For all of us who have an annual “Nutcracker” tradition, this is going to be a hard year: no indoor gatherings, no live performances, no lobbies full of dressed-up little children. But fear not — online “Nutcracker” options abound, mostly in the form of filmed performances from the past, and nobody says you can’t put on your best velvet dress and drink Champagne while watching. (I have every intention of doing this myself.) Here are a handful of mixed Nuts available for streaming, ranging from traditional to burlesque to hip-hop. I’ve rated them, on a scale of zero to four sugarplums (yes, I’m an easy grader; we need joy these days), and hope you find something here that awakens your holiday spirit.
“The Nutcracker,” choreographed by George Balanchine and performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet
How to watch: PNB is offering two tiers of its popular annual “Nutcracker” production: $39 for unlimited viewing Dec. 18-26, $55 for unlimited viewing Dec. 11-26 plus bonus content. Information: pnb.org.
Why this one?: It’s already a tradition for many Seattle families, following the longtime Maurice Sendak/Kent Stowell production — and buying a virtual ticket helps support our local ballet company as they navigate their first fully digital season. (At $39 per family, it’s a bargain.)
Sweetest treats: As always, it’s a joy to see the array of very young dancers from PNB School in this performance; I’m particularly fond of those magically gliding angels who open Act 2. The grown-up dancers hold up their end nicely, particularly Leta Biasucci as a delicately sparkling Sugar Plum Fairy and Christopher D’Ariano’s charmingly silly Mother Ginger. And while some may still prefer the Sendak designs, this Ian Falconer production is intricate and beautiful, with the colors of the “Waltz of the Flowers” alone — coral, hot pink, sea foam green — sure to brighten any dark winter’s night. (Note: Stowell/Sendak die-hards can stream the 1986 film of that version on Amazon Prime Video.)
Rating: 4 sugarplums
“Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker,” by Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann
How to watch: Streaming on Vimeo via landofthesweets.com, Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Day; tickets are $18.75 for a 72-hour viewing window.
Why this one?: A longtime made-in-the-Northwest tradition at The Triple Door, this is an adults-only “Nutcracker”-ish entertainment, full of seasonal sparkle and festive stripping.
Sweetest treats: Well, it’s only a “Nutcracker” by virtue of the very jazzy Tchaikovsky-inspired music arrangements played by a swinging onstage band, but the elaborate costumes (including some very creative use of feather fans) are a kick, the performers are spirited and skilled (particularly Tova de Luna’s elegant aerial routine, in which she proves it’s possible to undress while dangling), and the message of “peace and love and glamour” feels especially welcome.
Lumps of coal: This is the kind of show that’s probably much more fun to watch with a loud, boisterous audience, a few cocktails in.
Rating: 3.5 sugarplums
“The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” choreographed by Jennifer Weber, recorded at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center
How to watch: Seattle Theatre Group is presenting this locally, streaming on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 at stgpresents.org.
Why this one?: It’s easy to imagine entire families gathering to watch this fresh take on the “Nutcracker,” which uses Tchaikovsky’s music (occasionally given a hip-hop spin) to showcase some eye-popping dancing.
Sweetest treats: Josue “Beastmode” Figueroa, as the Nutcracker, can pirouette upside down, a move that is almost worth the ticket price alone. I gasped aloud numerous times during this production, most often during Figueroa’s solos, but he’s well matched by a wonderfully quicksilver cast. The story’s a fun update, taking place outside “Drosselmeyer’s Toys” on a cold night, and the approach to the music is both traditional and creative. (Turns out Tchaikovsky’s overture sounds gorgeous on solo violin, played by Jarvis L. Benson.) And the evening ends with an irresistible dance party, hosted by hip-hop veteran MC Kurtis Blow.
Lumps of coal: Really just that I worried a lot about the cast dislocating their necks.
