It's hard to believe that "The Nutcracker" ballet was not a hit from the get-go. Maybe it's because the premiere came during a double-bill performance that included Tchaikovsky's lyric opera Iolanta.
Nutcracker is the dreamy story of a girl who rescues a nutcracker prince during a battle with the Mouse King and his minions. It was cooked up in a novella called "Nutcracker and Mouse King," by E.T.A. Hoffman in the 19th century.
Tchaikovsky wrote the music for the ballet and apparently bristled against the tight dictates for the composition.