SUGAR HILL: The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker, a re-imagining of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker inspired by jazz icons Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, has announced the dates for its world premiere. The ballet —which previously planned to open in 2022 but postponed due to scheduling conflicts— will have its world premiere at New York City Center November 14-26 before transferring to Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre December 19-30.
Set to the music of Ellington and Strayhorn, with a libretto and concept by Jessica Swan, this jazzy retelling of the famous ballet celebrates the music of Harlem’s Sugar Hill. This dreamworld dance-story of Sugar Hill in the 1930s, as seen through the starry-eyed nonconformist daughter of a high-society Black family in Manhattan, combines multiple genres.
In a shared statement, A. Alyce Claerbaut (SUGAR HILL's executive producer and niece of Billy Strayhorn) and Mercedes Ellington (director, choreographer, producer, as well as granddaughter of Duke Ellington), said, "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. There is no finer visual representation of this than through dance."
SUGAR HILL will feature direction by Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Award nominee Joshua Bergasse, with choreography by Jade Hale-Christofi, and additional choreography by Caleb Teicher and Jon Boogz—as well as dance consultation by 10-time Tony nominee Graciela Daniele.
The creative team also includes scenic designer Joshua Zangen, costume designer Linda Cho, lighting designer David Finn, projection designer Austin Switser of Switser + Knight, sound designer John Shivers, and production stage manager Tripp Phillips. Orchestrations and arrangements are by Grammy winner John Clayton and three-time Tony Award nominee Larry Blank, with casting by Mungioli Theatricals, Inc.
Sugar Hill is produced by Hello Entertainment, Ron Simons, Rob Quadrino, Valencia Yearwood, Willette Klausner, Dr. Yemin (Yuan) McDougal, Nicole Eisenberg, Chinese Performing Arts Production International, Carol Hefren Tillotson, Harris Ferris, Kathleen and Chip Rosenbloom/Mary Cossette, Brass Bull Productions, Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. and Schirmer Theatrical. The executive producers are A. Alyce Claerbaut and Robert Thompson. The associate producers are Christian McBride, Mickalene Thomas, and B'in Live.
Casting will be announced at a later date.