Act I – Scene I
Action takes place in Nuremberg, Germany, in the 19th century. Chief Justice Silberhaus and his wife are in the ballroom putting the finishing touches on a beautiful Christmas tree before guests arrive for a party. Clara and Fritz, the children, help greet the guests, and the festivities begin with dances for both the adults and children.
One guest is late, the children’s godfather, Herr Dr. Drosselmeyer. When he arrives he gives gifts to the children, among them a wooden nutcracker in the form of a soldier for Clara. Fritz wants the doll for himself, and in his struggle to get it the nutcracker is broken. Clara loves and cares for the mended nutcracker. After the guests leave and the children have gone to bed, Clara comes back down to the darkened room to get the nutcracker and falls asleep by her doll.
Suddenly, she is awakened as huge mice enter the ballroom. The clock strikes midnight. She is transfixed as the Christmas tree and the entire room magically grows to enormous size. Led by the Mouse King, an army of mice comes out of the shadows to pick up the crumbs of cookies that were dropped at the party. Clara’s nutcracker turns into a handsome young prince, who protects her from the mice. The ballroom becomes a battleground when a brigade of tin soldiers, led by the Nutcracker Prince, confronts the mice. Clara springs to help, and they finally overcome the mice. Clara’s devotion inspires the Nutcracker Prince to invite her to visit the magical Candyland with him.
On their way to Candyland, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince pass through a great snowstorm with dancing snowflakes whirling around them.
The delectable Sugar Plum Fairy, who orders a festival in Clara’s honor because she helped save the Prince, welcomes Clara and the Nutcracker Prince to the beautiful Candyland. With little angels in attendance, the people of Candyland dance for Clara. The Arabians, Chinese, Hungarians, Spanish, Irish, Russians, and Mother Ginger and her children perform their own special dances in the grand celebration. Even the flowers dance for the delighted children in this enchanted fairyland. The festival concludes with the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier paying homage to Clara and the Nutcracker Prince.
Back in the ballroom, mother and father find a sleeping Clara and carry her back to bed. It has all been a dream…or has it?