Nutcracker parody ready to take stage

Photo courtesy of BalletMet
The Nutcracker strikes a familiar pose in BalletMet’s performance of "Cracked Nutz," taking place Dec. 26-28.

What happens when ballet performers are allowed to put their own spin on a holiday classic? At BalletMet Columbus, the performers and with Artistic Director Gerard Charles have combined to come up with an off-beat spoof of the renowned Christmas ballet "The Nutcracker." 

The result is "Cracked Nutz," which is being compared to "The Rocky Horror Show" and "MADtv," both unusual company for a holiday ballet.

Celebrity impersonations, offbeat situational comedy, and audience participation will all be part of the show, according to BalletMet Communications Manager Jennifer Sciantarelli.

Company dancer Adam Hundt took some time to explain the production. "It’s very different," he said. "Since I’ve been at BalletMet we haven’t done anything like it."

Hundt explained some of the changes.  There will be more style and variety in the dance moves, since they aren’t sticking as closely to the ballet’s choreography as usual. Some of the characters’ names will change, as will some of their actions.

"But they’re still going to be Clara and her godfather and the Sugar Plum Fairy, all those characters that you know. They may just have a little twist on that character," Hundt said. 

Giving away a little bit of the show, Hundt said he normally plays Herr Drosselmeyer, the godfather, but now he’ll be "Coach Tresselmeyer." 

"But it’s still going to tell the story of the Nutcracker, I think, in the end."  

The audience participation leads to the comparisons with the "Rocky Horror Show," a bizarre musical that spoofs science fiction.

"It’s going to be way more interactive than any other ballet that I’ve been in," Hundt said. 

Each audience member will get what he called a "little surprise bag" that will have what they need to interact with the dancers or other audience members at the appropriate time. BalletMet will use a video projector to put up instructions for the audience.

More involvement is also possible for volunteers. "I know at one point some of the audience members can come down if they’re selected, to participate in what we’re doing," Hundt said. "We’re going to try to goad them into joining us."

But don’t worry about being forced to participate. "If they’re shy they definitely won’t have to," Hundt said.  "We don’t want to take someone so far out of their comfort zone that they don’t enjoy themselves."  He said some of the involvement would be as simple as throwing snow during a snowy scene.

The "MADtv" similarity comes through the skits, situational comedy and social commentary.

"Right now, the state of the world lends itself to being really funny, not just politically, but what’s going on in our social environment," Hundt said.

The state of things in Columbus, of course, will not be exempt from the humor.

The humor is coming from everyone. The artistic director is writing the script, Hundt said, but the performers are contributing ideas. He pointed out that this is easy parody for them, since they’ve performed "The Nutcracker" so many times. 

"If you think about it, most dancers start before they’re ten years old, and the first ballet that they ever do is the Nutcracker."  In Hundt’s case, that adds up to about 18 years of performing the show.  Parodying it, he said, is a tension release for them. 

"We’re so used to doing it and so prone to making it funny in our heads but never being able to express it…we always parody it backstage and during rehearsals, but the audience never gets to see our crazy ideas."

Sciantarelli gave a word of caution to families, though, calling the show PG-13 with some adult humor. It’s for mature audiences and she recommended leaving the little ones at home.

BalletMet is trying to give people who only come to "The Nutcracker" another show to attend, Hundt said.

"We get all kinds of people at ‘The Nutcracker’ because it’s the one tradition that everybody has for ballet…so really we’re trying to reach out to someone who may not think they like other shows that we do all year."

"This is to show them that we can be hip, we can be funny, and we can be cool and we can entertain and be sexy and all those things," he said. "Hopefully it will be something that everyone enjoys, whether it’s their first time seeing a ballet or they do it every year."

"Cracked Nutz" will be performed Dec. 26-28 in the BalletMet Performance Space at 322 Mount Vernon Ave. Tickets are $30, and college students with ID’s can purchase $10 tickets at the theater starting two hours before showtime.

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