Torontoist Deathmatch: The Nutcracker VS The Rockettes
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Torontoist Deathmatch: The Nutcracker VS The Rockettes

Your Sugar Plum-Fu is strong, but mine is stronger.

Do visions of quality seasonal live pop culture for the whole family dance in your head? The National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring The Rockettes look all cheery and innocent, but Torontoist knows that behind all the tinsel, sugar plums, long legs and rosy cheeks lurk two fearsome competitors. How far will they go to win your holiday dollar? Only one thing is certain: when Torontoist pits them head to head, only the strong will survive.

The Contenders

bullet-nutty.gifThe National Ballet of Canada’sThe Nutcracker is a proud TO original, one of the few international departures from the standard, predictable, rubber-stamp, “you-could-watch-this-with-eyes-shut” Nutcrackers. Runs December 9-30, tickets go for $31-$97.

bullet-rock.gifThe Radio City Rockettes kicked their way from Missouri to NYC in 1925, and never looked back. This icon of a tall, long-legged, precise, bright-toothed America runs as often as four times a day through December 31. Tickets will set you back $33.70 – $100.


Round 1: Fighting Style

Ballet, character dances, minor appearance of rollerblades.



Precision Jazz, tap.



Round 2: Music

bullet-nutty.gifTchaikovsky ‘s full balletic score in all its dynamic splendour, performed by the National Ballet Orchestra, in the designed-for-sound Four Seasons Centre.


bullet-rock.gifAmerican Christmas classics in a can, plus The Nutcracker Suite, in miniature, in a can.


Round 3: Venue

The fresh new Four Seasons centre: airy, practical and fine-tuned to its purpose if not exactly glam.


bullet-rock.gifThe barn of a house that is the Hummingbird Centre hosts the Rockettes specifically because it no longer has The Nutcracker.


Round 4: History & Tradition

bullet-nutty.gifThe National’s Nutcracker deviates from ETA Hoffman’s original tale as much as it appears to swing back to cultural authenticity. The result? Mockthenticity. It’s the faux-nationalist re-Russianization of an essentially European story and score.


bullet-rock.gifThis thing’s been running for three quarters of a century! Luckily, many numbers have been revised and refreshed over the years. Publicity materials assure us new costumes are "sexy," a totally necessary quality in family entertainment.


Round 5: Eye Candy

Santo Loquasto’s obsessively detailed sets and costumes, evocative of a pop-up book Russia.


280 uniformly long, stockinged legs.


Round 6: Religious Nods

Giant egg, centre stage.


The “living Nativity” scene.



Round 7: Furry Friends

Bears: both dancing and on Rollerblades



Actual live barnyard animals.



Round 8: Associated Snack Food

Nuts: A nourishing food source, rich in protein, essential minerals and fatty acids, and easily preserved for long winter months.


bullet-rock.gifRockets: Full of empty calories, the chalky candies are known as "Smarties" back home in the US and A, and they’re perhaps better suited to Hallowee’n.


And the winner is...

Tourism Ontario, and you. Seriously, excepting the particularly bah-humbuggy or child-haters of the world, everyone could probably stand to see each of these at least once in a lifetime. This Nutcracker has been running for 11 years and isn’t going anywhere, so The Rockettes might win out this once for sheer novelty, but if forced, Torontoist would rather see the complete version on its NYC home turf. The Nutcracker on the other hand, is really the only place to hear Tchaicovsky’s full score, and it’s completely original to the Toronto, to boot. Let your tastes, children or out of town guests be the judges.