The Nutcracker ballet has a long history of delighting audiences worldwide. The story of the ballet is based on The Nutcracker and the King of Mice, written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Though details of the story change from the pages of the book to the stage, the plot line is essentially the same. The Nutcracker tells the story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a mouse King with seven heads. Marius Petipa was the first to choreograph the classic story into a dance. Petipa actually based his ballet on a revised version of the book, created by French author Alexander Dumas. Therefore, Dumas' version is closer to the story the ballet tells.
The show opens with a scene of a Christmas Eve party. The large stately house of the Stahlbaum family is the backdrop for the first scenes. The party grows from greetings and children dancing to a frenzy of music and dance as godfather Drosselmeyer arrives. Drosselmeyer thrills the children with tricks and toys. Clara and Fritz, the children, begin to open gifts. Drosselmeyer presents a beautiful nutcracker to Clara, and the toy soon becomes the hit of the party. Fritz, jealous of the attention Clara's toy has received, breaks the Nutcracker. Drosselmeyer promptly ties the poor doll's jaw up with a handkerchief. The evening's excitement begins to wind down, guests depart, and the children are sent up to bed.
The clock strikes midnight and strange things begin to happen. Clara suddenly shrinks to the size of her toys. The toys begin to animate in front of her eyes. An army of mice marches in, led by the fierce Mouse King. The Nutcracker comes to life and leads his own army of toy soldiers into battle against the mice. The battle is intense, and the dance mimics the thrills of battle. When the Nutcracker and his army can go on no longer, they are captured by the mouse army. Clara, filled with courage, throws her slipper at the Mouse King in an attempt to save her treasured Nutcracker. The slipper hits the King on the head and he drops to the floor. The mice run to their leader and carry away his body. Clara and the toy army are victorious.
With the battle over, celebration abounds. The Nutcracker turns into a Prince and whisks Clara away to the Land of Snow, an enchanted wonderland filled with joy and dancing snowflakes. The Prince escorts Clara through this wondrous world, making a stop in the land of sweets where they meet the Sugar Plum Fairy. When the Fairy hears of the heroic victory over the mice she rewards them with a celebration of dances including the Spanish dance, the Arabian dance, the Russian dance, the Chinese dance, the Mirliton Dance, and the Waltz of Flowers. As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance the beautiful Pas De Deux. Clara finally awakens from her beautiful dream, finding herself beneath the Christmas tree, cradling her beloved Nutcracker. Crowds always erupt in applause as the curtain falls. Generations of families have enjoyed this classic ballet over the years.