Benedum Center
December 2—27
Various times

Local landmarks, hometown pride and soaring classical ballet will take center stage when The Nutcracker transforms the Benedum Center into a winter wonderland.

The cherished holiday tradition of experiencing Tchaikovsky’s legendary ballet is about to get a whole lot sweeter this season, because Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s (PBT) 26-performance run of The Nutcracker ushers in not one but two momentous milestones for the world-class company.

Uniquely Pittsburgh-inspired, The Nutcracker is celebrating its 15th anniversary season, while the PBT’s artistic director, Terrence Orr—who created the dazzling production—is marking his 20th year with the company.

After arriving in Pittsburgh fresh on the heels of working with NYC’s famed American Ballet Theatre—Orr began planning a large-scale reinvention of the iconic, 19th-century Russian masterwork. He infused The Nutcracker’s timeless narratives with a sense of place and nostalgia that is authentically Pittsburgh, and a new classic was born.

With help from artists, historians and locals, Orr assembled relics and references into the traditional scenes and story lines. Audiences should be on the look out for the Snow Scene’s Mount Washington view, a proscenium clock inspired by downtown’s beloved Kaufmann’s timepiece, and a Land of Enchantment paying homage to Pittsburgh’s historic amusement parks. Local magician Paul Gertner even trained the PBT in the art of illusion.

Nods to Pittsburgh’s world-renowned sports teams and pop culture have been added to the production—such as a toy penguin donning a hockey jersey and rats waving Terrible Towels—and some shows have even spotlighted cameos by local celebs like Mr. McFeely, Hines Ward and Rich Fitzgerald. This season, new cameos are expected by WTAE’s Sally Wiggin, KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen and more.

And thanks to the show’s unique casting combinations, updated story lines and choreography variations, no two shows are ever exactly alike.

Of the 215 stunning costumes showcased in the ballet, 110 were built in the PBT Costume Shop under the direction of Janet Groom Campbell. Her team brought to life 18 shimmering snowflakes, 16 flowering tutus, elaborate Victorian party dresses, and intricate hand-crafted costumes.

For specialty pieces, the company enlisted prolific Pittsburgh-based artisans such as Svi Roussanoff, who constructed headpieces for The Nutcracker and his infamous rival the Rat King.

Among the 26 performances is a student matinee on Dec. 2 and a sensory-friendly performance on Dec. 27.

Buy tickets.

Looking for more events? Check out our 10 Pittsburgh events not to miss in December and 10 great family adventures in Pittsburgh this December feature stories.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...