Von Heidecke is thrilled to present ‘Nutcracker’
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media November 21, 2012 10:28AM
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 Festival Ballet ‘The Nutcracker’
♦ 2 p.m. Nov. 25
♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
♦ Tickets, $20.50-$38
♦ (815) 726-6600
Updated: November 23, 2012 12:15PM
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. Instead, 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 straight 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, which are basically 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,” Von Heidecke continued. “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.”
Although many families return year after year to see the Rialto show, Von Heidecke said that the show is not an annual event for everyone.
“Some people do come every year,” he said. “But with the economy the way that it is, it may be that some people only come to the show once every five years. When they do, they are amazed how it has grown over the years.”
But whether audience members are there every year or not, Von Heidecke finds great satisfaction in each year’s presentation.
“When I see the final product, I sit back and I am a little stunned,” he said. “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.”