The dream becomes reality watching Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker

Boston Ballet Nutcracker on stageLast year, my then-nine-year-old daughter and I were invited to attend the Boston Ballet’s brand-new production of the Nutcracker. As we sat there in the glow, her hugging a pair of worn ballet shoes that were in the “goodie bag”, I thought, “I’d love to give her the chance to dance in this ballet.”

This year, she will. Not with Boston Ballet (their ballet school is even more of a drive than the one we are currently attending), but with the Franklin Performing Arts Company which puts on a lovely Nutcracker every year, starring, coincidentally, two Boston Ballet soloists. She will be both a “party girl” and a “Marzipan” (sometimes called Pastorale.)

So when we were invited again last week to see this year’s Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker, we went with excitement building that Jilly will soon be part of her own company’s production.

And, oh, they do put on such a beautiful ballet. It helps that their location, the Boston Opera House sets the mood perfectly for a night of holiday magic.

Boston Opera House for Nutcracker

And the dancers are exquisite.

Boston Ballet Nutcracker by Gene Schiavone

The story is sweet and so entertaining.

Boston Ballet Nutcracker bear and kids

Though what I liked best was sharing this experience with a little girl who last year was dreaming about dancing in the Nutcracker, and this year, will.

Jilly and I at Boston Ballet Nutcracker

Many thanks to the Boston Ballet for inviting us to attend opening night of Mikko Nissenen’s Nutcracker. Shows will run through the end of the month and will really get you into the Christmas spirit.

For those of you in my neck of the woods, the Franklin Performing Arts Company’s Nutcracker will run December 14-15. Not into ballet? My oldest daughter, Belly, will appear in FPAC’s brand-new production, Carol’s Christmas, the following weekend. I don’t think my son’s fencing school is putting on any holiday-themed shows though. Maybe next year.

Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker: Another reason to love the holidays


Photograph by Gene Schiavone

A few years ago, I started taking the girls to see The Nutcracker. They were both studying ballet, and their friend was in a local production. Plus, I was really, really curious to actually see the ballet in its entirety, having grown up as one of those poor, underprivileged children who never got to get dressed up to go with Mum to the famous ballet each December.

I’m not sure it’d feel like the holidays now without The Nutcracker. Back in November, I start to get excited to bring the girls to see their friend who, this year, is playing Clara in her dance school’s production.

But when the Boston Ballet asked if I’d like to check out their newly revamped version of  The Nutcracker this past weekend—along with a tour backstage to see the brand-new sets—I leapt (and pirouetted) at the chance.

I chose to bring Jilly who studies ballet herself, and the two of us headed up to Boston’s Opera House which deserves its own paragraph of “wow”, “gorgeous”, “stunning”. All dressed up for the holidays in gold and red, it felt like we’d stepped onto the set the moment we walked into the lobby.


Upon arrival, we were given a “goodie bag” for us bloggers and media folk who had been invited to attend. Inside, Jilly found something that may rank up there with her favorite gifts ever: A pair of used pointe shoes from one of the soloists, Ashley Ellis.


Broken-in (and autographed) pointe shoes? This is what dreams are made of.

As for the production itself, there was plenty to awe us both. I had read of Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen’s decision to completely redo the sets and costumes (created by designer Robert Perdziola), as well as add new choreography and characters. I never had the chance to see previous years of the Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker for comparison, but, wow, I loved so much about this production.

The sets have an old-fashioned storybook feel to them, with so much detail incorporated into them, they would actually make a gorgeous picture book if they were ever shrunk down and bound between covers. Let’s make that a pop-up book, okay?


Photograph by Gene Schiavone

So much glitters in this production that it really adds to the feeling that you’ve entered a dreamland: from the sparkly costumes to the shimmering snow and the pretty silver sleigh led by silver reindeer, it’s all very magical whether you are 9 or 40-cough-something. And Mikko Nissinen has a great eye for cool special effects like the huge shadows the mice cast which makes them seem so much more threatening, and the took-my-breath-away moment when the towering, glittering Christmas tree grows to over 40 feet in size.

Though it is the dancing that really makes this show worth the drive into Boston and the higher-than-your-local-dance-school’s prices. The quality of every dancer on stage is so high—-from the adorable little polichinelles that spill out from under Mother Ginger’s skirt, to the gorgeously athletic leaps and dizzying spins of the soloists. It has us all breaking out into spontaneous applause throughout the show. And, the young girl who played Clara was so beautiful and expressive on stage, I could tell exactly her emotion from 20-or-so rows back.


