Joffrey “Nutcracker” Dazzles and Delights

From the first delicate notes in Tchaikovsky’s overture, it was clear this “Nutcracker” would be an exciting performance.

This show marks the 25th anniversary of the Joffrey Ballet’s ground-breaking production, set not in Europe, but in a 19th century American home.

Like a favorite friend, this year’s dynamic presentation delivers holiday cheer with heartfelt warmth and an abundance of enthusiasm. Children jump for presents during the Christmas Eve party in the parlor, pesky mice frighten Clara, and adorable Snow Tree Angels glide on and off stage during a snowfall, with lighted candles in their hands.

The hosts’ children—the lovely Clara and her impish brother, Fritz—are danced by company members Abigail Simon and the nimble Derrick Agnoletti. The Nutcracker Prince, Oguican Borova, dazzles the audience with Yumelia Garcia, a saucy Sugar Plum Fairy, in their stunning Grand Pas de Deux, the finale of the evening.

Utterly delightful are the divertissements in the Kingdom of Sweets. Erica Lynette Edwards gives a vivacious portrayal of Chocolate from Spain, and Victoria Jaiani, who was the mother in the first act, returns in the second as the sleek, sinuous Coffee from Arabia. On opening night the audience gasped when her right leg was lifted parallel to her body, almost touching her ear!

Giant Mother Ginger with her benign, painted smile arrives with a rambunctious brood beneath her abundant skirt, including some pint-sized acrobats who arrive turning cartwheels. In fact, an abundance of children grace the stage this year—exactly 118 by the Joffrey’s count.

The sets, props and costumes are gorgeous, beginning with the upscale domestic tableau, which opens the show, to the balloon that spirits Clara away from the winter wonderland with her godfather, the black-caped Dr. Drosselmeyer.

The Chicago Sinfonietta plays in the pit, under the baton of the Joffrey’s music director Scott Speck, giving the audience the unalloyed pleasure of hearing the composer’s glorious score skillfully presented.

Robert Joffrey’s “The Nutcracker’’ runs through Dec. 27 at the Auditorium Theatre. For a performance schedule visit joffrey.com. For tickets, call 800-982-2787 or visit ticketmaster.com.