Adapted from “The Nutcracker and the Mouse”
by E.T. A. Hoffman
Directed by Tommy Rapley
Original music by Kevin O’Donnell
Produced by the House Theatre of Chicago
At Chopin Theatre, Chicago
Children love The House Theatre of Chicago’s re-imagined The Nutcracker
This isn’t the ballet with Tchaikovsky’s music, rather a winning fantastical deconstruction of the classic Christmas ballet. There is plenty of original pop music and wonderful underscoring music from Kevin O’Donnell and his five piece orchestra. The show is a new adaptation that does contain movement but it is not a ballet, rather a dark story where dolls and puppets come to life to slay the rat king with several smart songs. Jake Minton & Phillip C. Klapperich have created an engrossing re-thought holiday story rich in fun and mystery.
Directory Tommy Rapley has wisely reconfigured the Chopin Theatre’s main stage into an in-the-round setting that brings the charm and comedy of the work right into each person’s face. The children quickly get into the spirit of the work.
Using The House’s previous storytelling techniques—puppets, unique movements, song and dance with magic to tell morality tales where the good person battles the evil ones here through the imagination of a little girl, Clara (Carla Kessler), struggling to make sense of the death of her older brother in a far-off war. I was engaged and thrilled with this tender story filled with mystery and wonder.
This Nutcracker is fine family fare for children ten and over. The clever puppets that come alive, lead by The Nutcracker (Chance Bone), helps Clara deal with the rats who seem to come out of the cracks in the walls and threaten the little girl. Hugo (Joey Steakley), Monkey (Michael E. Smith) and Phoebe (Trista Smith) are the puppet army assembled to fight Blake Montgomery’s Rat King. Great Uncle Drosselmeyer (also played by Blake Montgomery) communicates Clara’s fantasy with imaginative puppets despite protests from Clara’s parents, Martha (Carolyn Defrin) and David (Jake Minton).
There is humor with tuneful and melodic score with cute songs and action galore in this fast-paced tale. The story centers on Clara’s journey to save her family from the Rat King before Christmas. Carla Kessler leads a winning cast that featured honest work from Blake Montgomery, Jake Minton, Carolyn Defrin and Chance Bone. For a kid and adult friendly holiday treat, get to Chopin Theatre to have some fun cheering for Carla and her friends to extinguish the Rat King so everyone can enjoy Christmas. The Nutcracker demonstrates the best attributes of The House Theatre of Chicago’s original formula – heart, whimsy, charm, rich humor, and clear storytelling utilizing puppets, music, terrific lighting and honest humor. This is a refreshing holiday treat!
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