The Atlanta Ballet presents A WHOLE NEW ‘NUTCRACKER’


Atlanta Ballet’s first fresh holiday show in 2 decades

was 2 years in the making. Creators hint

that it will be brimming with surprises.

Atlanta Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” runs Dec. 8-24 at the Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.892.3303. 


CURTAIN UP on the glow and oh-so-pretty snow. It’s finally time to crack open a whole new Nutcracker because, as Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director Gennadi Nedvigin says, every generation deserves its own.

Choreographer Yuri Possokhov in rehearsal for the new “Nutcracker.” Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director Gennadi Nedvigin describes his friend as “a child in big-person pants” and calls his work “amazing.” Photo: Kim Kenney

Choreographer Yuri Possokhov in rehearsal for the new “Nutcracker.” Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director Gennadi Nedvigin describes his friend as “a child in big-person pants” and calls his work “amazing.” Photo: Kim Kenney

Nedvigin, a Bolshoi-trained artist, became the fourth artistic director in the company’s 89-year history two seasons ago. He last danced with San Francisco Ballet, and moved to Atlanta knowing he’d help oversee an all-new Nutcracker ballet.

Young people who grew up attending its predecessor, a storybook production staged for 23 seasons, are continuing the tradition. The old version was set against rich, jewel-toned backdrops that evoked 19th-century Russia. It blended clever comedic moments and ethereal classical ballet sequences with thrilling pas de deux.

Nedvigin’s new $3.7 million staging, choreographed by friend and Russian-born dancer Yuri Possokhov, returns to the original source material: German author E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 fantasy story, “Nutcracker and Mouse King.” It places the opening Christmas Eve party scene in a small German village.

A magical uncle

With dream-versus-reality notions, along with toy soldiers and snowflakes and such, The Nutcracker opens its imagination wide to artistic invention. But its central story line often remains: a magical uncle figure brings handmade toys to children at the party. Among them is a nutcracker, which is soon broken. A young girl named Marie checks on it in the middle of the night and discovers it has come to life. The nutcracker battles a mouse king, and then turns into a prince who carries Marie off to a fantasy kingdom inhabited by dolls.

A costume fitting with designer Sandra Woodall. Photo: Kim Kenney

A costume fitting with designer Sandra Woodall. Photo: Kim Kenney

Hoffmann’s tale contained bleak, even scary elements. As a leader in the German Romantic movement, he was accustomed to writing fantasy and Gothic horror, with tales full of inanimate objects coming to life. In 1844, French writer Alexandre Dumas toned down much of the darkness in Hoffmann’s story. An all-new Nutcracker, which premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia, paired the lighter Dumas telling with the familiar Tchaikovsky score.

The ballet was not an immediate hit, finding success gradually and chiefly after 1954, when George Balanchine created a version for New York City Ballet. Atlanta audiences have seen that version, too, and until now the one choreographed by Possokhov predecessor John McFall. Possokhov’s ballet is unlike either of those.

“Yuri is truly a child in big-person pants,” Nedvigin says. “He has such a great sense of creativeness inside him. The dancers can prove my words. He truly becomes a child and runs and plays when he is creating. It’s amazing to watch him. We’ll be having dinner, and you will see him just sort of float away. You discover he is making steps in the air.”

The ‘firepower’

Atlanta Ballet hints that its new  Nut “will rival a Broadway show in terms of production firepower.” A versatile team was assembled to help make that happen:

A costume rendering for Christmas Eve party guests by designer Sandra Woodall.

A costume rendering for Christmas Eve party guests by designer Sandra Woodall.

SCENIC DESIGNER TOM PYE sometimes designs costumes as well. He received a Tony nomination for the scenic design of Broadway’s 2004 Fiddler on the Roof revival.

COSTUME DESIGNER SANDRA WOODALL has done costumes and scenery for prominent ballet companies around the world. She designed costumes for Atlanta Ballet’s Helen Pickett-choreographed Camino Real (2017). A “costume can be absolutely stunning,” Pickett says, “but it cannot take away from what the body is doing … how the body describes the story … and Sandra understands that.”

LIGHTING DESIGNER DAVID FINN did lights and scenery for Camino Real. Next for him are world premieres of The Little Prince for the National Ballet of Canada and Frankenstein for London’s Royal Ballet.

