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Show and Tell: Tacoma City Ballet's 'The Nutcracker and Tale of the Hard Nut'

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Tacoma City Ballet’s The Nutcracker (now through December 22) is beloved holiday fare served up with something new: a prequel, The Tale of the Hard Nut, which explains the Nutcracker’s origins in a visually stunning prologue that quickly grabs the audience’s attention, then flows easily into the Nutcracker’s familiar opening scenes. With color-drenched costumes, silvery light displays, and plenty of holiday sparkle, this visual feast is satisfying for the entire family.

Stage notes

With its relatively quick-paced plot, frequent scene changes, and an easy-to-follow storyline, The Nutcracker earns its role as a time-honored family favorite suitable for all ages. In Tacoma City Ballet’s version, there’s enough interest to keep little ones entertained, from glamorous costumes to dazzle aspiring ballerinas, to a battle scene with just enough intrigue to satisfy.

A few well-timed touches, like impish antics from the life-sized toys during Act I, drew giggles from the kids in attendance. And of course, Tchaikovsky’s famous score, played by the Northwest Sinfonietta, always delights (can anyone imagine a holiday without the twinkly magic of “The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy?”).

The story follows the tale of Clara, a young girl who receives a wooden Nutcracker from Herr Drosselmeyer, her godfather. During an eventful Christmas Eve party, the Nutcracker is broken by Clara’s brother Fritz. Late that night, Clara returns to the parlor to check on her beloved Nutcracker, and suddenly finds herself in the midst of a battle between toy soldiers, led by the Nutcracker, and life-size mice, led by the Mice King. The Nutcracker defeats the Mice King and transforms into a handsome prince, who leads Clara through a snowy forest into the land of the sweets.

During the second act (my daughters’ favorite part), chocolate, coffee, tea, marzipan, shepherdesses, and finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy, dance for Clara and her prince.

The sumptuous sets, floaty costumes, and skilled dancing are a treat to behold, but the real sugar plum is the Pantages Theater, an intimate setting that puts you close enough to see every sparkly detail, even from the balcony.

Parents should know

The Nutcracker has transfixed generations of kids from tots to teens, and the audience had plenty of children, though kids probably need to be at least two to appreciate the spectacle. The show is G-rated, with nothing to raise parental eyebrows. The only mildly violent scene — the battle between the toy soldiers and the mice — is extremely tame in this version.

But be warned: if you have a wiggler, take note: the addition of the prequel makes this a longer staging of the Nutcracker, clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.

If you go ...

Where and when: Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, 3 p.m. Dec. 14, 15, 21 and 22.

Tickets: $20-60; call 253-591-5894, or buy tickets at

Tips: Feed kids before you arrive, since the snack bar fixings are fairly Spartan (candy bars, beer, and wine). Nearby street parking is the cheapest, easiest option (and free on Sundays), though several parking garages are also nearby. If you have a small child with you, you can ask for a booster seat at Guest Services — though it’s helpful to arrive early if you’ll need one, since they go fast.

About the author: Malia Jacobson is an award-winning journalist and mom of three from Tacoma.

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