Carnival of the Animals

Choreography by: Christopher Wheeldon

Music by: Camille Saint-Saëns

With delightful narration written by John Lithgow, Carnival of the Animals imagines a schoolboy’s night in the Museum of Natural History and the outlandish museum residents who come to life as versions of his teachers, classmates, and family members. 

Created for New York City Ballet in 2003, Christopher Wheeldon’s Carnival of the Animals is set to Camille Saint-Saëns humorous musical suite of 14 movements that the composer created for a private performance in 1886. Wheeldon’s ballet features a cast of nearly 50 dancers and tells the story of a young boy, Oliver Pendleton Percy the Third, who falls asleep in New York’s American Museum of Natural History, and dreams that the people in his life — family members, teachers, classmates — have all been transformed into animals. The production features a text written by the award-winning actor John Lithgow, who performed the narration in the original NYCB production. For the 2013 revival of Carnival of the Animals, the narration was performed by the stage and screen actor Jack Noseworthy.



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The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux). Additional musical arrangements by Andrea Quinn; reduction for four-hand piano by Mack Schlefer.

Narration written by John Lithgow
May 14, 2003, New York City Ballet, New York State Theater
Original Cast
John Lithgow+, P.J. Verhoest*, Charles Askegard, Kyra Nichols, James Fayette, Yvonne Borree, Rachel Rutherford, Pascale van Kipnis, Arch Higgins, Christine Redpath (+Guest Artist, *Student, School of American Ballet)

36 Min
Costumes by
Jon Morrell, supervised by Holly Hynes
Set by
Jon Morrell, supervised by Penny Jacobus
Lighting by
Natasha Katz