PROJECTION DESIGNER FINN ROSS did scenery for Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Frozen and Mean Girls. He won London’s Olivier Award (2012) and Broadway’s Tony Award (2014) for the scenic design of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. He and his team spent nine months making the short, three-dimensional film shown during the overture.

And that’s not all. Robert Allsopp, known in  theater circles for his sculptural costumes, was hired to create mice costumes and some headpieces. His work is among more than 250 costumes this Nut uses, many hand-dyed and handcrafted in the United States and three other countries.

Friends & colleagues

Possokhov and Nedvigin have known each other for 18 years. Both were San Francisco Ballet principals near the ends of their performing careers, which also is when Possokhov’s choreographic reputation began growing.

“Oh, so many wonderful surprises,” promises artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin. “So much more is possible.” Photo: Hyosub Shin

“Oh, so many wonderful surprises,” promises artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin. “So much more is possible.” Photo: Hyosub Shin

The Nutcracker is rooted in Tchaikovsky’s music,” Possokhov says, and gives choreographers “much room for imagination.” Its magic is “its ability to bring people together — children, parents, grandparents, friends, people from all different backgrounds and various faiths.”

Atlanta Ballet calls the new production “a Nutcracker for our time,” without getting too specific. “You will lose your mind to it,” Nedvigin says, “and will forget what is outside the theater walls. You will be transported to a completely different world.”

Nedvigin and Possokhov want audiences to have a hard time discerning what is and isn’t real “but in a good way.” Almost whispering, Nedvigin says, “Oh, so many wonderful surprises. So much more is possible. One time will not be enough to see it or love it.”


Planning Your Christmas Shopping To Be Stress Free

Planning Your Christmas Shopping To Be Stress Free

At this time of year, Christmas shopping has gone from being a thought for the future to something that is very much in the here and now. Unfortunately, buying gifts for all of your loved ones, and even ones you don’t, can be a stressful experience. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways that you can save yourself some problems this festive season and get shopping with comfort.


Everybody loves a bargain and your Christmas shopping should be full of them. Just because you are buying someone a present doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar. Shopping around online for a little while or even taking a leisurely stroll around the shops will quickly give you an idea of the average price of the products you’re looking to buy this year. Alternatively, if you already know what you want to buy some people then get looking on comparison websites. They’ve done all the research for you, so you can sit at home with your favorite drink in hand knowing full well you’ve saved some cash while putting smiles on the faces of your friends and family.

christmas tree

Difficult People

We all have them in our groups, every year we wonder what on Earth can we get them this year? They are the people who have everything they could possibly want already, or even worse the people who are impossible to read. Sometimes you wonder why you’re bothering, but you persevere regardless. After all, it’s Christmas and you’re in the spirit of giving and bringing cheer.

So some options for you; first of all consider the tried and tested voucher. You don’t know what to buy these people, but they know what they want so give them the tools necessary to go and get their ideal present. If you’re clever about it, you might just be able to earn free gift cards online thus saving yourself the need to pay out. Alternatively, you can try something a little bit more festive and traditional like a candle or a scarf. Both things that they’re likely to use, both say you’ve thought about them, but you’re not expecting much in return. Simple yet satisfying for everyone involved.

Enjoy Yourself

Christmas comes but once a year and everyone is going through the same shopping pains as you. However, you don’t have to. Shopping is just one aspect of the holiday season, and it is one that can be enjoyed by making the most of festive markets and the other experiences that this time of year can bring. Just make sure that you aren’t allowing your anxiety over presents for others build up too much, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve worked all year so you deserve to enjoy this wonderful period just as much as anyone else.

Even that person who keeps walking in front of you on the high street.



Photo: Courtesy of Callaway Resort & Gardens

Photo: Courtesy of Callaway Resort & Gardens

 Over the rivers and throughout the Southeast,

to Christmastime delights we go.

FROM SIMPLE PLEASURES of the season to time-honored traditions and radiant elegance, we suggest five splendid road trips — in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee — that promise to warm your heart and put some bounce in your holiday step. We start with the spots closest to metro Atlanta and venture farther afoot from there.


