Barrington Ensemble Presents ‘Nutcracker’

Seeing “The Nutcracker” is one of the most magical traditions of the holiday season, and year after year the Barrington Dance Ensemble attempts to outdo itself with a stunning production.

“We’re constantly working on the show,” says Artistic Director Mary Brennan. “I think what’s special is our reputation for a stunning set and costumes – we make improvements to both every year. We have a production crew that comes together from all over to work on this, and the choreography is really well done. People are surprised at how high the quality of the show is for the affordable price that they pay.”

The Barrington Dance Ensemble is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage and inspire the community by providing cultural enrichment through exceptional dance education, performance and scholarship. Brennan herself founded the ensemble in 1989, growing the grassroots organization into a local standard bearer for the arts.

The ensemble presents two major productions each year, one of which is “The Nutcracker” every holiday season. It melds professional dancers from all over the world with local dancers from the Barrington area and surrounding communities. Students take on a rigorous training schedule to achieve high standards, Brennan says.

“We also have an audition in August for children to join ‘The Nutcracker,’ so there’s about 100 dancers total on stage,” she says. “It’s a great start to the holiday season, and it’s kind of the highlight of our year – this production. Families come year after year, and I get letters from people about how much they enjoy the show and how much they look forward to it. It has become a real tradition in Barrington.”

“The Nutcracker” is set in 18th century Europe and follows the story of Clara, a young girl who receives a toy nutcracker at her family’s lavish Christmas party. After she falls asleep, Clara dreams that she’s transported to the Land of Sweets, where she encounters many characters in a fantastical setting, including her nutcracker doll. When she wakes up, the audience is left wondering: was it all a dream?

“We model our ballet after the original story,” Brennan says. “‘The Nutcracker’ is one of those ballets that everyone loves, even people who might not normally like ballet. It’s just highly entertaining from the time the curtain opens until it closes, and people are on their feet at the end because they just love it. So, it doesn’t matter who is in the audience – there’s something in this show for everybody.”

This year’s show takes place Friday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m.

Children who attend the Friday evening show have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus before the curtain call. After the Saturday evening show, children can meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, who is a professional dancer with the Joffrey Ballet.

All shows are held in the auditorium at Barrington High School, 616 W. Main St., Barrington. Brennan advises audience members arrive at least 15 minutes before showtime, since construction is going on nearby.

Tickets cost $25-$35 and are available at or by calling (847) 382-6333. Girl Scout leaders who bring their troupe can inquire about special pricing.

Brennan says tickets are affordable thanks to numerous sources of support.

“We’re supported by local and statewide foundations, and we’re recipients of the Illinois Arts Council for funding,” she says. “Additionally, many local businesses and foundations contribute to and support this production so that it can be the high quality that it is. We try to do the show in a completely professional way. It’s important we give experiences to local dancers that they’ll never forget for the rest of their lives. They enjoy it, and the audience does, too.” ❚

To purchase tickets, call (847) 382-6333 or visit