Putting Pittsburgh in The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker has enchanted audiences for over 130 years, telling the story of young Marie (renamed to match the original story) and her journey to a mystical land with her heroic nutcracker. There are hundreds of different versions of The Nutcracker performed all around the world. How does Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre set its Nutcracker apart?

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre makes its current version of the beloved classic uniquely Pittsburgh-connected by including more than 13 different “easter eggs” that only a true “yinzer” might catch. In 2002, former artistic director Terrence S. Orr conceived and choreographed this Pittsburgh-themed version of The Nutcracker and the company has performed this version each year since. Have you noticed any of these “easter eggs” before while watching PBT’s The Nutcracker?

Photographer: Rosalie O’Connor

1. Kaufmann’s Clock

Founded in the 1870s in downtown Pittsburgh, Kaufmann’s department store eventually expanded to nearly 60 locations across multiple states until it was bought by Macy’s. Today the original flagship building is left standing along with the iconic Kaufmann’s Clock, both deemed Historical Landmarks. Installed in 1913, the giant ornate timepiece has been known to be a meeting place for Pittsburghers for over 100 years. Spot PBT’s homage clock hanging above the proscenium arch.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

2. F.W. McKee Mansion

Marie Stahlbaum’s family home, where the opening party scene takes place, is a mansion modeled after the old F.W. McKee Mansion. On Fifth Avenue in Shadyside, this stately home was owned by the prominent McKee family, known for glass-manufacturing. The manor has since been torn down, but its memory lives on in PBT’s The Nutcracker.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

3. The Kaufmann, Grandview, and Heinz party guests

Aside from the hosting Stahlbaum family, PBT has invited three other families of note to the party, The Kaufmanns (owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store), The Grandviews (named for the avenue on Mt. Washington), and the Heinzes (founders of the H. J. Heinz Company). All three names hold a special place in Pittsburgh’s history.

Artists: Yoshiaki Nakano | Photographer: Rosalie O’Connor

4. Mr. McTavish and the Carnegie family plaid

Another important guest is Mr. McTavish, representing the famous Scottish Pittsburgher, Andrew Carnegie. In his appearance in the party scene, Mr. McTavish wears a kilt of the official Carnegie family plaid, a pattern PBT received express permission from the Carnegie family to use.

5. H. J. Heinz Company Logo

Not only is the Heinz family represented by party guests, but the H. J. Heinz Company Logo can be spotted on Drosselmeyer’s wagon in the opening scene

Students of PBT School | Rich Sofranko Photography, Rich Sofranko

6. Kaufmann’s Christmas Stories for Boys and Girls

Published in 1904, Kaufmann’s storybook served as part of Orr’s inspiration for the Pittsburgh Nutcracker, offering a window into a turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh Christmas. The storybook grows to giant proportions during the battle scene and produces a number of story-book characters to help Marie and the Nutcracker on their journey.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

7. Pirate and Penguin Dolls

Two of the dolls that come to life include a penguin carrying a hockey stick and a pirate. These dolls pay homage to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the city’s baseball and hockey teams.

8. Terrible Towels

In addition to the pirate and penguin, the PBT rats pull out Terrible Towels (a popular local symbol of support for the Steelers) on days that both the show is performing and the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

9. Mount Washington Snow Scene

The famous snow scene is set atop Mt. Washington, looking down upon the Point and Pittsburgh’s three rivers. The image is set circa 1906, at about the time PBTs The Nutcracker takes place, offering a beautiful, vintage take on the scene.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

10. Birds and Butterflies

One of Pittsburgh’s treasures is the National Aviary. Once Marie and the Nutcracker arrive in the Land of Enchantment, some of the characters that greet them include birds and butterflies to represent the National Aviary.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & PBT School | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

11. Land of Enchantment Amusement Park

The Land of Enchantment is a feast for the eyes, full of bright colors and exciting characters. The set design includes a carousel canopy and figures along with a roller coaster design on the backdrop. These elements pay homage to Pittsburgh amusement parks including Kennywood and turn-of-the-century amusement park, Luna Park.

Not only can you spot these fun references, but this year keep your eyes peeled for some local celebrities on-stage:

Kym Gable (KDKA-TV Anchor) Friday, Dec. 8 @ 7:00pm
FRYZ (Rap artist) Friday, Dec. 9 @ 7:00pm
Giselle Fetterman (Former second Lady of PA) Sunday, Dec. 10 @ 4:30pm
Daisy Jade (KDKA-TV/Pittsburgh Today Livereporter) Friday, December 15 @ 7:00 p.m.
Lindsay Wade (KDKA-TV Anchor) Saturday, Dec. 16 @ 2:00pm
Boaz Frankel (KDKA and NEXTPittsburgh reporter) Saturday, Dec. 16 @ 7:00pm
Kristine Sorensen (Anchor on KDKA-TV) Sunday, Dec. 17 @ 12:00pm
Scott Blasey (Lead Singer of The Clarks) Thursday, Dec. 21 @ 7:00pm
Kyra Laubacher (Journalist at Pointe Magazine) Saturday, Dec. 23 @ 7:00pm

PBT is extremely proud to be part of the Pittsburgh community and to showcase its rich history. With performances throughout the entire month of December, there’s no better way to celebrate the holiday season than with family at PBT’s uniquely Pittsburgh rendition of The Nutcracker! Purchase tickets here!