Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review of The Nutcracker at The House Theatre of Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Nutcracker. It was created by Jake Minton, Phillip Klapperich, Kevin O'Donnell, and Tommy Rapley based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman. It was directed and choreographed by Tommy Rapley and the music director was Matthew Mu├▒iz. I'm not going to make a full review of this show because I've reviewed it three times before. You can read my earlier reviews from 2010, 2013 and 2014. I'm going to talk about the new things I noticed that were in the show. I think this is a really great show to take your kids or just yourself to. It is a different and fun version of The Nutcracker; it is not a ballet and it has a different, sadder, and more heartfelt version of the story, but it is also hilarious and interactive and fun.

There were a lot of new additions to the cast. Abu Ansari played the father, David, and the Quite Scary Rat. I thought he was really good as the dad. He really made a connection with the actors that were playing his family. The Quite Scary Rat is kind of an outsider who is not that good at being a scary rat. And that makes him more sympathetic but he is also very very funny. Marika Mashburn played the mother, Martha, and also played the Really Scary Rat, who was the one who was trying to teach the Quite Scary rat how to behave and how to be scary. As Martha, she was a wonderful mom; she was just going through some very hard times. I liked when the entire family reunited after Clara (Jaclyn Hennell) came out of the wall, and the way the mom tried to bring everybody back together was very heartwarming and sweet. James Houton was Drosselmeyer who is also trying to bring the entire family back together, but he doesn't live with them and he is trying to show Clara that magic is real. Drosselmeyer is trying to find ways to make it seem more like Christmas and rid the house of pizza bagels and get Martha to bake sugar plum cookies. I think we are supposed to believe that he is actually magic. But that is kind of how you can feel about any special relative that you don't see a lot but brings a lot to your family; they can seem magical to you. This Drosselmeyer didn't seem scary like they sometimes are but he was still complicated. He is still full of secrets and very mysterious.

A bunch of the toys were either new or I hadn't reviewed before. Desmond Gray played Fritz, also known as the Nutcracker. He had this gorgeous connection with Clara and his song was so beautiful. He expressed it very nicely and I really enjoyed it. Chris Mathews moved a lot like an actual monkey and I really liked that. That showed you a lot about the character of the Monkey; he moved around like a very sophisticated French monkey, which is what we all want for Christmas! Phoebe (Rachel Shapiro) is the doll, who kind of dresses like a Groovy Girl. I thought she was so energetic and funny. I love her energy and my favorite moment of Phoebe is always when they are doing the "Let's Make Cookies" song and she holds the electric mixer in the air like a crazed murderer. Rachel did it justice; she made me laugh. It was also great having Andrew Lund back as Hugo. I noticed this year that when Clara was about to say something that she wasn't aware sounded inappropriate, the toys all knew what the slightly sketchy things that she said meant. They must have been left in the parents' room sometimes!

People who would like this show are people who like heartwarming family stories, sugar plum cookies, and toys that understand innuendo. I love this show so much. I have seen it since I was five or six and I am absolutely in love with it. And I notice new things every year. You should all make it a tradition; it is just a fun family activity for the holidays.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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