Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Kicks Off Holiday Season, 11/23-12/30

Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Kicks Off Holiday Season, 11/23-12/30

From November 23 – December 30, 2012, Houston Ballet celebrates the 25th anniversary of Ben Stevenson's breathtaking production of The Nutcracker, seen by over 1,000,000 people since its premiere 25 years ago.

The beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She encounters the frightful King Rat before embarking on a wondrous journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Young and old alike will experience the many special effects, including the Christmas tree which "grows" to 40 feet, 200 pounds of "snow" falling during the snow scene, and the firing of cannon onstage.

Houston Ballet will give 37 performances of The Nutcracker, to a live orchestra, in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or logging on to www.houstonballet.org.

2012 also marks the 40th anniversary of Houston Ballet performances of The Nutcracker. The ballet has a special place in Houston Ballet's history as the first full-length work to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire in a staging by Frederic Franklin, featuring scenery and costumes by the English designer Peter Farmer. The company gave six performances of The Nutcracker in 1972 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, and has danced the work each December without fail for the following 40 years. In 1976, Houston Ballet presented the production with revised choreography by the company's new artistic director Ben Stevenson. In 1987, the current production with designs by Desmond Heeley, lighting by Duane Schuler, and choreography by Mr. Stevenson was unveiled to a glowing critical response.

Today, the company gives 37 performances of The Nutcracker at Wortham Theater Center, and the production plays a key role in Houston Ballet's financial picture, drawing 73,000 theatergoers annually to Houston's Theater District and bringing in more than $3.7 million in single ticket sales revenues in 2012.

Principal dancer Amy Fote will make her swansong appearances with Houston Ballet as the Sugar Plum Fairy at select performances of The Nutcracker. Ms. Fote's career has taken her from her native Manitowoc, Wisconsin to New Zealand to Houston Ballet, where she joined the company in 2005 as a first soloist and was promoted to principal dancer in 2006. Prior to joining Houston Ballet, she danced with Milwaukee Ballet for fourteen seasons, distinguishing herself as an exceptionally gifted actress in the title role of Andre Prokovsky's Anna Karenina, among other roles. At Houston Ballet, she has given acclaimed and memorable dramatic performances as Tatiana in John Cranko's Onegin, Kate in Cranko's The Taming of the Shrew, and the title roles in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Manon, Ronald Hynd's The Merry Widow and Stanton Welch's Madame Butterfly, a signature role which she has performed internationally. Off stage, Ms. Fote is known for her distinctive fashion sense and strong sense of personal style.

Ms. Fote, who has danced in a production of The Nutcracker every year since she was eight years old, says, "In reflecting on my career, I realize how important it is to perform this American holiday tradition year after year because is often people's first exposure to ballet. The famous Tchaikovsky score, colorful costumes and stunning sets all paired with world class dancing are a treat for both young and old alike. In years to come, it will be hard to imagine the holiday without being a part of this magic."

From December 17 – 23, in conjunction with performances of Houston Ballet's The Nutcracker, the audience is invited to participate in the "Mistletoe on the Go!" fundraiser, sponsored by Macy's. A fifteen-foot candy cane with a four-foot hanging mistletoe (the largest in Texas) will be displayed on Fish Plaza in front of Wortham Theater Center. Attendees to The Nutcracker are invited to take photos under the mistletoe and post their "kiss-mas" photos on Facebook/visitdowntownhouston. For every photo posted, $1 will be donated to Make-A-Wish Foundation (maximum of $5,000).

For over one hundred years, the story of the ballet has proven irresistible to both children and adults alike. Set in nineteenth-century Germany, the ballet opens at a Christmas party at which the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer gives his little niece Clara a magical toy that takes her on an unforgettable journey. From the battle scene between the Rat King and the Nutcracker in the first act to the cooks who fly magically through the air in the second act, The Nutcracker is sure to enchant audiences of all ages.