The Nutcracker (Orr)

  • Choreographer: Terrence S. Orr,
  • Music: P. I. Tchaikovsky
  • Costumes: Zack Brown
  • Lighting: Julie Duro
  • Set Design: Zack Brown
  • World Premiere: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, December 7, 2002
  • PBT Performance Date: December 7-29, 2002;; December 6-28, 2003; December 4-28, 2004; December 10-23, 2005; December 8-23, 2006; December 14-29, 2007; December 12-28, 2008; December 11-27, 2009; December 10-26, 2010; December 2-23, 2011; December 7-30, 2012; December 6-29, 2013; December 5-28, 2014: December 4-27, 2015; December 2-27, 2016; December 1-27, 2017; Nov 30 - December 27, 2018; December 6-29, 2019; December 10-29, 2021; December 9-28, 2022: December 8-28, 2023;

Program Notes




It is Christmas Eve in the early years of the 20th century at the Stahlbaum home in Shadyside. On the street outside, Godfather Drosselmeyer and his Nephew unload mysterious packages from their carriage. The guests begin to arrive. Drosselmeyer introduces them to his Nephew, who wears a mask because of a curse cast upon him by the evil Rat King.

In her bedroom, Marie, the Stahlbaum’s daughter, is reading Kaufmann’s Book of Christmas Stories for Boys and Girls. Mr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum enter and present her with two special gifts — a beautiful scarf and a pair of pointe shoes — which signify that Marie is growing up. Marie

admires her new self in the mirror and envisions her dreams.

Back on the street, Drosselmeyer and his Nephew finish their preparations for the party. Drosselmeyer tells of the Rat King’s 400-year curse on his Nephew, a prince. Then Drosselmeyer unveils the Nutcracker, revealing its role in this night of magic.

The party is underway, and the guests exchange gifts, trim the tree and dance. Drosselmeyer’smagic tricks delight the children, but he has even bigger mysteries in store for Marie. He introduces her to his Nephew and, as Drosselmeyer had hoped, Marie sees the goodness within him. Next he gives her the Nutcracker, which she adores. The party concludes with Drosselmeyer’s magical pièce-de-résistance, a trick that makes the Nephew disappear, leaving the toy Nutcracker in his place. Marie becomes upset that she can’t find the Nephew and runs upstairs. The guests say their goodbyes and the family retires for the night. Drosselmeyer reappears in a swirl of his cape to set the stage for the magic to come.

As midnight approaches, Marie steals downstairs to find her beloved Nutcracker. But Marie is not alone; mice and human-sized rats threaten her from every side. Overcome, she faints. When she comes to, she finds herself and the whole house under a spell. Everything is growing, even the Nutcracker, who becomes life-sized. The mice and rats return to terrify her, but the Nutcracker rallies the toy soldiers and storybook characters to rescue Marie. As the battle reaches its peak, Marie strikes the Rat King with her shoe and the Nutcracker is able to defeat him.

The Snow Queen and King appear. Marie’s bravery and compassion reveal the Nutcracker is Drosselmeyer’s Nephew, the Prince! He declares his love to Marie. The Prince invites Marie on a journey through the glittering snowy forest to the Land of Enchantment. Guided by the Snow King and Queen, they set off on a magical sleigh ride.


Drosselmeyer welcomes Marie and the Prince to the Land of Enchantment. The Sugar Plum Fairy, the vision of Marie’s dreams, and her Cavalier greet the travelers. The Prince relates the tale of the battle, telling how Marie saved his life by helping to defeat the Rat King. In gratitude, the Sugar Plum Fairy presents Marie with a beautiful tiara. Marie expresses her appreciation in a dance with the Flowers. The grand festival begins. Beautiful dances express the spirit of joy, jubilation and harmony found in the Land of Enchantment. The visit culminates with a grand pas de deux danced by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

Christmas Day dawns on the street outside the Stahlbaum home. Drosselmeyer and his Nephew make their way to their carriage, stopping to reflect on the night’s wondrous events.  Drosselmeyer rejoices that the 400-year curse has been broken.

Marie awakens in her bedroom, wondering at the amazing adventures she’s had. Was it all a dream? She finds her scarf. Can it be? She rushes to the mirror and there, ever faithful, is her Nutcracker Prince.



The Meaning of Marie’s Scarf

If you watch today’s performance closely, you’ll notice that Marie’s scarf changes colors during the ballet. This is not a fashion statement! – instead the colors of this accessory mirror Marie’s journey through the story. The scarf is blue when her father first gives it to her, signifying trust and security. Drosselmeyer magically changes the scarf to green during the party as a sign of Marie’s personal growth. As midnight strikes and the house begins its transformation, Drosselmeyer again changes the scarf’s color. This time it becomes magenta, a symbol of Marie’s heartfelt compassion, which inspires her to bravely challenge the Rat King in battle. And as Marie and the Prince journey to the Land of Enchantment, the scarf becomes pink, to represent their enduring friendship and love.

Considering Context: The Act 2 “Nationality” Dances

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has renamed the four “nationality” dances or divertissements in Act 2 in a step toward reconceptualizing these Nutcracker favorites. In the original 1892 ballet, created by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the dances were Chocolate (Spanish Dance), Tea (Chinese Dance), Coffee (Arabian Dance) and Trepak (Russian Dance). The dances in PBT’s production were choreographed in 2002, and in some cases incorporated costume or choreographic elements meant to honor the cultures the titles represented.

Like many ballet companies, PBT is reviewing this aspect of The Nutcracker with a desire to be more respectful of all cultures. One concern is that the titles seem to assign cultural origin to costumes and dance steps not purposefully derived from those cultures nor created by individuals representing those cultures. While PBT’s review is ongoing, this season new names were selected for Act 2 dances to reflect the tone of each piece’s choreography itself: Jubilation (formerly Spanish), Joy (formerly Chinese), Elegance (formerly Arabian), and Exuberance (formerly Russian).

To be consistent within the Act, both additional divertissements have been renamed as well: Shepherdesses has been renamed Harmony, and Clowns has been renamed Delight.


PHOTO CREDITS:  Artists – Alexandra Kochis, Christopher Budzynski; Photographer – Rich Sofranko.