Artistic Director Michael Pink's Synopsis of The Nutcracker
Based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s book, this is the story of a magical Christmas journey.

Click here to learn more about Milwaukee Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.


Prologue: Drosselmeyer’s Workshop
It’s Christmas Eve in the magic toy maker’s workshop where Drosselmeyer and his nephew Karl finish preparing a very special nutcracker doll for Clara Tannenbaum.

ACT I
The Tannenbaum Family Drawing Room

Drosselmeyer and Karl are the guests of honor at the Tannenbaum Family’s Christmas celebration. The Tannenbaum children – Clara, Fritz and the elder daughter Marie – wait anxiously for their arrival.

The Tannenbaum house is filled with the smell of delicious food, festive entertainment and good will. The children’s grandparents arrive with gifts for each of them. Drosselmeyer and Karl finally arrive and the gift giving begins. Karl has his gift for Marie Tannenbaum.

Drosselmeyer delights the children with his magic tricks, producing a frolicking clown and shepherdess doll. Fritz decides he too will entertain everyone by dancing with the wooden sword that his grandparents gave him.

Dinner is served and everyone except Marie, Karl, Drosselmeyer and Clara goes into the dining room. Drosselmeyer gives Clara her special present – the magic nutcracker doll. Fritz returns to steal the doll and as Clara tries to rescue the doll, it is broken. Drosselmeyer repairs the doll as family and friends return from the dining room to drink a toast to peace and prosperity. The guests depart and the Tannenbaum family retires for the evening.

The Transformation
The drawing room is dark and still as Clara enters to find her nutcracker doll. Marie follows her younger sister to escort her back to her bedroom. A tall dark figure enters the room and moves menacingly towards them. Marie challenges the figure only to find out it is only Fritz trying to scare them.

The drawing room clock chimes midnight and smoke starts to pour out of the fireplace. Suddenly, a mouse runs out of the fireplace and starts to chase them around the room. Soon the room is filled with mice and rats. Drosselmeyer appears to banish them as the children run to him for protection. He sprinkles magic dust over them and the magical journey begins.

The Christmas tree begins to grow, the furniture moves by itself and the room transforms in size. The Rat King appears with his army of mice and rats and he tries to take Clara’s nutcracker doll. Toy soldiers, led by a life-sized nutcracker doll, try to protect the children. The Rat King suddenly overpowers the nutcracker doll, but Fritz seizes the opportunity to strike the Rat King over the head with his sword, knocking him unconscious.

Marie is distressed to see the nutcracker doll broken and defeated, but Drosselmeyer brings the doll back to life, transforming him into his nephew Karl. Drosselmeyer introduces the children to the Snow Queen. She leads them to the land of snow and the steam train that will carry them to the land of toys and sweets.

ACT II
The Land of Toys and Sweets

The flying train travels over clouds of angels to the land of toys and sweets. Drosselmeyer follows on the back of a bumble bee. Carousel animals transport characters from around the world. They are all creations of the magic toy maker, Drosselmeyer.

Clara, Fritz, Marie and Karl arrive in the magical land of toys and sweets. Drosselmeyer introduces them to his creations.

Darkness looms in this magical wonderland as the Rat King and his herd of mice and rats attempt to spoil the fun. Karl takes Fritz’s sword and defeats the Rat King and his cohorts.

The children celebrate their victory and are treated to entertainment featuring Drosselmeyer’s creations. Fritz and Clara take delight in the sight of the Spanish and Arabian couples. Clara dances with the Chinese Dragon and the shepherdess doll with her dancing geese. Fritz joins in with the clowns and both he and Clara dance with Mother Ginger and her many Russian children as well as the dancing flowers. But the real surprise is seeing the entertainment culminate in a romantic dance between the two people they know and love – chivalrous Karl and young Marie.

Drosselmeyer whisks the children magically back to their drawing room where they will awaken the next morning wondering if this was simply a dream or a magical treat that they will not soon forget.