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  • Randall Benton /

    Audrey Josa, 9, left, tries to keep herself warm backstage as she and some of the show’s other cherubs prepare to take the stage.

  • Randall Benton /

    Dancers warm up before the Dec. 5 dress rehearsal for “The Nutcracker,” an annual holiday production that alone is responsible for about half of the Sacramento Ballet’s annual revenues.

  • Randall Benton /

    Children in costume wait in the wings for their turn to go on stage during a dress rehearsal for “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 5.

  • Randall Benton /

    Michelle McKibben, left, applies makeup to Serena Feniger prior to a Sacramento Ballet rehearsal of “The Nutcracker” at the Community Center Theater. The show runs through Dec. 23.

  • Randall Benton /

    Caitlin Sapunor-Davis, left, the show’s production manager, announces that the rehearsal begins in 15 minutes.

More Information

Ready … set … ‘Nutcracker’

Published: Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013 - 12:20 am

Synonymous with the holiday season, “The Nutcracker” is the Sacramento Ballet’s best-known production, a yearly opportunity for the company (and community members) to show off full-throttle classical dancing, backdropped by wintry grandeur of the imaginative tale.

But the exhilarating onstage action — set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, of course — is only part of the large-scale production at the Community Center Theater.

The Bee invites you to peek behind the curtain at a recent full-costume dress rehearsal to see exactly what goes into staging this Christmas mainstay, directed by Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda.

— Bee staff


When: Various times today through Dec. 22

Where: Community Center Theater, 1301 L. St., Sacramento

Tickets: $19-$90 (children’s tickets are for ages 12 and under; prices vary depending on seat selection and if the show features live or taped music); available at or (800) 225-2277.

‘Nutcracker’ by the numbers


The year “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” a dark fairy tale by German writer E.T.A Hoffman, is published.


The year of the world premiere of “The Nutcracker.” The director of Moscow’s Imperial Theater commissioned the two-act ballet, bringing on composer extraordinaire Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to write the music. In St. Petersburg, Russia, where it was first performed, it was not an immediate success.


The number of years later the first, full “The Nutcracker” was performed for American audiences, via the San Francisco Ballet. It became a national sensation about 10 years later with the New York City Ballet’s rendition.


The number of times “The Nutcracker” has been performed in Sacramento.


The estimated percent of Sacramento Ballet’s revenue “The Nutcracker” earns each year. For most major American ballet companies, the annual production is crucial for financial survival.


The number of chances you have left to see Ron Cunningham’s 26th annual “The Nutcracker.”


The number of remaining performances with live music from the Sacramento Philharmonic (ticket prices are slightly higher than those accompanied by prerecorded music).


The number of mice disguised and painted into Cunningham’s scenery (produced by French designer Alain Vaes at the very same shop where the original 1892 version was constructed).


The pounds of fake snow – confetti brightened by blue lights – used in each Community Center performance to create the Magic Snowflake Forest.


The number of watts of electricity consumed during every performance, in part because of...


The number of lights used to the illuminate the stage.


The number of costumes used in each show.


The dollar value of each hand-made Sugar Plum Fairy costume.


The pounds of Mother Ginger’s costume – the one that eight children hide under.


The number of dancers in this year’s production – 30 professionals and 500 youngsters, who come from as far as Stockton and Yuba City.


The approximate number of children who have appeared in Cunningham’s production over the years.


The number of people it takes to put on each performance of “The Nutcracker,” including the dancers, stage hands, make-up artists, ushers, chaperones, security staff and others.


The number of years Cunningham’s daughter, Alexandra, has been performing in “The Nutcracker.” She’s 26 years old. As dancers often stick with the show year after year, it can cross generations – the Cunninghams performed side-by-side on opening night as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Dr. Drosselmeyer.

— Janelle Bitker, Special to The Bee

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