Given all of the changes that have occurred at the Joffrey this year, it is good to see that the company’s flagship “Nutcracker” production looks as stunning as it ever did, particularly comforting after the dull and docile new “Giselle” that was unveiled two months ago. Robert Joffrey’s conception, filtered through now retired company co-founder Gerald Arpino, is Victorian America, say Boston circa 1850. The look is Currier & Ives and is always visually compelling, with period costumes and a color scheme of aquas, blues, purples and magentas to match. But what really stands out in the Joffrey version is the transformation to the world of Clara’s imagination: a land of sugar plum fairies and waltzing snowflakes that is as beautiful as it is magical. Both Clara and her Nutcracker prince, which are being danced by alternating performers, are true dancers (the Ruth Page version would cast children in the roles and give them surrogate dancers for their most important scenes together). The snowy winter wonderland is a magical, silver snowscape where we are treated to the “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” complete with the extravagance of having the Chicago Children’s Choir perform the aetherial vocalizations that Tchaikovsky called for at every performance, not to mention the superb orchestral accompaniment provided by the Chicago Sinfonietta under the baton of Leslie Dunner. The dance revue that makes up Act II is gracefully performed, if too slow for the score, yet isn’t afraid to display a sense of humor when appropriate, including a giant gingerbread puppet. This remains the best area “Nutcracker” in a very crowded marketplace for the beloved work. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, (312)902-1500. This production is now closed.