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'The Nutcracker' returns to Richmond, tickets in high demand; attendees can expect safety protocols

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Richmond Ballet’s beloved rendition of “The Nutcracker” returned Saturday — live and in-person — after skipping last year due to the coronavirus.

“Tickets are flying off the shelves, showing how much this community values this production,” said Stoner Winslett, the ballet’s artistic director. Winslett said tickets almost sold out before the ballet even started advertising for this year’s production.

Due to high demand, two performances have been added to the initial 10-performance run, with best availability being Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, Dec. 22 at 2 p.m.

This year is the last time viewers can catch the production with its current sets and costumes, lauded by The New York Times as “one of the country’s most perfect [Nutcracker productions].”

New sets are currently being built in New York for next year’s production. Richmond Ballet has been using the same sets since 2003.

“It’s not because we don’t love these, but they wear out over time,” Winslett said.

The “dazzling” new sets will go with the costume designs that Richmond Ballet currently uses and has been updating over the years. There won’t be any choreography changes.

“Every year, I try to make little changes to make it better and better,” Winslett said. “I think we’re at a pretty good version now.”

This year, one big change is that there will be fewer children under 12 appearing. In 2019, 127 children under 12 were cast in the production. This year, only 18 children under 12 were cast because at the time of casting, vaccines weren’t yet available to children under 12.

“There’s no way to put on this show safely without a vaccinated cast,” Winslett said. The ballet reduced the number of lambs and mice to three sections of six children under 12 who will be dancing masked.

But the ballet was able to increase roles for children between 12 and 18 to 75 roles. All students who auditioned over the age of 12 were cast.

“We’re so pleased to be able to find a part for all of these kids who love ballet and have been studying on a screen during the pandemic. It’s such a pleasure to give them a chance to perform again,” Winslett said.

Also new this year, all audience members ages 12 and above will be required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance. All patrons ages 2 and above are required to wear a mask at all times, except when eating and drinking. These COVID precautions are similar to most performing arts venues in Richmond. For more details, visit richmondballet.com/covid.

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at the Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St., through Dec. 23; times vary. Tickets run $25 to $125 and can be purchased at etix.com or (800) 514-3849.

ccurran@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

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Colleen Curran is the living editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She also covers arts and entertainment, pop culture and social media.

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