1. Christmas at Callaway Gardens | 75 minutes south of Atlanta

At CALLAWAY RESORT & GARDENS in Pine Mountain, Ga., you’ll find 2,500 pristine acres that deliver a graceful, tranquil escape with natural beauty.

You needn’t go thirsty at Callaway. Photo: Callaway Resort & Gardens

You needn’t go thirsty at Callaway. Photo: Callaway Resort & Gardens

Callaway decorates with 8 million lights in scenes and color schemes that conjure a five-mile Christmas fairyland. Buzz down for the day or spend the night. Choose from a standard hotel room, a two-bedroom cottage or a villa (up to four bedrooms). If you do go day-tripping, let it spill into the night or you’ll miss the beauty of Fantasy in Lights, now in its 27th year. Enchantment is the aim of the game.

There are various holiday options and packages, but there’s no fee to enter Christmas Village, a heated 22,000-sq. ft. circus-like tent. Shop at dozens of booths (don’t miss Toy Land). Check out the entertainment and a life-size Nativity, try festival funnel cakes and fudge, or face-painting, ornament-making and Santa visits for the kids. The Village is open 4-9 p.m. (sometimes 10 p.m.) daily, including holidays from Nov. 16 through Jan. 5, 2019.

Just outside the tent, grown-ups can find Jacob Marley’s Christmas Spirits, which serves such alcoholic concoctions as Ebenezer’s Eggnog. No “bah, humbug” there.

To experience Fantasy in Lights directly from Christmas Village, you’ll need to pay for Callaway admission. Visitors are encouraged to bundle up and hop aboard the hour-long musical Jolly Trolley tour. You can drive your own car, but the cost per person is the same. Expect to spend $11-$35 each. Admission and Fantasy in Lights packages differ for overnight guests.

2. Christmas in Helen | 2 hours north of Atlanta

With the “lighting of the village,” the most wonderful time of the year begins Nov. 23 in Helen, Ga., on the southern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Live entertainment begins in the town center at 2 p.m. that day and the Bavarian-themed village lights up at 6 p.m.

Photo: Alpine Helen/White County Georgia CVB

Photo: Alpine Helen/White County Georgia CVB

The year-round population of this decidedly quirky community is about 550, but Helen is billed as the third-most visited place in Georgia, following only Atlanta and Savannah, and attracting 1.5 million travelers each year.

Many thousands venture to this “small town big on excitement” for its holiday ambience. They’re lured by the appeal of strolling on cobblestone alleys and poking into gingerbread-trimmed shops like HANSEL & GRETEL CANDY KITCHEN, prized for its gourmet confections like the top-selling chocolate-caramel-pecan turtles; TIM’S WOODEN TOYS; and ZUZU’S PETALS ROCK SHOP for gems, crystals and jewelry. WILDEWOOD and LAVENDER COTTAGE & GARDEN (in Sautee Nacoochee outside Helen) offer unexpected gift items. Plenty of places also sell pretty doodads and ornaments from around the world.

Photo: Alpine Helen/White County Georgia CVB

Photo: Alpine Helen/White County Georgia CVB

The annual Christmas parade (2 p.m. Dec. 8) includes live bands, Tennessee walking horses, Bernese mountain dogs and floats like a “sleigh” carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus. A children’s lantern parade steps off later that day. Kids can decorate paper lanterns starting at 4 p.m. and parade through Helen at 5 p.m. to the Festhalle for a bonfire and s’mores.

To see Helen’s lights, book a ride with Pegasus Horse-Drawn Carriages (arrange via text message at 706.499.1159).

Visit a traditional CHRISTKINDLMARKT the weekends of Dec. 1-2 and 8-9. Vendors try to give Southerners the sense of a European holiday market. You’ll find stalls offering handmade gifts, ornaments and edible treats from savory to sweet.

If you’re in the mood to eat, Wiener schnitzel, Bavarian apple strudel and such are plentiful here. Tried-and-true eateries include MULLER’S FAMOUS FRIED CHEESE CAFÉBODENSEE RESTAURANTHOFBRAUHAUS and HOFER’S OF HELEN (also a bakery). Details: 800.858.8027.

