The Nutcracker began last week, and I saw it! It was my second time seeing it. I don’t remember any of the show I saw before, at 4, but I DO remember the EXPERIENCE of The Nutcracker (admiring the giant auditorium…swinging my bitty legs in the big seat… seeing the costumed ballerinas during intermission). And I definitely remember—I will never not remember—that creepy-eyed ballerina I got for Christmas that same year. (I couldn’t even sell her at a garage sale—I was sure she would use her powers to curse me. Though I did enjoy locking myself in our house’s only bathroom for private listening parties of the Tchaikovsky tape she came with).
This Sunday I completed The Nutcracker cycle by bringing a child myself.
So did everyone else, it seems. Taking a small sample, I ascertained that the adult-to-rugrat ratio is something like 2:1 at the show. Picture a lot of malformed, gangly girls with pleated dresses, bows, and Mary Janes. If you’ve ever been to church, they look like that—cute, if you’re into that kinda thing.
Ergo, chances are, if you have tickets to this Balanchine bonanza, it’s to indulge one of the littles in your life. And chances are you’ll get bored with the same old song and dance. (I’m assuming you know the story.)
If this is the case, or even if it's not the case, I can give you some tips. Jump with me?
Look around you to the few small boys of the audience, who become hilarious after the battle between the mice and toy soldiers is over and they lose complete interest. Listen to them interrogate their mom with admittedly not-so-unreasonable Nutcracker queries (Why are they doing that? What’s happening? Where is all that snow coming from?). Watch them repurpose their seat cushions for whack-a-mom (or nearest neighbor); observe them literally, and audibly, twiddling their thumbs. If worse comes to worse, duck out to the lobby and take a hit off that sweet amazing churro scent. (Though know that it is actually the smell of $5, $5!, bags of spiced nuts.)
Where this is leading, we’ve already said, but whatever I'll say it again: the immediate appeal of a holiday show (i.e. The Nutcracker) is that it's nostalgic and safe. It’s good fodder for the kids. So where is the adult fun? Beyond the funny little-boy antics, I’ll put forth that the adult delight in the show is when things DON’T go right—not because it lets you mock the production’s mistakes, but because it gives the show some character inside such predictability. May I call these mistakes the “cracks in the Nutcracker?” Cuz I’m gonna.
Sunday’s cracks: 1) the prince crowns the protagonist Clara, and the crown immediately falls off, forcing her to covertly kick it across and off the stage during her climactic exit. 2) The angels’ dresses often don’t totally touch the ground like they should in the second act, exposing the spindly, awkward ankles of many-a young ballerina. 3) There’s one little angel who is black, but they still make her wear a curly platinum wig, making her look like a tiny old lady (aw!). If I were a jerk, I would call these things the punctum.
Before we saw the show, my 9-year-old counterpoint was pretty upset. At her house: “Why do we have to get all fancy?” In the car: “When are we going home?” In our seats at the Keller: “When is this movie gonna start?” (?)
But, at the end, it was merely, “When can we see it again? Is there a DVD?”*
Wanna see The Nutcracker (again?) too? Here's your chance.
*IMDB: Yes. And yes, it stars Macauley Kaulkin. Now the magic is a movie!
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