A scene from Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet "The Nutcracker." This year's production will be at the Rialto Square Theatre Nov. 25. | File photo
Von Heidecke’s Chicago
Ballet — ‘The Nutcracker’
♦ 2 p.m. Nov. 25
♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
♦ Tickets, $20.50-$38
♦ (815) 726-6600;
Ken Von Heidecke, the founder and director of Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet and Von Heidecke’s School of Chicago Festival Ballet, cannot come up with one reason why people should attend the production of “The Nutcracker” at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet on Nov. 25. He has several.
“It is a huge production,” said Von Heidecke, the director and choreographer of the show, “It’s live. It has an internationally, star-studded cast. It’s a holiday classic and a family event for the holidays.”
Set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score, “The Nutcracker” tells the whimsical tale of young Clara and her magical Christmas Eve journey to a land where she encounters a dashing Nutcracker Prince, swirling snowflakes, sugar plum fairies and waltzing flowers. The production features lavish costumes, a growing Christmas tree and a battle between mice and soldiers.
A total of 145 performers will appear in the Rialto show, which is being presented at the theater for the 18th year. In addition to 24 professional dancers from Russia, Switzerland and Hungary, among other countries, the show will feature 40 advanced-level students and 20 youngsters who appear as angels in walk-on roles.
“Each year the show continues to expand,” Von Heidecke said. “It gets bigger, with more costumes and more scenery, and a greater number of people. This year we have 145 people. We created more roles. We added roles for smaller children. In second act there are Arabian, Russian and Spanish segments. We added a German segment and we added about 40 young children from our school. They are in German tutus. It’s charming, short and sweet.”
Von Heidecke is proud of the fact that the upper-level teenaged girl dancers are teamed with professional male dancers and can learn from their partners.
“The professionals give them hope and encouragement,” Von Heidecke said. “The kids in our school really take it seriously.
“When I see the final product, I sit back and I am a little stunned. I’m amazed at the level of excellence achieved on stage, and of telling the story with such purity and simplicity. It’s all a little magical.”
Randall G. Mielke is a local free-lance writer.