The Nutcracker, now with more cringing.

Couple weeks ago, Mr. Adult Beginner’s weirdly long-lost friend who turns out to be in Kansas is taking her girls to see the Nutcracker.
But she’s not excited about it.
Like, really not excited.
Like, at all.
And I’m all, “Wha? But The Nutcracker is awesome!!!!!!!!”
And he’s all, “Apparently this one is set in Kansas and is Kansas themed.”
And I’m all, “Omg that sounds Amazing!!! I totally want to see that!!!!”
Visions dancing in my head, like:
The Land of Sweets is a corn maze and the waltz of the flowers is costumed in gorgeous cornflower blue!
(side note here: Mr. Adult Beginner and I grew corn in our backyard this summer and I don’t remember seeing any flowers, cornflower blue or otherwise. That blue crayon is a lie)
Or, like, maybe the ballet has a Potluck Ho-down theme! And the Sugar Plum Fairy is a potato and cream-of-mushroom-soup Hot Dish with those crispy French-fried onion things on top!
Or a State Fair theme and Snow is changed to Sno-Cones! The blue flavor!!! Raspberry or whatever it is!!!
Or it’s Little House on the Prairie themed!
I am totally thrilled with all these awesome possibilities!
And then Mr. Adult Beginner is like, (checking with friend) “Uh, no, none of those, she says it’s set in the Civil War.”
And, Gentle Reader, my jaw totally drops.
I am horrified.
I mean, ok, maybe this is because The Adult Beginner was raised in the south, and, like, I remember the moment, I was ten maybe, when I realized that my state -which I loved completely, childishly, and unreservedly- was located in The South, the one I’d read about, the Bad one.
It was a huge shock and shame, realizing Oh Crap, that wasn’t some other place, that was here, this place that I love, we were the baddies.
So maybe it’s not like this for everybody? But I feel Deeply Uncomfortable with the idea of sprinkling a little Civil War into the Nutcracker for the purpose of adding a dash of local flavor.
In my mind I see a producer pitching the idea with, “It’s the Civil War but very tasteful and family friendly! Great for the holidays!” while I’m slow-motion running and calling out noooooooooooo why would you do that?????? noooooooooooooooo.
Or maybe the pitch is, “Audiences have become bored with the traditional Nutcracker. Let’s add slavery!”
noooooooooooo don’t add anything noooooooooo
I mean why go there?
My hot dish idea is way better.
I was trying to think of what the cringe-inducing California equivalent would be and had a sudden vision of William Mulholland as Drosselmyer, declaring, “There it is. Take it.” while thrusting a nutcracker into the arms of a bewildered Clara, who then has a magical journey through the impoverished Owens River Valley while the St. Francis Dam groans ominously from the wings.
Omg this is the worst idea I’ve ever had.
I’m gonna go eat a cookie, peace out Gentle Reader.


About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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30 Responses to The Nutcracker, now with more cringing.

  1. jenerators says:

    happy xmas/holidays and have you seen and/or read about the Graeme Murphy Nutcracker: The Story of Clara? It’s an Australian history-of-ballet and the world version. Very nice version, I think, though I may be biased.

    • Would love to see this version!

    • That looks really neat. I just read a review from Australian Stage describing the second act as Clara’s “fever induced flashbacks to a sweltering Christmas Eve”, which made me wonder about Christmas decorations in Australia:
      I mean, it’s ridiculous enough that no child in Southern California will every wake up to (natural) snow on their front yard, and yet every front yard has an inflatable snowman and here I am with big shiny snowflake decorations hanging in the windows. The windows that looked out on a beautiful sunny 80degree Christmas.
      So what do people do in a country where Christmas actually is a summer holiday? Do you have twice daily fake snowfall at the outdoor shopping mall like we do in Los Angeles? Or do you decorate in a way that acknowledges reality?

      • jenerators says:

        santa goes surfing here… and there’s often discussion on why people insist on having a roast dinner for Xmas instead of cold cuts. There is some printed snow stuck on windows but mostly we don’t think in terms of snow and xmas except to say the idea comes from the northern hemisphere. (I did read one comment that it wouldn’t be carols by candlelight without rain at the end, but that might just be a Melbourne comment, where if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.)

  2. Janet says:

    I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    A Nutcracker set in the Civil War could be interesting. I would love to know the details. Are the soldiers the Confederates and Union instead of the Nutcracker and the Rat King, which are used in San Francisco?
    Have a good Holiday with your family.

  3. For my own slice of California it would be gold rush themed! Only not happy miners and darling Clementine, but oppression of the natives and exploitation of Chinese immigrants and OH BOY hydraulic mining that washes the entire land of sweets downriver at the end. FUN TIMES.

    • Janet says:

      At the end, there would need to be a mention of the mercury contamination of the SF Bay that continued for years. I think I just heard a radio update on this subject last week.

