So I took my daughter to the see The Nutcracker this past weekend. I thought it would be a nice mother/daughter bonding activity and with her turning five, the time was right. My daughter believes that every outing requires a princess dress, so she was in her finest Snow White attire. I stuck to jeans and a sweater, but with a tiara to get into the spirit of the occasion.
The premise of the play is simple; a little girl falls asleep and dreams about her newest Christmas gift. But what kind of screwed up, psychedelic, Codeine-induced dream is this girl having?
Act I is as follows: there is a party, a guest arrives, does some magic, and presents the little girl of the house with a wooden nutcracker dressed as a soldier. In the production we saw, Drosselmeyer (the magician/funny uncle) brought three full-sized creatures to life to show off his mad magical skills, one of which was a gorilla. The gorilla then danced and fought a toy soldier over a marionette. This magical demonstration receives polite applause from those on stage. Um, are you people high? Is the eggnog spiked? Is there more than incense in the air? The toys just performed a pas de deux! Does this seem like a normal party trick?
Well, here is where things get even stranger. Clara falls asleep (or does she?) and finds herself surrounded by mice, which grow into ROUS’s for no apparent reason and, led by a Mouse King, attack. The Nutcracker comes to life and a battle ensues. Clara wounds the Mouse King with a shoe, the Nutcracker finishes him off with a knife, and the wooden solider magically turns into a prince. Again, in our production, things took a turn for the surreal as all the small soldiers ran back and forth across the stage waving teeny tiny bayonets. Warfare never looked so fun. Then at the end of the battle, this huge hunk of a man showing his gluteus maximus to maximum effect arrives to whisk Clara off to the land of Sugar Plum Fairies. Is that even legal?
Act II is where things really go off the rails. Basically, Clara sits on her fanny while various creatures and people dance for her. You try explaining what is happening during this act to a child. I dare you. Mine couldn’t get past the idea of a “Plumber Fairy.” I mean, the cast of characters for this act include the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Marzipan, and the Lamb corps, the Polichinelles, the Russians, and the Waltz of the Flowers. What on God’s great green and abundant earth is a Polichinelle? (Please don’t tell me. I looked it up. It still doesn’t make any sense.) During this act, every type of ethic stereotype is brought out, plus the added incongruity of women dancing with farm animals. (Our little dancing lambs were cute as pie and absolutely stole the show from the principal dancers who probably dream of serving them with a mint sauce and a nice Chianti.) Of course, my child called these the Mary Fairies and liked them best of all. There is dancing, there is more dancing, there is absolutely no plot, more dancing occurs, and then Clara wakes up.
Seriously, what the hell is this play about? Why is this poor child dreaming of vengeful rodents, men with Ken doll genitalia, and exotic dancers? Does this seem normal to you? If I had a dream like that, I’d be scared witless. If my child told me she had a dream like that, I’d take her to therapy. Upon leaving, my daughter asked to buy a Nutcracker for her brother. My guess? She wants to make sure the house is defended, but doesn’t want the damn thing to come to life in her room.