Inside the Story: Classic 'Nutcracker' ballet gets a makeover

Inside the Story: Classic 'Nutcracker' ballet gets a makeover (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) A Christmas classic is once again in full production in downtown Salt Lake.

But after a continuous 64-year run, expect a new look for Ballet West's "The Nutcracker."

"We here in Utah have the longest-running full version of The Nutcracker in America, and possibly the world," said Adam Sklute, artistic director for Ballet West.

Thousands of people attend the show every Christmas season, but this year audiences can expect something more--all new sets and costumes.

"To give our Utah audiences everything that they've come to love about The Nutcracker, but to bring it into the 21st century," Sklute said.

In Sklute's office is a picture of his mentor, William Christensen, also known as "Mr. C."

He created the very first full-length Nutcracker in America in San Francisco in 1944.

In 1953, Mr. C brought it to Utah.

"He wanted performance," said Bene Arnold, a former ballet mistress.

Arnold, 82, was the ballet mistress for Mr. C 60 years ago.

"He had this personality that people loved to talk to him, and he loved to talk," Arnold said.

Arnold is now helping out in this year's production with an eye from the past, and a passion for the future.

"It's wonderful to see something that was just started from something--it's like a plant, this little, tiny plant--and to see it grow," Arnold said.

But for the past 30 years, Ballet West has been using the same sets and same costumes.

"It took enormous amounts of time, energy, and duct tape to hold the whole thing together," said Sklute.

Then in December of 2015, Sklute got an incredible gift from the Eccles family--a $2 million grant.

"That's huge," said Sklute. "Twenty-four different drops, almost 200 different costumes."

The show also now includes some special effects.

"Special effects that Mr. C wanted for his production, but that he was not able to do," said Sklute.

Ballet West is performing The Nutcracker eight nights a week with more than 400 dancers, plus the production crew and full orchestra.

Shows run until the end of the month.

For more information, visit the Ballet West website.