        • Janet says:

          Yes, a real life bummer. Between the quicksilver (mercury) mine in San Jose, and the massive amount of mercury used in the gold mines (placer, hard rock, and hydraulic) there are large areas of mercury contamination throughout “Gold Country” as well as the San Francisco Bay. This is why there are warnings to not eat fish (etc) caught in the bay or the watershed that drains into it from the Sierras. A study published in October 2013 estimates that the mercury contamination will last 10,000 years, because periodic floods loosen mercury contaminated sediments and wash them downstream.

  4. koolchicken says:

    I’m not too sure what to say about a Civil War themed Nutcracker, seems slightly horrifying.

    On a happier note there is such thing as a cornflower. They are flowers and don’t actually have anything to do with corn (so I don’t know why their named that). But they’re a beautiful blue with a purplish center. So the crayon doesn’t lie, but it doesn’t really do the real deal justice either. :)

    • Paulina says:

      Germans, who migrated to the U.S., might be guilty of a mistranslation here. In German these flowers are called “Kornblumen”. In Germany and other European countries, these flowers often grow next to wheat, rye or oats. Now, in German “Korn” is a general term for any kind of grain or cereal, except maize (zea mays), while in some English speaking countries “corn” seems to be a synonym of “maize”. So, I guess someone mixed up “Korn” and “corn”.

  5. Leah says:

    The Tucson Regional Ballet in Arizona does a southwest themed Nutcracker that’s supposed to be quite charming. Chiles and cacti aren’t as potentially bloody as the Civil War though…

    • See, that sounds great.
      I also read about a production by the Nashville Ballet in which Clara visits the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition of 1897. Seems like a great way to establish a local historical connection while also giving a reason for Clara to dream about all the different nationalities that appear in Act II.

  6. Dancescribe says:

    I live in the South. And our artistic director, who is from New York, decided to stage this year’s Nutcracker around the town’s history (with antebellum dresses in the party scene). Granted, the town wasn’t typical of the South. But it’s interesting to not that not only was slavery not included, the two lead male dancers (Sugar Plum cavalier and lead Russian) were African-American.

    And we had one interracial couple in the party scene, which would have caused quite a scandal in this town in 1850!

  7. Your hot dish idea rocks! :) I thing the civil war theme is a risky one. A lot of people just wouldn’t want to pay to go out and be reminded of it. Merry Christmas to you and yours. :)

  8. guyenne says:

    The Civil War theme strikes me as especially awful for Kansas, where according to my memory, things started sooner (maybe 5-10years) and were much nastier and more polarized because of that. Yep, Wikipedia agrees and reminds me that it even got it’s own tag “Bleeding Kansas”

  9. From San Francisco’s Dance Brigade:

    “In Krissy Keefer’s ‘Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie,’ Clara is an undocumented worker who works for the wealthiest family in town, the McGreeds. Our story opens just as the biggest bash of the year is beginning – the McGreed’s holiday party. To the McGreeds’ dismay, their wayward gay son, a pink Mohawk-sporting, Che-shirt wearing Drosselmeyer, crashes the party and gives Clara a freedom-fighting Nutcracker doll from South Africa. Together Clara and the Nutcracker go on a journey of self-discovery and realization where they run into a homeless Sugar Plum Fairy, an Angel of Resistance, and a Snow Queen mourning the melting of the Ice Caps. Where else would you find aerial dance, Spy Mice and a magical Under Water World? Why only at the Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie!!

    The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie uses Taiko, Tap, Modern, Trapeze, Belly Dance, Salsa, Ballet, Bungee, Salsa and Hip Hop to tell its story and address contemporary concerns such as global warming and consumerism with humor and artistry.”

  10. Terez Mertes says:

    You crack me up. Have I said this too many times before? You and your blog rock. ; )

    And I loved everyone’s comments here, too. Here I was thinking I was burnt out on Nutcracker and had seen/read it all. Silly me. I’d yet to visit Adult Beginner in December.

    Have I said how much you rock? Oh. Yeah. I see it now. A few lines above. Never mind.

  11. lookchoozact says:

    Helgi Tommason’s SF Ballet’s Nutcracker is set in the San Francisco Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915. It works fine. There is a big deal when the very first electric lights are on the enormous Christmas tree. Additionally there was a FABULOUS bit of footage from the actual Pan Pacific photos done as a documentary. If you ever come across it it is worth the time. Of course, I love our version of Nut, but I also really enjoyed The Story of Clara when it was on Ovation TV in 2012. It has a lovely historical overview of Russian ballet, and, I love this part, the party scene is a bunch of older ex-pat Russians dancing in the living room. Sounds weird, but it succeeds. Not too sure about the Gone with the Wind version, but that’s theater for you!

    • jenerators says:

      The bit I love about the Story of Clara version (apart from the fact that it is Australian ballet history!) is the way they have worked in the all the various countries’ dances – as Clara travels the world (by boat, in those days) she visits, Egypt, China, France (I think) and various other places. I think all those divertissements in the original version are just that – divertissements that don’t add to the story. In this version, they do!

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