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’Tis the season: ‘Urban Nutcracker’ celebrates 20th anniversary online

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
’Tis the season: ‘Urban Nutcracker’ celebrates 20th anniversary online
Scene from the 2019 production of “Urban Nutcracker.” PHOTO: PETER PARADISE MICHAELS

“Urban Nutcracker,” a holiday show produced by Tony Williams and the City Ballet of Boston, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, on screen. A recorded version of the 2019 production will stream online four times between Nov. 28 and Dec. 24. Tickets to the streaming performances are free, but the company will be accepting donations for live anniversary events next year.

Scene from the 2019 production of “Urban Nutcracker.” PHOTO: PETER PARADISE MICHAELS

Scene from the 2019 production of “Urban Nutcracker.” PHOTO: PETER PARADISE MICHAELS

“The magic of our ‘Urban Nutcracker’ production can be shared with family and friends near and far this holiday season,” says Williams. “The success of our production with audiences through the years is due, in part, to the blending of Tchaikovsky’s eternally classic music with Duke Ellington’s jazz arrangements of the score.”

The jazzy update to Tchaikovsky’s classic is just one of the lovable attributes of the annual production. The cast features more than 150 performers, many of them local, and they dance a wide range of styles, from hip-hop and voguing to flamenco, tap and, of course, classical ballet. The show opens on a Boston street corner, complete with the Citgo sign in the background, and the heroine, here named Ruby instead of Clara, makes her way around the city during the performance. Audience members will see downtown, the State House and the Boston Common.

Scene from the 2019 production of “Urban Nutcracker.” PHOTO: PETER PARADISE MICHAELS

Scene from the 2019 production of “Urban Nutcracker.” PHOTO: PETER PARADISE MICHAELS

The production is always evolving to further reflect the city. Just last year, Williams choreographed a dance in homage to the “Make Way for Ducklings” children’s book and Boston Public Garden statues. The dance debuted in the 2019 performance that will be streamed this year.

Diversity in dance has been Williams’ mission since his own days as the first African American principal dancer in the Boston Ballet. Since its inception and early performances at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, “Urban Nutcracker” served as an opportunity for Williams to tell the classic story with a diverse cast that illustrated the reality of its setting. “There aren’t very many shows that are reflective of the population of Greater Boston,” says Williams. “It’s good for people to come and see the diversity on stage.”

Though the standard “Urban Nutcracker” in-person performances won’t run this year, Williams says City Ballet of Boston will formally celebrate the 20th anniversary next year, hopefully in person and live on stage. For now, the online version of “Urban Nutcracker” has the advantage of being accessible to anyone with an internet connection. And in a time when families aren’t uniting for the holidays, this is one tradition that can be continued from a distance.

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