- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

When the Washington Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” this holiday season, the classic tale will have a distinctly Washington feel.

The story will be set in a Georgetown mansion in 1882 and among the blooming cherry blossoms. The Nutcracker himself will bear a striking resemblance to George Washington, and the Rat King will look like King George III.

After 42 years of presenting the traditional Nutcracker, the Washington Ballet hopes this version will endure as well, says Artistic Director Septime Webre.

Mr. Webre says he incorporated his love of history and enthusiasm for the ballet when he envisioned the new production. The Statue of Liberty makes an appearance, as does Benjamin Franklin.

“This city is so resonant with history,” Mr. Webre says. “It seemed like having American ideas and iconography would make ‘The Nutcracker’ feel of the city.”

The Washington Ballet spent more than $1 million on the new production, Mr. Webre says. Though the setting and costumes have changed, the story is essentially the same.

The ballet, based on the 1819 E.T.A. Hoffmann story and accompanied by the music of Peter Tchaikovsky, focuses on Clara, a little girl who has a dream. In it, Clara helps an animated wooden nutcracker defeat an army of mice and winds up in the magical world of the Land of Sweets.

The Washington Ballet is the city’s professional production company, but of course, it is not the only one presenting “The Nutcracker.”

Some of the many other places to see “The Nutcracker” this season include:

• The Loudoun Ballet Company will present “The Nutcracker” at Dominion High School in Sterling at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. today and Dec. 18 and 19.

Advance tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for children 12 and younger and seniors 60 and older. Premium reserved tickets are all $20. All tickets at the door on performance days are $20. For more information, call 703/771-8074 or visit www.loudounballet.org.

• The Alexandria Ballet will present “Highlights of the Nutcracker” at the Athenaeum in Alexandria. The show starts with “Clara’s dream.” It features all of the traditional dances, including the Nutcracker Prince and Mouse King’s sword fight and the romantic dance of the Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

This performance is geared toward children. The Mouse King, often called the Rat King in other productions, for instance, is silly rather than scary. Children can sit on the floor to be close to the dancers.

Performances are today at noon and 1:30, 3 and 4:30 p.m.; Friday at 7 p.m.; and Dec. 18 and 19 at noon and 1:30, 3 and 4:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for children and $15 for adults ($9 and $11 for members of Northern Virginia Fine Arts). For more information and reservations, call 703/548-0035 or visit www.nvfaa.org.

• The Puppet Co. Playhouse, located at Glen Echo Park in Maryland, also will present its annual performance of “The Nutcracker.” The 50-minute show is for all ages and features costumed characters, hand puppets and marionettes.

The Puppet Co. shows run Wednesday through Friday at 10 and 11:30 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 and 1 p.m. through Dec. 31. From Dec. 26 to 31, the Puppet Co. will run on a weekend schedule. There will be no shows on Dec. 24 and 25.

Tickets are $7 for the general public, free for children younger than 2, and can be purchased by calling 301/328-6668 or by visiting www.thepuppetco.org.

Other holiday shows for a family outing:

• The beauty of December’s many holidays will be celebrated when the Smithsonian Institution presents its fifth annual “Seasons of Light” program.

The show includes a variety of traditions across cultures, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Devali, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas and the Winter Solstice.

The show is geared toward children younger than 10, says Smithsonian Associates spokeswoman Christine Cimino.

Shows will be presented at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday this week at the Round House Theatre in Silver Spring. The show returns to the Smithsonian’s new Ripley Center for performances Dec. 20 and 21 at 10 and 11:30 a.m.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for children 12 and younger.

• The Publick Playhouse in Cheverly is presenting a screening of “The Muppet Christmas Carol” Dec. 18 as part of its Saturday morning movie series.

The Publick Playhouse Saturday morning series is reminiscent of old vaudeville. The movie is combined with a half-hour of live entertainment such as magic, music and clowns.

The Publick Playhouse also will host a special screening of the musical version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

Tickets for both shows are $5. For more information, call 301/277-1710 or visit www.pgparks.com.

• The Choral Arts Society of Washington will present a Family Christmas Concert at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater Dec. 19 at 4 p.m.

The concert will feature holiday music and appearances by Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 888/430-7464 or visit www.choralarts.org.

When you go

What: The Washington Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

Where: Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW, Washington

Directions: The Warner Theatre is on 13th Street between E and F streets NW, about six blocks from the MCI Center and three blocks from the White House.

Parking: Pay parking garages and limited metered street parking nearby.

Performances:Today at 1 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m.; Dec. 18, 2 and 7 p.m.; Dec. 19, 1 and 5 p.m.; Dec. 21, 7 p.m.; Dec. 22, 2 and 7 p.m.; Dec. 23, 7 p.m.; Dec. 24, 1 p.m.; Dec. 26, 1 and 5 p.m.

Cost: Tickets start at $25.

Miscellaneous: Artistic Director Septime Webre has choreographed a new version of the classic holiday tale. The new production features costumes, scenery and characters that reference Washington’s rich history.

Information: Phone 202/397-7328 or click on www.washingtonballet.org

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