San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘The Nutcracker’ pirouettes into the National Theater

You may not recognize the Spanish name, “El Cascanueces,” just as you may frown at the Russian title, “Schelkúnchik.” But if we tell you this ballet is about a globetrotting wooden doll and sugar-plum faeries, you will likely smile and nod, because everybody knows “The Nutcracker.”

The holiday season always calls for a large-scale “Nutcracker,” and the National Theater presents an epic rendition of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece. The production showcases young performers from 28 different ballet schools, including prodigies as young as eight years old. Indeed, the show incorporates so many dancers that five rotating casts will take the stage throughout December. Talents include Wes Chapman, former director and principal dancer of New York City’s American Ballet Theater.

To refresh: “The Nutcracker” is about a young woman, Clara, who is hanging out at her grandfather’s Christmas party. She receives a wooden nutcracker as a gift (because there’s nothing a Russian girl likes more than fresh walnuts). Suddenly, an army of mice invades the house, the Nutcracker comes to life and defeats the Mouse King, and then Clara and her carven prince journey around the world.

As surreal as E.T.A. Hoffman’s story is, Tchaikovsky’s suite remains one of the most beautiful and memorable in the classical canon, and seeing the “Nutcracker” in its entirety is a golden Christmastime tradition. Whatever it’s called in your native language, “El Cascanueces” is a pleasure for the whole familia.

“The Nutcracker” (El Cascanueces) performs Dec. 50-15. National Theatre, San José. ₡12,000-27,000 ($24-54). Info: 2010-1111,

Contact Robert Isenberg at

Comments are closed.