The Santa Barbara Nutcracker History

SBFB’s  Nutcracker at the Arlington is a true Santa Barbara holiday tradition for over four decades


Our Audience:


Over 3200 audience members  join us during the holiday season,  always the second weekend in December, to experience Nutcracker at the Arlington. Year after year, we celebrate the wonder and wide-eyed excitement of families strolling through the lobby doors, with anticipation of watching Herr Drosselmeyer’s dolls come to life and the magical Christmas Tree growing up beyond the stage before them.  Young children with ‘Nutcracker’ or ‘Clara’ in hand, are escorted down the aisle by a parent or grandparent who also grew up with this production, eager to find their seats as the live orchestra warms their instruments and the music begins.  As they gaze in awe at the historic Arlington Theatre, their imaginations drift to the ‘Kingdom of Sweets’ and a true holiday tradition unfolds once more.

This audience reflects  a multigenerational, multicultural mix that beautifully represents our community.  We pull from the ARTS world at many levels, those who love the opportunity to hear Tchaikovsky’s brilliant music played as intended by a live, full symphony orchestra to those who are mesmerized by the grace of a classic ballet. Being one of the largest holiday productions on the Central Coast, and celebrating a rich long history of consecutive runs,  Nutcracker at the Arlington  is well known and attended. This production is truly Santa Barbara’s Nutcracker.

Our Conductors and Symphony Orchestra Musicians:


Ronald Ondrejka, Frank Collura and Varujan Kojian all conducted The Nutcracker during their respective tenures as Musical Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony.  But none has taken the podium as often as Elise Unruh.  Ms Unruh first conducted the production in 1987 at Maestro Kojian’s invitation.  She was asked again in 1993 and has conducted every year since then. A special acknowledgment was given to Elise Unruh on her 20th consecutive year conducting our community’s cherished  Nutcracker at the Arlington Symphony Orchestra during the 2012 production.

All of our fine musicians either are or have been members of our illustrious Santa Barbara Symphony or have performed with them many times in the past.  Jack Ullom,  Jeanne Ullom , Gloria Autry, Jeanne Shumway, Francine Jacobs, Gladys Secunda and Sara Banta have each performed in more than 30 productions of our Nutcracker at the Arlington.  Paul Bambach and Alita Rhodes  have been with us for over 20 years,  with Steve Gross, Jon Lewis and Andrew Malloy having  played for many years in the past, are with us again this year.  Our current Concertmaster, Miran Kojian,  has been with us over 25 years! Contractor  Jeanne Ullom  has gathered this musical family of friends together for over 30 years.

Our Cast:


Santa Barbara Festival Ballet  celebrated a mile-stone during our 2012 performance , having cast over 1000 students of the conservatory since 1975,  to perform in our Nutcracker at the Arlington!  The cast is often comprised of Nationally and Internationally recognized Guest Artists, SBFB company dancers and students of the conservatory, SBFB Alumni, UCSB Department of Dance students, the UCSB Dance Company, and members of our community.

Thank You For Being With Us, And A Very Happy Holidays To All!

Cindy Bates Elster, Past President