Last year, the Joffrey Ballet premiered a brand-new Nutcracker, retiring Robert Joffrey’s original production. It was a big deal—it cost $4 million to create, and celebrated choreographer Christopher Wheeldon was at the helm. Now, a year later—and just in time for the holidays, so you can get your Nutcracker fix from in front of your laptop—WTTW, Chicago’s public-media organization, has debuted a documentary about the making of the ballet.
This is seriously fascinating stuff, all packed into an hour—we highly recommend you watch. Here are five of our favorite moments from the documentary:
Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of WTTW11
1. The ballet is set in Chicago (duh), in 1983, the year the city hosted the World Fair. It was one of the city’s most significant cultural events: More than 25 million people attended the six-month-long fair that represented nearly 50 countries. Finally, the divertissements feel organic and make sense!
2. The tree-growing bit is the best special effect I’ve seen in a ballet in a reeeeally long time. Actually, my favorite might be the rat puppets. Major props to puppeteer Basil Twist.
3. When Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, heard that the Joffrey Ballet was saying goodbye to Joffrey’s original production in favor of a brand-new one, he told those involved, “Don’t mess it up.” (Except he substituted another four-letter word for “mess.”)
4. Christopher Wheeldon falls through the orchestra pit, breaking his foot—during tech week.
5. The Russian divertissement is now for Buffalo Bill and his Western ladies. That is all.