Contemporary ballet

Axelrod’s Contemporary Ballet Theater to Present Holiday Favorite THE NUTCKER ROCKS

Axelrod’s Contemporary Ballet Theater [AXCBT] presents a new holiday tradition, “The Nutcracker ROCKS” with a Jersey Shore rock and roll twist that reimagines this holiday favorite.

Holding six performances over the weekend of December 20 at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, “The Nutcracker ROCKS” is the brainchild of AXCBT director and choreographer Gabriel Chajnik, who invited Alex Rosamilia and Alex Levine from The Gaslight Anthem, as well as their producing partner Wes Klienknecht, to reinvent Tchaikovsky’s beloved “Nutcracker” score for a new “Jersey” generation.

In the New Jersey version, written by the actor and librettist trained by Julliard Reuben Jackson, a bored Clara must endure her family’s posh Upper East Side holiday party until her eccentric uncle Drosselmeyer arrives. Portrayed by Asbury Park singer-songwriter Matteo DeBenedetti, Drosselmeyer shows up with his non-traditional (rock!) music, magical toys and a special gift for Clara – a Nutcracker holding an electric guitar.

Drosselmeyer then transports Clara to a magical land – the Jersey Shore – where “candy country” unfolds at none other than Van Holten’s Sweet Shop on the seaside boardwalk. For youngsters (and other candy lovers chocolate) who come to the show, Van Holten’s Sweet Shop has made a special candy in honor of the show, which will be sold in the lobby during the performances.

“‘The Nutcracker ROCKS’ is an exciting original collaboration from Jersey Shore talent,” says Chajnik. Tchaikovsky’s original score was recorded by the MidAtlantic Symphony Orchestra in the Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove under the direction of Maestro Jason Tramm while the underlying rock element was composed and arranged by X Squared Productions, consisting of Rosamilia, Levine and Klienknecht whose popular rock band, The Gaslight Anthem hail from New Brunswick.

“The Jersey Shore is known the world over for its rock and roll, and now, with the help of these local collaborators, we’ve created a one-of-a-kind ‘Nutcracker’ that will become a new backyard staple. . State,” Chajnik continues. “Lincoln Center may have ‘The Nutcracker,’ but the Jersey Shore now has ‘The Nutcracker ROCKS.’

Other Jersey Shore contributors include associate choreographers Dylan Pearce of Point Pleasant, choreographer; Jolene Baldini, former dancer with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and Melanie Kramer, director of FPAC Dance. Pearce, whose credits include assistant choreographer for the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” choreographed the thrilling battle scene featuring more than 60 students, including dancers from Howell High School. Other collaborators include costume designer Jose Solis and set designer Fred Sorrentino.

“The Nutcracker ROCKS” can be seen December 20-22 at Axelrod PAC, located in the Deal Park section of Ocean Township. Tickets can be purchased at and range from $48 to $54 with special discounts for seniors and students. Group rates are available for groups of ten or more. The theater, located at 100 Grant Avenue in Deal Park, NJ, is handicapped accessible and offers ample free parking on site.

For more information on “Nutcracker ROCKS”, visit