Rating: 4 sugarplums
“The Nutcracker,” choreographed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and performed by American Ballet Theatre in 1977
How to watch: Streaming at YouTube.com.
Why this one?: Because Baryshnikov, one of the greatest male ballet dancers of the 20th century, not only choreographed it, but plays the Nutcracker Prince; it’s a rare chance to watch him in his soaring, bouffant-haired prime.
Sweetest treats: Though Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland had a complicated history offstage (she described their affair, not very flatteringly, in her memoir “Dancing on My Grave”), they dance beautifully together. Baryshnikov’s choreography brings some interesting ideas into the mix — the final pas de deux is really a psychologically complex pas de trois (with Clara, the Prince, and Drosselmeyer), and “Waltz of the Flowers” is just Clara and the Prince. (This might be a lot of Prince, except there is no such thing as too much Baryshnikov.) And the snow is very, very snowy.
Lump of coal: Why does Clara change from one nightgown to, essentially, another nightgown? And the opening credit sequence, in which Baryshnikov leaps around wearing tights and a turtleneck for some reason, looks very 1970s and not in a good way.
Rating: 3.5 sugarplums
“The Nutcracker,” choreographed by Vasily Vainonen and performed by the Mariinsky Ballet
How to watch: Streaming at Vimeo.com.
Why this one?: If you want to see a lavish, traditional Russian Nut — danced in the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, the very theater where the first “Nutcracker” was performed in 1892 — this production, filmed for television in 2012, fits the bill nicely.
Sweetest treats: Alina Somova, who looks like the young Michelle Pfeiffer, is enchanting as grown-up Clara (called Masha here; we’re in Russia); she’s a delicately lovely dancer with an effortless high arabesque. The Mouse King gets a truly spectacular villain entrance, in a malevolent cloud of fog. And just getting a glimpse of the historic theater is fascinating.
Lump of coal: The 1930s choreography sometimes feels a little dated, and the children in the party scene are all wearing identical wigs, which makes them seem weirdly spooky.
Rating: 3 sugarplums
Other assorted Nuts:
Spectrum Dance Theater presents Workshop 2 of “The Harlem Nutcracker,” a revival of artistic director Donald Byrd’s acclaimed 1990s production, which takes its inspiration from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Nutcracker Suite” jazz arrangements. Workshop 1 was presented last year; Workshop 2, which picks up where the story left off, is presented as a film. A three-day viewing pass is $20, presented Dec. 11-13. Information: spectrumdance.org.
Mark Morris Dance Group is offering a “Home for the Holidays” week, Dec. 12-18, featuring excerpts from the Seattle-born choreographer’s gender-varied “Nutcracker” homage, “The Hard Nut,” and activities for all ages. Viewing is free but there is a $12 requested donation for activities; see markmorrisdancegroup.org for more information.
Emerald Ballet Theatre in Bellevue is offering a digital version of “The Nutcracker,” recorded during a 2019 company performance, from Dec. 11-13, as well as other Nutcracker-themed online activities for families. Viewing is free but donations encouraged; see emeraldballet.org.
Seattle’s ARC Dance, celebrating 15 years of “Nutcracker” performances, is presenting a virtual experience this year, including live narration. It streams in real time at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5; passes are $20/family and available at arcdance.org.
Evergreen City Ballet in Renton is presenting “Nutcracker Suites,” an assortment of newly made films exploring the origin and history of “The Nutcracker,” including both dance performances and behind-the-scenes footage. Three different casts are featured, and the program is available Dec. 11-31; passes are $30, with special packages available. Information: evergreencityballet.org.
Whidbey Island Dance Theatre will present a filmed version of their annual production of “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 13 at the Blue Fox Drive-In in Oak Harbor; tickets are $40 (advance purchase) or $50 (day of show) per carload and also include the movie “Elf.” The film will also be available to purchase for streaming starting Dec. 11 at widtonline.org.
This story has been updated to include streaming information for the Stowell/Sendak “Nutcracker.”