More Writing and Less Watching

It’s been a while.

More writing than watching, which means I’m working on an essay. Right now I’m looking at Christoper Wheeldon’s version of The Nutcracker (2017). What is most interesting about his version is not the choreography, but the new story written by Brian Selzinz. Can a Nutcracker be made anew?

Selzinz’s story is set during the 1893 World’s Fair Columbian Exposition in Chicago on Christmas Eve, this Nutcracker casts Marie as a fatherless immigrant longing to catch a glimpse of the exposition’s splendors and delights. The fair’s workers come together for a simple but lively Christmas party and are visited not by an uncle named Drosselmeyer, but by The Great Impresario (designer of the fair). The nutcracker doll, given to Marie by The Great Impresario, turns into a Prince (named Peter) to fight the rats that kidnapped Marie’s brother Franz. Marie, Franz, and The Great Impresario then travel on a gondola and meet the Queen of the Fair (Marie imagines her mother here) who grants them entrance to the Dream Fair. Like the Chicago 1893 World’s Fair Columbian Exposition, this Dream Fair has different country pavilions – Chinese, Spanish, Arabian, Italy, and even Buffalo Bill’s Wild Wild West Show (it replaces Russia). After watching The Great Impresario and Queen of the Fair dance a romantic pas de deux, Marie awakes from her dream back at home with her mother and brother on Christmas morning. The Great Impresario comes back. Marie’s mother seems to blush as she invites him to stay.

Selzinz describes the ballet as “Marie’s dream journey” and hopes that it “will illuminate what is special about all holiday stories…the value of love, the need for hope, and the comfort of family.” It’s a compelling message, yet told through a reference that most of us already know – – The Nutcracker ballet.

So, can a Nutcracker ever be new? I’m not so sure.

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