Irvine is getting in touch with its holiday roots with the classic ballet The Nutcracker. Currently playing at Irvine Barclay Theatre, audiences can see live performances from now all the way till December 24. Irvine fans will be drawn in with Tchaikovsky’s score as they see the Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara and multiple characters on breathtaking adventures. 

The Nutcracker takes on the story of Clara who befriends a Nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve. He takes her on a whimsical adventure while fighting the evil Mouse King and befriending new characters along the way. Some of the most well-known numbers include “Waltz of the Flowers,” “Trepak” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Artistically directed by Festival Ballet Theatre’s Salwa Rizkalla, this production features professional company dancers. 

Aimee Cho, starring as Clara, explained in an exclusive interview with Irvine Weekly that The Nutcracker has always been special to her ever since the first time she watched it at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “I was just so inspired by all the amazing dancers and the production in general. Watching it really put me in the Christmas spirit and made me excited to do The Nutcracker, myself.”

Cho said that while this production of The Nutcracker will take on its traditional roots, there will also be some added flair. Cho also said that she loves playing Clara because of her character’s involvement throughout the show. “Growing up, I would love to watch all of the pieces on the sides, but being able to share the stage with all the amazing dancers just brings joy to me. Getting the opportunity to perform Clara this year is such a blessing. I am excited to share my love for Christmas to others through what I love to do every day.”

Festival Ballet Theatre Performs The Nutcracker at Irvine Barclay Theatre (Photo Credit Skye Schmidt)

From a young age, Cho had begged her parents to put her in a dance class. She started at the age of seven and has remained a dancer ever since. Now, she continues to follow her passion in one of the most beloved stories ever told. 

“Nutcracker season is my favorite time during the whole year,” Cho tells us. “Being in the theater and doing what I love for others always brings a smile to me. I love to perform. Performing for a live audience makes me feel alive and I am always at my happiest when I am dancing the Nutcracker at the Barclay!” 

Jerry Mandel, president of the Barclay, also said that he’s humbled to bring The Nutcracker to the theatre after two years away from the stage. 

This annual set of performances is one of the best illustrations of the Barclay’s reason for being: bringing the community together,” Mandel says. “We treasure our longstanding partnership with Festival Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla, her company, and her talented guest dancers. For nearly 15 years we have been pleased to help celebrate generations of young dancers from Orange County and their families who together make The Nutcracker at the Barclay not just a holiday classic, but a beloved community tradition.”

Audience members over the age of 12 must show proof of vaccination status or a negative Covid test to attend. Masks will also be required at all times inside the Barclay. Children from 3-12 may attend, but must wear masks at all times.

Tickets for The Nutcracker can be purchased at, by calling the box office at 949-854-4646 or by email at

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