- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

The Washington Ballet is scuttling its 42-year-old “Nutcracker” and mounting a new production of the holiday ballet, to be introduced in December at the Warner Theatre. It will cost $1 million, making it the company’s most expensive venture to date.

Company Director Septime Webre, who will stage the ballet, is following the lead of regional companies around the country by injecting local color into his updated version. As sales for “Nutcracker” have fallen across the country, a spate of cowboys, American Indians and Scottish dancers have been added to plump up interest.

This being the nation’s capital, Mr. Webre plans to create a historic aura for the ballet, surrounding traditional figures such as the Sugar Plum Fairy with the likes of George Washington and Paul Revere and staging the second act under Japanese cherry trees along the Potomac.

Plans for the overhaul of the perennial Christmas ballet include a canny mix of civic involvement and aggressive fund raising. The company is hoping its million-dollar investment will prove to be a cash cow. It has arranged tie-ins with the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp., which will advertise “Nutcracker”-and-hotel packages; the Business Improvement District, which will display inflatable figures from the ballet in the downtown area; and Hecht’s, which will develop and sell “Nutcracker” merchandise.

More than $700,000 of the goal for the new “Nutcracker” has been raised already, according to board President Kay Kendall.

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