WTTW CHICAGO, in partnership with Chicago’s JOFFREY BALLET, will premiere a new national documentary Making a New American NUTCRACKER

September 25, 2017


Thursday, November 16 at 8:00 pm on WTTW11 and wttw.com

and on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings)


CHICAGO – September 25, 2017 – For generations, The Nutcracker has been a holiday tradition for audiences of all ages. In 2016, Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet gave the work an ingenious makeover and a new setting: the fairgrounds of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Now, WTTW public media has partnered with the Joffrey to produce a new 60-minute documentary, Making a New American NUTCRACKER, which will go behind the scenes to reveal how it was made and introduce audiences to the A-list creative talents who made it happen. The film will be narrated by actress Neve Campbell, co-producer, co-writer and star of The Company, Robert Altman’s 2003 film featuring the Joffrey Ballet.


Making a New American NUTCRACKER premieres on WTTW11 and wttw.com on Thursday, November 16 at 8:00 pm, and will also be offered as a holiday gift to PBS audiences around the country in late November and December 2017 (check local listings).


The Joffrey Ballet artistic director Ashley Wheater gathered together a stellar group of theatre artists, including Tony Award®-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon; Caldecott Medal-winning author Brian Selznick, writer of the book that inspired the Oscar-winning film Hugo; MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ recipient Basil Twist; renowned puppeteer and Tony Award®-nominated scenic designer Julian Crouch; and Tony Award®-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz to reimagine the story of Clara, the privileged daughter of a 19th-century German merchant who falls asleep on Christmas Eve and dreams of a world of sweets. As a result of this new A-list team of collaborators, the classic story evolved into the story of Marie, the daughter of a 19th-century Polish immigrant sculptress – a single mother working on a statue for the World’s Fair – who falls asleep on Christmas Eve and dreams of a completed and wondrous fairground, transforming this European import into a magical American story. 


Making a New American NUTCRACKER takes audiences behind the scenes with these creative visionaries as they work to bring this striking original production to life. They and many of the performers also share anecdotes about the process, in interviews conducted at Chicago’s historic Glessner House and Athenaeum Theatre; The Parsonage, a charming Victorian bed & breakfast in San Francisco; and the American Ballet Theatre and the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York. These include: how Buffalo Bill came to be a part of the ballet; why the dancer who plays the Nutcracker has to play his part mostly blind; choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s observation that one part of Tchaikovsky’s score is reminiscent of an iconic TV theme song; and the salty advice Wheeldon received from Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, a former dancer himself. Finally, they tell us about their first experiences either seeing or performing in The Nutcracker.


The film also explores the history of the ballet, its success in the United States following the Second World War, and the history of the city of Chicago. “I have been honored to work with the talented people at the Joffrey on this unique production,” said Andries. “It has been an unforgettable and inspiring experience.”


“The inaugural season of Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker was enjoyed by thousands in attendance at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre last winter.  We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to share his labor of love and the story of its creation with audiences in Chicago and beyond,” said Wheater.


“Of course the public pays their money and they see the final picture, but the story behind that story is vast…it’s epic.  And it’s actually almost more interesting than the final production,” adds Wheeldon.


Making a New American NUTCRACKER is made possible through the generosity of The Grainger Foundation, Lake Forest, IL.




About WTTW

WTTW is a premier public media organization committed to creating and presenting unique television and digital media content across four distinct television channels – WTTW11, WTTW Prime, WTTW Create/WTTW WORLD, and WTTW PBS Kids – and on wttw.com. Recognized for award-winning local and national productions such as Chicago Tonight, Check, Please!, 10 Buildings, Homes, Parks, and Towns That Changed America, and Soundstage, WTTW presents the very best in public affairs, arts and culture, nature and science, history and documentary, and children’s programming. Connect with WTTW on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


About The Joffrey Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet is a world-class, Chicago-based ballet company and dance education organization committed to artistic excellence and innovation, presenting a unique repertoire encompassing masterpieces of the past and cutting-edge works. The Joffrey is committed to providing arts education and accessible dance training through its Joffrey Academy of Dance and Community Engagement programs. Connect with the Joffrey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.





CONTACT:  Julia Maish, WTTW, (773) 509-5551, jmaish [at] wttw [dot] com