Photograph by Gene Schiavone


The best thing about it all though was turning to my left and seeing how excited and energized Jilly was by what she was seeing on stage. I know The Nutcracker’s story line can be a bit confusing and–well–odd, especially if you haven’t seen it several times. But, armed with the scene-by-scene synopsis in the program book and charmed by this spectacular performance, this may be one more holiday tradition to look forward to each year.


Jilly. . .someday?

Are you a Nutcracker family? Do you take the kids to see if every year too?

You can find out more about the Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker on their website. Also, go here for details on half-priced tickets. 

Thank you to the Boston Ballet for providing us with tickets to the ballet and the memories to go along with it. All opinions are my own.

25 reasons we’ll return to Mount Desert Island

1. The views! Every! Where! You! Look! Gorgeousness everywhere.


Day’s end in Southwest Harbor


2. $40 for an annual pass to Acadia National Park gives us a good reason to go back next summer.

3. Camping at Blackwoods Campground: big wooded lots, clean(ish) bathrooms, and so quiet in the middle of the night, I could hear the ocean roaring in the distance.


Yes, our tent. Yes, we are outgrowing it.


4. Lobster so fresh at Beal’s in Southwest Harbor, it was swimming that morning.


Before and after

5. Hikes for all abilities, even a scaredy cat like me. Though I will never ever do Beehive or Precipice. Going up the metal ladders on Beech Cliffs hike was about as radical as I’m every going to get.


I climbed this high!


6. Biking on carriage roads is the bomb. It’s especially cool when your 9 year old goes whizzing by on the downhill and disappears from view for a good long time.


The blond will be FAR ahead pretty soon.


7. 2 Cats for breakfast. Orange juice is fresh-squeezed, and the food is delish.


nom, nom, nom


8. Dive-in Theater with Diver Ed Boat Cruise. Laughed so much during this two-hour tour. It was hilarious, fun, interesting, and informative. The kids were glued to every word Diver Ed and his wife, Captain Evil, had to say. Worth every last penny.


My little Sea Cucumber lover


9. Popovers at Jordan Pond House Restaurant. As good as everyone says they are. Especially if you bike to the restaurant.

10. So, so, so clean. I never wished I had a garbage bag with me to pick up the trash I found on our walks.

11. I’ll make GORP again.


You know you want some.

12. Stars over Sand Beach. Lying on a blanket on a sandy beach nestled between rocks, gazing up at the amazing Maine summer night sky, having the constellations pointed out by a park ranger. . . so very relaxing and cool. Next time, I had better see one of the shooting stars everyone else saw, though we all got to wave to the International Space Station.

13. Swimming in Echo Lake. Warm(ish) fresh water with sandy bottom felt great after a long hike. Plus, we could look up to the mountain on one side and say, “we were up there!”


Echo Lake. Too many people to test the name.


14. Maybe I’ll touch Bubble Rock next time. Or, maybe I’ll just sit way over here again.


So. High. Up. (gulp)


15. The Boobles. One local told us to look for the two Bubble mountains by looking for the two that look like breasts. From then on, we called them The Boobles.


The Boobles. Heh, get it? BOOBles?

16. No internet service for the majority of our trip meant no fighting over iPads or video games, and no staring at screens. But, when we were jonesing for some Wifi, there were options, like this retro-funky coffee shop in town.


Plug me in, Scotty.

 17. So many lobsters this year, the Side Street Cafe had knocked $5 off many of their most popular dishes, like this beauty:


Come to mama. . .

18. Dogs everywhere!


The cuteness!


19. “Yes You May Use Our Bathroom” signs on restaurant doors.

20. Ice Cream good enough for our President.


Obama had Coconut. Belly had Salted Caramel, Jilly had Butterbeer, and D had Chocolate (of course).


21. Thunder Hole was cool, but maybe next time we’ll catch it when there’s a storm at sea and we can really scream.

22. Although it can get busy in Bar Harbor, this is still plenty of lawn space to sit and look at this:


Bahhh Hahhhbah (we don’t really talk like that)

23. We need to come back because we never made it to the top of Cadillac Mountain.

24. And we didn’t have time to try kayaking on Long Pond in Somesville.

25. The kids will never forgive us if we don’t go back next year. I can’t blame them.


Google Maps says under 6 hours. Lies, total lies.

Many thanks to my friend (and local) Robin for all of her amazing tips.