The Nutcracker ballet originated from a fairytale written in 1816 by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann. Although this story was classified as a fairytale, the original plot was not written for children. Years later, Alexander Dumas rewrote the saga with youngsters in mind. Then, in 1892, Peter Tchaikovsky was asked to compose the music for the story. This was the beginning of the popular ballet that has become synonymous with the Christmas holidays.
The Nutcracker ballet opens in a quaint German village on Christmas Eve. Townspeople are bustling, getting ready to attend a party at the Stahlbaum home. The members of the Stahlbaum family and their servants are preparing for the holiday celebration. As guests arrive, the children, Clara and Fritz, enjoy mingling with their friends. Soon, Clara’s godfather, Herr Drosselmeier arrives. Drosselmeier is a local toymaker, and he comes bearing gifts. He passes around the China dolls for the girls and brass bugles for the boys. Fritz receives a charming drum, and Clara receives a beautiful nutcracker. Unfortunately, Fritz becomes jealous of his sister’s gift. He seizes it, and promptly breaks it. Drosselmeier saves the day by fixing the broken gift with a wave of his magic handkerchief.
The party breaks up, and Clara fashions a bed for the nutcracker beneath the Christmas tree. After her family goes to bed, the girl sneaks down to check on her new toy one last time. She ends up falling asleep in the parlor with her toy clutched in her arms. At midnight, Clara awakens to startling events. It seems that she has shrunken to the size of her toys. An army of mice led by a menacing Mouse King is threatening the toys. The nutcracker gathers other soldiers and a battle ensues. At one point it seems that the Mouse King will prevail, but then Clara intervenes and throws her slipper at the Mouse King. After receiving a blow to the head, the king succumbs, and his army carries him away. The girl falls asleep once again after the excitement ends.
When the youngster awakens the next time, she is in a forest on her way to the Kingdom of Snow. The nutcracker is now a prince, and the two are en route to the Land of Sweets. When they arrive, the Sugar Plum Fairy greets them and asks them to stay for a special festival. Next, the citizens of the Land of Sweets begin performing various dances for them. Different characters take the stage to perform lavishly for their guests. Finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy herself takes the stage with the Cavalier to perform the legendary Pas de Deux. After a grand finale, the two guests are ready to leave.
Clara wakes on Christmas morning with the nutcracker still in her arms. Her dream is a dim memory, but she still has her beloved toy to treasure. Anyone fortunate enough to see the Nutcracker ballet live will come away with visions of sugar plums and fairies in their eyes.