Boston’s Sugar Plum Dance-Off: Where to Watch The Nutcracker in Boston

A handy cheat sheet to help you find the Drosselmeyer of your dreams.


Photograph by Scott M. Lacey. Model, Li-Ann Lim, Boston Dance Company.

Ah, The Nutcracker, that most hallowed of holiday stage traditions. Lucky for you, Boston boasts no fewer than five wildly different interpretations. But which to attend? For the brownstone set, Boston Ballet offers its venerable blowout, complete with toe shoes and a dancing bear. If you’re more intrigued by what’s underneath the tutus, then the burlesque-inspired Slutcracker promises to titillate. Still undecided? Ahead, our handy cheat sheet to help you find the Drosselmeyer of your dreams.


Photograph by Gene Schiavone

Blockbuster with a Makeover

The Boston Ballet offers the biggest, most elaborate show in town (and one of the largest productions of its kind in the world), featuring artistic director Mikko Nissinen’s own choreography and, as of last year, redesigned costumes and sets by Robert Perdziola. Performances draw on the talented students from the Boston Ballet School, who play everything from murderous mice to Clara, the lead.

$35–$169; 11/29–12/29, Boston Opera House,

Old-School Classic

Since Boston Ballet’s founder E. Virginia Williams choreographed the troupe’s first Nutcracker performance in 1964, things have changed quite a bit. Purists who want to remember the world as it once was will savor the Boston Dance Company’s revival of Williams’s midcentury masterpiece, faithfully performed without altering her vision.

$25 adults ($18 children and seniors); 12/6, J. Everett Collins Center for the Performing Arts; 12/11–12/12, Strand Theatre;


Photograph Courtesy of Anthony Williams

Think Globally, Dance Locally

Touting itself as a “United Nations of Nutcrackers,” the Urban Nutcracker showcases artists and dance traditions from around the world—think flamenco, swing, tap, hip-hop, and krump, along with ballet—all set to a score that mixes Tchaikovsky with Duke Ellington’s jazz version. But it’s also local-minded, with sets deeply rooted in this city: One scene takes place in the Public Garden, ducks and all.

$25–$85; 12/6–12/22, John Hancock Hall,


Photograph by Karen Wong

Designed for the Kids

The Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre maintains that The Nutcracker should be accessible to children, not dance critics. The company’s performance, now in its 26th season, strives to keep the plot flowing through both acts, and keep members of the audience with shorter attention spans riveted.

$15–$50; 11/29–12/1, Duxbury Performing Arts Center; 12/5–12/15, the Sanctuary Theatre; 12/20–12/22, Strand Theatre;


Photograph by Hans Wendland

Designed for the Adults

A burlesque set to Tchaikovsky, The Slutcracker is a ribald show that follows a grownup Clara whose Auntie Drosselmeyer gives her a very special “toy.” Everyone on this stage is vying for the limelight, and few can keep their clothes on for very long. “It’s pretty awesome when you dance to classical music and people cheer and scream for you,” says Vanessa White, the Babes in Boinkland troupe director.

$25; 11/30–12/31, Somerville Theatre,


12/2/2013, 11:10 a.m.: The model pictured at the top of this story was misidentified in the December print issue and online. The model is Li-Ann Lim, not Kristen Lung. We regret the error.