NJ Ballet Company's 50th Anniversary of Nutcracker
New Jersey Ballet’s Nutcracker is one of the state’s great cultural treasures. It is indisputably the longest-running original professional production in New Jersey. The production debuted at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn in 1971 with then-international star of New York City Ballet Edward Villella as the Cavalier. Since then, New Jersey Ballet has presented over 900 performances in theatres throughout New Jersey, included over 6,000 dancers and children, and thrilled more than a million viewers. Many in today’s audience who saw the production as children now bring their own children and grandchildren to see this cherished holiday tradition.
Critics over the years have praised New Jersey Ballet’s production of Nutcracker.
“A first-rate traditional production...never loses its magic. This Nutcracker is even better than you remember.”
– The Star Ledger
“A classic version of the classic ballet. Consistently first rate.”
- North Jersey Newspapers
“New Jersey Ballet’s version of this holiday classic continues to charm and surprise.”
– Ocean City Sentinel
“An incredible evening of entertainment...this is the top of the wish list.”
– Daily Record
“The dancers of New Jersey Ballet are true masters of their craft.”
- Worrall Community Newspapers
In the late 60’s, Carolyn Clark, founder of New Jersey Ballet and the late Frank Carrington, founder and producer of the Paper Mill Playhouse, first started discussing the idea of presenting the ballet at Paper Mill. Money had to be raised, choreography created and costumes, special props and sets designed and built. Then resident choreographer George Tomal created original choreography for the Snow Scene and the Kingdom of the Sweets, and former Associate Director Joseph Carow crafted the choreography and staging for the opening Party and Battle Scenes. Maestro Alfredo Silipigni was the production’s first conductor, leading an orchestra of 24 musicians, some sitting up on the theater floor because the original pit held only 15 musicians.
The production began touring after fire destroyed Paper Mill in 1980 and continues to travel around the state each year. New Jersey Ballet marked its 40th Anniversary of the production with a move to the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown and to mark its 45th anniversary in 2015, the company partnered with the celebrated New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at MPAC
Each performance has up to 100 performers. Joining the first-class professional dancers are young dance students from New Jersey School of Ballet – the Official School of New Jersey Ballet Company. These talented students earn their places in the production through a highly competitive audition process. Students fill the traditional children’s roles of Mother Ginger’s Clown Children and Act I partygoers. Others audition for roles as mice, toy soldiers, and angels. Advanced students rehearse countless hours to earn a place alongside the professional dancers and appear in corps de ballet roles including the lovely waltz of the flowers.
Of the thousands of students who have performed in Nutcracker over the years, many have gone on to professional careers with American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and many others as well as on Broadway. Several have gone on to join the Rockettes in the celebrated Radio City Christmas Show.