Why, you ask? Well, aside from this ballet's status as a holiday tradition, and the fact that it is being staged by the estimable Kate Walker, proprietor of the Sussex Dance Academy and a truly fine teacher, and the fact that it features some of the most talented and dedicated youngsters Sussex County has to offer, this production of the Nutcracker will include the entirety of the Delaware branch of the Mahaffie family on stage at the very same time!
Actually, that convergence of Mahaffie's has happened before, in last year's Nutcracker. This year, however, both of our daughters will dance in featured roles and I have moved up from the role of stout-man-standing-stage-right-in-party-scene. The Lovely Karen will reprise her role of lovely-tall-woman-in-green-dress which drew such rave reviews (from me, anyway) last year.
Both of our girls are part of the corps de ballet and will have featured roles. Christina will be featured in the roles of the Columbine Doll, Lead Soldier, and a Candy Cane. Colleen will be featured in the role of Dream Fairy, and plays a key part in the opening party scene.
This year, I have taken on the role of Herr Drosselmeyer, the mysterious party guest who delights the children with magic toys and presents young Clara with what turns out to be a magic nutcracker doll.
This may be a ballet, but I won't be dancing this part. Drosselmeyer is an acted role and its main function is to set up the story and help the young folks shine in their dancing roles. I plan to play Drosselmeyer as a kindly magician, with the barest hint of Groucho Marx thrown-in. I'll have great fun, but we'll keep the focus on the dancers.
It really is a remarkable group of kids. They range in age from about first-grade to high school seniors. They are the daughters and sons of local teachers and doctors, police and builders, doctors and judges, government workers and clergy, and all walks of life. Many of these kids have been dancing alongside my daughters for many years now. We've watched them grow and develop a variety of talents. I'm proud to know them.
The New York Times featured a story on The Nutcracker recently. It focused on the fact that there are countless Nutcracker productions in every city and town at this time of year. The story quotes a 1972 British reviewer who wrote "Well, we are one more Nutcracker nearer death." The Times counters, though, that even in its ubiquity, The Nutcracker is an important part of the Christmas experience.
One more Nutcracker nearer death, though? No classic ballet is less death-haunted than The Nutcracker (though tucked into its narrative is a little mouse-scale revenge tragedy). The danger of watching too many Nutcrackers — as opposed to too many Swan Lakes or Romeo and Juliets — is that they may bring you sooner not to death but to second childhood.I think that captures the function of this ballet, even for those who are not ballet-o-philes: it is an annual expression of wonder and joy and light. And whether you celebrate a pagan winter solstice, or a Jewish Festival of Lights, or Kwanzaa, or Christmas, or something in-between, this season is all about light, and lightness, and joy.
So call (302) 855-9282 and get tickets to see the charming and talented Colleen and Christina, the lovely Karen, and me on stage at the Little Theatre at Cape Henlopen High School, in Lewes, on December 1 or December 2.