Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center for the Performing Arts will present the world premiere of Sugar Hill The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker, a re-imagining of The Nutcracker inspired by jazz icons Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. The production, set to run October 19-30, will then transfer to New York City Center November 15-27.
The jazzy retelling celebrates the music of Harlem’s Sugar Hill. Featuring a libretto and concept by Jessica Swan, the production will be directed and choreographed by Emmy winner and Tony nominee Joshua Bergasse. Jade Hale-Christofi will also choreograph with additional choreography by Caleb Teicher and Jon Boogz, and dance consultation from ten-time Tony nominee Graciela Daniele and Kennedy Center Honoree Carmen de Lavallade.
A. Alyce Claerbaut, niece of Billy Strayhorn and executive producer of the show, shared a joint statement with Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington. “Consummate master of self-expression Duke Ellington and classically-trained, jazz genius Billy Strayhorn took something wholly European, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and transformed it into a story that symbolizes the American ideal—the freedom of individualism—by marrying it to jazz,” they said. “There is no finer visual representation of this than through dance.”
The creative team also includes scenic designer Julian Crouch, costume designer Linda Cho, lighting designer David Finn, projection designer Austin Switser of Switser + Knight, and sound designer John Shivers. Orchestrations and arrangements are by Grammy winner John Clayton and three-time Tony Award nominee Larry Blank, with dance arrangements by Mark Hummel and casting by Mungioli Theatricals, Inc.
Sugar Hill is produced by Hello Entertainment, Willette Klausner, Dale Mott, Rob Quadrino, Brass Bull Productions, Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc., and Schirmer Theatrical. Serving as executive producers are Randall A. Buck and A. Alyce Claerbaut, with Robert Thompson. Brierpatch Productions will serve as general manager.