“The Nutcracker Reimagined”: Andover’s Twist on Classic Ballet after Five-Year Hiatus

Michelle Chen ’25 as the Lead Angel Fish.

Tara Wei ’25 and Kara Horne ’27 as Reed Flutes.

Minh-Khue Doba ’24 and Jacob Kaiser ’24 as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier.

A large Christmas tree rose from the stage as Tchaikovsky’s dramatic orchestral music played in the background, building tension until the grand appearance of the Nutcracker, played by Jaylen Daley ’25. The Nutcracker grabbed a sword and clashed with the Mouse King, played by Amanda Dominique-Santos ’25, eventually striking the Mouse King down.

With four shows this weekend, the Andover Theatre and Dance Department returned from a five-year hiatus with a rendition of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” titled “The Nutcracker Reimagined.” Adding an Andover-themed twist, the updated version features a modern-day setting with excerpts from the original “The Nutcracker.” Eliza Francis ’26, an acrobatics dancer who played as a Harlequin doll, described the reasoning behind the changes to the classic ballet.  

Ms. [Judith] Wombwell, her vision was to move it up to present day, so that’s why the students in Act I are in [Andover] merch. It’s supposed to resemble the average student, who finds these costumes and is suddenly transfixed by the story they can tell. And then we’ve also expanded styles because we have a wide range of versatility amongst dancers beyond just ballet,” said Francis.

The series of performances showcased a 35-person cast of performers, including students, Andover staff, and even some faculty children. Daley described the preparation and performing environment. 

Overall, it was really a rigorous, fast-paced process that everybody was trying to immerse themselves in… My favorite part of the show was always the split kick. At least performing that, any time that I got to jump was really fun. But working with Jacob [Kaiser ’24] and Alex [Giarnese ’25] in the Russian performance was definitely an exciting trio performance to do. I was really in my element on stage, and I had a great time performing it at practice,” said Daley.

The ballet acts came together to deliver a unique and thematically diverse performance. Audience member Dilnawa Kizghin ’25 commented on how the show’s choreography highlighted specific performers through solos and specialized group acts.

I really loved the different variety in the performances. It was ballet, but there were a lot of different acts. Some of the ballet performances had a little twist in them, so it was very interesting to watch… My favorite would be the ‘dewdrop’ performance because one of my best friends was performing a solo. I also really like the costuming because [although] there were a lot of support roles in her solo, they were dressed in all black so she stood out more. I thought that was interesting from a design perspective,” said Kizghin.

In addition to the dancers, the set and costume design further immersed the audience in the wintry wonderland of “The Nutcracker Reimagined.” Elements like fake snow, whimsical mouse costumes, and huge decorated sleighs heightened the story’s vividness and realism. Audience member Jun Fan ’24 appreciated this attention to detail.

“I thought that all the different characters that came out of the toys in the box [were] really cool. The tree, the rat, and all the different components of the set were also really cool… I think some of it was humorous. The audience was engaged with what was happening, and then it was also just really good dancing. Everyone was really skilled,” said Fan.