Our Thanksgiving was quite active, having 25 guests to our house for turkey and all the fixins’, and then battling a family stomach virus and mice in the basement (yet again). The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I took my young daughter on a “date” to see The Nutcracker, along with Campmaster Steve Blackston and his young daughter. (And yes, the Campmaster is versatile enough to camp one weekend and take in some culture another weekend. He’s versatile, that Campmaster.)
The Nutcracker is one of those things that I have cleverly managed to avoid for my entire life. Having a root canal, operating a stick shift car, and seeing The Nutcracker. Yep. These things have never been associated with David Allen. But I suppose that March 25, 2010, the day of my daughter’s birth, was the start of the countdown to that fateful day when I would actually have to sit down and watch the darn thing. Oh well, 42 years Nutcracker-free is much better than most. I have a friend with three daughters who are all actively involved in The Nutcracker every year and start practicing in………….August. Nutcracker, indeed.
Anyhoo, we were off to the play on Saturday. I tried to research the plot just to get some hint of what I was in for, but no one seemed to know what the play was about. There wasn’t even a Cliffs Notes version. So, the best I could tell, this is what happened (and no nasty letters from fine arts patrons, please):
The story opens with Mr. and Mrs. Butterworth and their daughter, Clara, hosting a Christmas party. Soon, cool uncle (doesn’t every family have one?) Hans Strudel arrives on the scene and livens up the party with gift giving. (Uncle Hans also bears a striking resemblance to Campmaster Steve Blackston. Did you know that the Campmaster also portrays Jesus at his church’s Easter play? Did I mention that he was versatile?) Well, Uncle Hans must have also spiked the egg nog while he was there, because young Clara begins to have funky dreams about living toys and candies and grown men dancing in tights. There is a strange sensation, sitting in the audience, as you doze and dream, and then wake up with a start to a dream occurring on stage.
Soon, we saw large dancing rodents all over the stage. Gosh, this could be my basement any given night. The rodents engaged in a furious battle with toy soldiers and are finally defeated by the soldiers’ cannon (I took notes on that part). As Act I drew to a close, the battle curiously gave way to a placid scene near a frozen lake with many ballerinas prancing on their tiptoes (you do not want to engage in toe wrestling with a ballerina). My daughter seemed to really get into this part, raising her hands and tip-toeing around, but then I realized that she was just trying to tell me that she had to go wee-wee.
My daughter is three, that awkward bathroom age when I don’t feel comfortable with her going by herself into the women’s bathroom, and I would get tossed in jail for going myself into the women’s bathroom. So, we still take our chances with the men’s bathroom and me living in fear that she will make comments about the men gathered in the bathroom. Surprisingly, there were no men in the bathroom. I expected a bunch of men holed up in there checking out sports scores during the play, but alas, it was not so. Who says men haven’t come a long way in this world?
Act II was much improved, mainly involving a celebration of sweets – and who doesn’t want to celebrate sweets? Young Clara sits on a throne and is presented with a delightful choice of cookies and candies from other countries. Apparently, Clara has not read Trim Healthy Mama or she would have known that none of these sweets qualify as “S” foods or “E” foods. She should have jumped off that throne and made herself a spinach omelette, but I digress. The first country to represent sweets was Spain, with their famed cookie, the macaroona. Next came the Arabs, known worldwide for their Atomic Fire Balls. Thirdly , came the Chinese with, what else?, their famed fortune cookies (Fortune: If you think you’re drowsy now, wait until Act III). Finally , came the most famous part of The Nutcracker – the arrival of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her boyfriend, the Cavalier. The audience was very impressed with the artistic talent of the Sugar Plum Fairy and was dumbstruck by the vivid display of the Cavalier’s well endowed………………………dancing skills. In what can only be described as Dueling Banjos, ballet style, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier prance around the stage in a dancing contest every bit as intense as the mouse / soldier altercation in Act I. I am told that the name of their dance was “Pas De Deux”, which I could have sworn was the name of a popular song in the early 80s. (Oh wait, that was “Pass the Dutchie” from Musical Youth.) Watching the Cavalier dance one more time reminded me to get out in the yard and throw the ol’ football around with my son way more.
And then the curtain fell and the audience cheered. I have to admit that the Griffin Ballet Theatre gave a wonderful performance of The Nutcracker. I still don’t understand what the play was all about, but when I saw my daughter grinning from ear to ear, I knew what the day had been all about.