3. Christmas at the Biltmore | almost 4 hours north of Atlanta

For a splurge, we suggest the Biltmore in Asheville, N.C. The 250-room French Renaissance mansion was built as a country home for George Vanderbilt III (grandson of industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt) in the 1890s.

The 175-sq. ft. chateau has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and took 100 workers six years to complete, a feat accomplished just in time for Christmas 1895. The holiday hoopla here in the Blue Ridge Mountains has become so popular that CHRISTMAS AT BILTMORE begins in Nov. 3 and continues through Jan. 6.

Photo: The Biltmore Co.

Photo: The Biltmore Co.

This year’s theme is “The Art of Christmas,” so you can bet the estate’s design team has gone all out. At BILTMORE ESTATE WINERY, some 7,000 globe-shaped ornaments drip from the ceiling. The goal is to make visitors feel like they’re inside an enormous bottle of bubbly.

The gothic “house,” showcasing the Vanderbilt family’s original art and furnishings, features more than 100 Christmas trees, including a 35-foot-tall Fraser fir. The front lawn shimmers with a 55-foot Norway spruce and 35 glistening evergreens.

The estate, a National Historic Landmark, includes gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. The INN ON BILTMORE ESTATE offers four-star lodging. The more casual VILLAGE HOTEL in Antler Hill Village is steps from shops, restaurants, the winery (free tastings), a creamery and more. The village glows 5:30 p.m.-midnight daily.

Live entertainment (choral groups, instrumental duos, etc.), perform throughout the house during day and night tours. The biggest draw is the CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS EVENINGS ($85-$90; $42-$45 for kids; age 9 and younger free). Reservations for specific time slots are a must.

ANTLER HILL VILLAGE hosts more entertainment on weekends as well as occasional bonfires. Sleigh bells ring on horse-drawn carriage rides ($65 per person for an hour; group rates available). Call 800.225.6398. Tours of 30 minutes in an eight-passenger “wagonette” are $35 per person. Call 800.411.3812.

Weekday holiday rates at the Biltmore start at $299, weekend nights at $449. Village Hotel stays starting at $249 and $379. Get general Biltmore information at 800.411.3812.

 4. Victorian Christmas in Thomasville | 4 hours south of Atlanta

Again and again, Thomasville residents and shopkeepers hear visitors cry, “Why haven’t I known about this place?”

Thomasville, about 30 minutes north of Tallahassee, Fla., has embraced the yuletide season like no other town its size (population: 19,000) in the state. Southern Living magazine did a 12-page spread on all things holiday in Thomasville last year.

Photo: Thomasville Visitors Center

Photo: Thomasville Visitors Center

Know that you can bask in the holiday spirit here throughout December even though Thomasville’s 34th annual Victorian Christmas is just 6-9 p.m. Dec. 13-14.

Victorian Christmas is a throwback to Thomasville’s heyday, “when warm cheer was spread to all, and evening strolls to hear carols sung made the holiday complete,” says Bonnie Hays of the Thomasville Visitors Center. “I can’t tell you how many out-of-towners keep coming back because our Christmas town warms their hearts and souls.”

A living Nativity is staged by the First Baptist Church. Horse-drawn carriage rides pass by the town’s storied 337-year-old oak, which glows with luminaries. Musicians, storytellers, stilt walkers and Victorian fire performers travel brick-paved streets. Choral groups perform, chestnuts are roasted and marshmallows toasted. This year, festivalgoers can get a keepsake photo of themselves posing with a Victorian-era hot-air balloon.

Shopping and dining possibilities include the FUZZY GOAT, a yarn and knitting boutique; SOUTHLIFE SUPPLY CO., known nationally for its leather goods, including belts and purses; THE BOOKSHELF for books, toys and cool gifts; LIAM’S for upscale New American food; and the fun, laid-back SWEET GRASS DAIRY RESTAURANT & CHEESE SHOP for first-rate artisan cheeses, platters and craft beer. Details on all at 229.228.7977.

5. Dickens of a Christmas | 4 hours northwest of Atlanta

If you’d like to dust off great-grandpa’s top hat, you’ve got a dandy chance to show it off at the 34th annual Dickens of a Christmas in the postcard-pretty town of Franklin, Tenn., just this side of Nashville. This year’s event runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 8 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 9).

