The Unique History of Graham Lustig’s “The Nutcracker”

The Nutcracker is a beloved holiday tradition for ballet lovers around the world. Every December, Bay Area residents flock to the historic Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland to delight in the Oakland Ballet Company’s version of the classic tale. Internationally renowned choreographer Graham Lustig contributed his original work to the company’s repertory when he took the helm as Artistic Director in 2010.

Lustig’s version of The Nutcracker is based on the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. In which a young girl named Marie receives a nutcracker doll from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. Overnight, her Nutcracker prince comes to life and battles overgrown mice. When The Nutcracker was first staged as a ballet, a second act was incorporated, set in a magical land of sweets. This fantasy is also included in Lustig’s version and is filled with colorful sets and costumes designed by Emmy and Tony award winning designer, Zach Brown.

Ramona Kelley as Marie. Photo by Dan Dion.

Lustig’s version was first performed at the American Repertory Ballet Theater in Princeton, New Jersey, where he served as Artistic Director from 1999-2010 and features unique variations on the traditional vignettes of the second act. In a nod to Chinese culture, an ornamental bird takes flight. Polichinelles dance in and out of the legs of a clown on stilts, as opposed to the more ubiquitous Mother Ginger character. Lustig wanted to retain the authenticity of the original story while creating innovative new characters.

Damon Mahoney and student cast members in the Polichinelle dance. Photo by Dan Dion.

Your Chance to See This Unique Production

Oakland Ballet Company will be presenting Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker, with live accompaniment by the Oakland Symphony and Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir on Saturday, December 23 at 1:00 and 5:00 pm and Sunday, December 24 at 1:00 pm. On Friday, December 22, OBC invites more than 2,000 East Bay students to observe the dress rehearsal. (Learn more about our Discover Dance program and request tickets for your school.)

Tickets to this highly anticipated holiday event sell quickly, so be sure to purchase yours soon. Those who reserve their seats over the Thanksgiving holiday – November 23-30 – will receive 15% off the total ticket price.

Click here to purchase your tickets to Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker.

Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Paramount Theatre box office to save Ticketmaster fees.

Paramount Theatre Box Office Hours (beginning November 29):

Wednesdays: 11am-3pm
Thursdays: 11am-3pm
Fridays: 11am-5:30pm
Saturdays: 11am-3pm

Act I finale of Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker. Photo by John Hefti.

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