whimsical interpretation of The Nutcracker
The holidays are just around the corner, and along with them some of best traditions of the season — and our local theatres. Take your pick of The Nutcracker productions, see Ebenezer Scrooge on stage, rock out or sing along to holiday tunes, discover celebrations around the world — there are shows to suit all theatre preferences, ages, and wallets. Here’s the line-up of holiday shows, listed by opening date (and most descriptions pulled straight from the websites). Tickets for most are already on sale. And if you have a show to recommend that’s not listed here, feel free to do so in the comments section.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Where: Adventure Theatre When: November 18 – January 2 Tickets: $17
“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” But wait! A mouse is stirring – because Santa missed his house last year. Before you can say “Merry Christmas!”, we’re off on the wild adventures of a mouse, an elf and a spunky little girl who just won’t take no for an answer. Don’t miss this joyful tribute to the holiday season from three-time Tony nominee and Olivier Award winning playwright Ken Ludwig. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
A Christmas Carol Where: Ford’s Theatre When: November 18 – December 31 Tickets: $30-65
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
The Nutcracker Where: The Puppet Co. When: November 25 – December 31 Tickets: $10
Tchaikovsky’s musical adaptation of the E. T. A.Hoffman story is brought to life by the magic of The Puppet Co. “The Nutcracker” is the festive story of Clara-Marie’s adventures with her favorite toy. The larger-than-life-size costume characters and marionettes delight Clara-Marie, and the audience, on her magical journey through the “Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Recommended for Kindergarten age and older.
The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker Where: Thearc Theater When: November 25-27 Tickets: $29
Celebrate The Washington Ballet’s golden anniversary with their holiday classic! For fifty years, generations of Washingtonians have grown up loving—and introducing loved ones to–Washington Ballet’s The Nutcracker. In this 50th anniversary year, Septime Webre pays homage to Washington Ballet founder Mary Day’s 1961 production, restaging her original, a historic jewel, in his lush Washington-themed staging. Discover, rediscover, and celebrate this one-of-a-kind Nutcracker production set in 1882 Georgetown and starring George Washington as the Nutcracker, King George II as the Rat King, Anacostia Indians, frontiersmen, and all-American delights. Whimsical waltzes, glittering snowflakes, and gorgeous music, The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker is a magical journey not to be missed!
Nutcracker Fantasy Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots When: November 26 – December 31 Tickets: $5
This marionette version of the holiday classic is geared toward the smallest of audience members. Tiny Tots shows are designed for theater patrons ages 0-4. They are shorter, the lights stay on, the doors stay open, and the show is set up on the floor.
Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker Where: Warner Theatre When: December 1-24 Tickets: $40-110
The grand, full-scale version of Septime Webre’s production, performed by the Washington Ballet.
Seasons of Light Where: Discovery Theater When: December 1-23 Tickets: $3-8
Discovery Theater’s seasonal favorite captures the warmth of many holidays filled with light, in this joyous interactive celebration. Explore the history and customs of Devali, Ramadan, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice. Recommended for ages 5-10.
A Beatrix Potter Holiday Where: Publick Playhouse When: December 1, 10:15am & 12pm Tickets: $5
Atlantic Coast Theatre for Youth from Florida presents the famous author at her annual holiday party. Stories including The Tailor of Gloucester and The Rabbit’s Christmas Party come to life on stage with the help of the audience, and Peter Rabbit may even make a surprise appearance.
Annual Holiday Sing Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center When: December 4, 4pm & 7pm Tickets: FREE ($2 service fee to reserve)
The annual free Holiday Concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Capital City Symphony the Congressional Chorus, the American Youth Chorus, and the Atlas Performing Arts Center. An H Street holiday tradition!
Tickets are free but must be reserved ($2 per ticket service fee). Tickets must be collected on the day of the performance at least 30 minutes before the performance. All tickets that have not been collected 30 minutes prior to the performance will be distributed to patrons on the wait list.
Holiday Sing-a-Long Where: Wolf Trap When: December 4, 4pm Tickets: FREE
Kick off the holiday season with family and friends at Wolf Trap’s 2011 Holiday Sing-A-Long! This annual musical celebration hosts a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area.
A Christmas Carol Where: Publick Playhouse When: December 8, 10:15am & 12pm Tickets: $5
Mr. Scrooge, the ghosts, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the whole Dickens gang gather for a spirited musical version of the holiday classic performed by Theatre IV of Richmond. Recommended for all ages.
American Ballet Theatre: The Nutcracker Where: Kennedy Center When: December 8-11 Tickets: $29-100
Magical toy soldiers, shimmering snowflakes, mischievous mice, and all the enchanting inhabitants of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s whimsical world descend upon the Kennedy Center for the DC premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker. American Ballet Theatre’s artist-in-residence and former Artistic Director of Bolshoi Ballet, Mr. Ratmansky choreographed this new production, which premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 2010 to rave reviews. Performed with a live orchestra, together with extraordinary sets and costumes by Tony Award winner Richard Hudson (The Lion King), Ratmansky’s new version of Tchaikovsky’s classic unites more than 100 superb performers for a sublime retelling of the beloved story. Join young Clara and her famous wooden prince for the sweetest of all family holiday dreams. Even if you’ve already seen 50 Nutcrackers, you will not want to miss this one by Alexei Ratmansky. This Kennedy Center tradition is the most cherished in DC.
A Children’s Nutcracker Where: Battlefield High School, Haymarket, VA When: December 10 Tickets: $15-20
This production from the Gainesville Ballet School features local talent ranging from three years of age through adult professionals. It’s a show you don’t want to miss, with the traditional dances, such as Snow Flake and Sugar Plum Fairy, plus some very special dances with the young ballerinas, such as Blue Bird and Angels. There are two performances, at 1:30pm and 5pm.
Christmas Dreams from The Nutcracker Where: National Theatre When: December 10 Tickets: FREE
Saturday Morning at the National, the theatre’s free program for children, has a classic its line-up of weekly performances. Snowflakes and Sugar Plum Sweets will be in the air as the Virginia Ballet Company and School present selections for their magical, glittering Nutcracker. Familiar music, lively dances, lovely costumes and charming characters from Tchaikovsky’s classic confection bring us elegant holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Only one ticket per person, and all attendees must be standing in line to receive a ticket. Children must be accompanied by an adult who remains present for the entire performance. Seating is limited, so get there early.
The Mini-Nut Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center When: December 10-11 Tickets:$15/adults, $10/children 12 and under
The Maryland Youth Ballet presents a sweet treat with a delightful, 50- minute, abbreviated presentation of their classic production. Performance takes place at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus.
The Nutcracker Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center When:December 16, 17, 18, 22, 26 Tickets: $25/adults, $20/children
This is the 22nd season of the Maryland Youth Ballets beloved, full-length classic. Performances will tale place at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College in Rockville.
Step Afrika! Holiday Party Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center When: December 14-18 Admission: $38/adult, $25/seniors & students, $15/child
Come make music with Step Afrika! in the company’s first ever holiday show! Bring the family and experience the best holiday party with the artists of Step Afrika! Who wants to sit still and be quiet for the holidays? Come ready to make some noise and bring in the festive season with a bang!
Rockin’ Hannukah Concert Where: Alden Theatre When: December 18, 3pm Tickets: $15, $10/McLean residents
Yosi and the Superdads play an interactive and humorous family concert filled with klezmer, rock, ska and rockin’ Hanukkah tunes. Recommended for ages 3 and up.