Street performers in Franklin, Tenn. Photo: Heritage Foundation of Williamson County

Street performers in Franklin, Tenn. Photo: Heritage Foundation of Williamson County

The city’s Victorian architecture is an ideal backdrop for the days when local shops were where you found holiday gifts. Wander the Main Street area, and you might bump into Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and other costumed Dickensian players. They’ll interact with you, delight the kids with treats and won’t break character.

Dozens of specialty shops step up their game for what some call the largest outdoor Christmas festival in middle Tennessee. Enticements include live music and dance performances plus pockets of entertainment here and there, artisan demonstrations, 100 vendors selling their wares and plenty of food trucks. Kids can take pony and train rides and play Victorian-era games. At day’s end, everyone is invited to the town square to sing carols.

Festgoers are encouraged to wear Victorian clothes or just accessorize in some way. Along with that top hat, you may want to pull out your ugliest Christmas sweater. There’s a contest at the First Citizens National Bank’s booth.

The Dickens fest is free, but a few attractions ask a small fee. Details at 615.591.8500.


The Atlanta Botanical Garden & the Reindog Parade

For the fourth year in a row, I've had the pleasure of judging the Reindog Parade at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Dozens and dozen of dogs (and their families) line up for a chance to win the coveted "Best In Show" title. Everyone is in a thematic costume and a great time is held by all. There are five categories and five judges. My category to judge was the Best Dog Pack and my #1 pick also won Best In Show! Hey, you just can't compete with a pink poodle!! Have fun scrolling through my slideshow above.


Beards, Brews & Holiday Shopping at FRYE

Complimentary Beard and Neck Trims from Mary Todd Hairdressing Company, Wild Heaven Craft Beers, Exclusive Gifts and More

The Frye Company at Ponce City Market has once again joined forces with the talented stylists at Mary Todd Hairdressing Company. This Saturday, December 3rd from 6 to 9 p.m., gentlemen are invited to take advantage of complimentary beard and neck trims from the Mary Todd team on a first-come, first-served basis while enjoying frosty Wild Heaven craft brews and shopping Frye’s 2016 Holiday Collection. Favorite gifts for the season include an array of hats, scarves, gloves, belts and wallets exclusively for men. Visit for more information. 

WHAT: Beards, Brews and Holiday Shopping at The Frye Company 

WHEN: Saturday, December 3, 2016 / 6 to 9 p.m. 

WHERE: The Frye Company ,Ponce City Market  675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE Atlanta, GA 30308 

WITH: Mary Todd Hairdressing Company

CONNECT: Instagram and Twitter via @thefryecompany | #fryeatlanta. 

The Frye Company’s Atlanta flagship store is located in Ponce City Market at 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308. Visit The Frye Company online at   


14th Annual Toy Party & Silent Auction December 10

Atlanta's favorite holiday cocktail party, toy drive and fundraiser returns to AmericasMart 3 on Saturday, December 10, 2016. 

Following the tremendous energy and outpouring of generosity at last year's event, this Toy Party promises to be bigger and better than ever. Enjoy delicious SVEDKA cocktails, surprise guest performances and DJ set, and, of course, the season's most irresistible silent auction. Proceeds allow FTK's all-volunteer board of directors to continue our year-round mission of bridging communities and brightening the lives of Georgia's less fortunate families.

ADMISSION: $10 plus an unwrapped toy or gift card (valued at $20 or more, no cheating!) gives you access to the see-and-be-seen holiday event of the year, including drink tickets, tasty bites, and some special guests you won't want to miss. 

VIP TICKETS: To elevate your night, reserve your spot in the Toy Party VIP Experience ($250 for 1, $400 for 2!) on the balcony at AmericasMart, featuring a premium open bar and hors d’oeuvres; exclusive photo opportunities, special guests, a commemorative gift and lots more perks. Tickets are available here:

DONATIONS: If you can't attend Toy Party but still want to make spirits bright this season, you can always pitch in at
No gift is too small—or too large! 

Once again, FTK is grateful for your ongoing support!

*Guests must be at least 21 years old to attend Toy Party & Silent Auction and provide a valid picture ID.