Friday, November 22, 2013

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. The book was written by Jake Minton and Phillip Klapperich and it was based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman. The music was by Kevin O'Donnell and the lyrics were by Jake Minton. I have already reviewed The Nutcracker at The House but this had different actors and they changed some of the set pieces. I think I have a different idea of the play instead of how I saw it the last time I had seen it and reviewed it. I still like it, I just have a different way of thinking about the story and magic because when I was a little kid I wanted to think that when something was sad everything would be better. And now I think that bad things just happen. There are a lot of parts in the play that are emotional and scary. There are parts that are fun and happy, but there are also parts that are suspenseful and sad. I think that it won't be as emotional for people if they are under nine years old because at nine you are starting to understand things you didn't understand before.

The first song was sung by Clara (Paige Collins) about how she wanted Christmas to come because they weren't having a Christmas party that year. They weren't having a Christmas party because Fritz (Kevin Stangler) had died and it would never be the same without him. So they weren't really thinking about Christmas coming. I thought that Paige did a great job singing this song. I thought she had the perfect voice for this song. She's not a kid, and she doesn't have a kid's voice, but she is great at playing kids as well as adults. She actually acts like a kid does, not like she's pretending that she is a kid. She's not like, "Hi! I'm a cute little kid! Whee!" Kids don't actually not understand anything. They understand if things are right and if things are wrong; they understand what is real and what is not. She shows that kids are smart and that kids shouldn't be underestimated.

There was a song called "Let's Bake Cookies" and Phoebe (Christine Mayland Perkins), who was Clara's doll, said, "Let's bake cookies!" and Monkey (Johnny Arena), said, "Not right now, Phoebe," but then Fritz, said, "Phoebe, you're a genius!" and then Phoebe said, "Everybody is good at something!" and flipped her yarn hair. I thought that that was really funny because it looks funny for a doll to flip her yarn hair. Like I said in my first review, she has a string which makes her talk, so she only has like 7 phrases she can say, but in all the places that she talks they actually make sense. I think it would have been nice if there had been more girl dolls because then there would have been more girls and then there would be 4 girls and 4 boys in the cast. I'm not saying I didn't like the person who played Hugo (Jason Grimm), but I think it would have been cool if it was a girl. I really liked how Hugo would think of his idea and his light bulb would light up and it would actually seem like he was thinking about something. It would be cool if it was a girl because nerdy girls are cool--because I am cool.

There was this part where Clara and the dolls go and find a Christmas tree to make Christmas happen. I thought that the part where the monkey helped up the girl rat (Brenda Barrie) was really funny because then they started doing this sort-of-romantic dance. It was funny because they were just in the middle of chasing and then she fell down. And it is kind of weird to see a stuffed French monkey and a talking British rat fall in love. When the boy rat (Benjamin Sprunger) got stabbed there was this sound effect that sounded like a sword going into someone's skin but then being kind of twizzled around in there. It is not a very pleasant sound to hear but you think that the rat is dead, and that would be good, but it is such a gut-wrenching sound that you don't feel happy that the rat might have been dead.

In the first scene of the second act, the rats (Barrie, Sprunger, and Karl Potthoff) came out and sang a song about the rat king and how he was coming and how everybody should have stayed home and not come to the play because he would come and get them. They didn't just say the rat king is coming; they put to mind that they were in a play and I liked that. I liked this scene because it was scary but it was also funny because they were making jokes while they were singing it. There isn't any scary stuff without touches of funny, but there is sad stuff without funny stuff. Like when Fritz dies at the beginning.

I really liked the puppets. I thought they were really cool and awesome because some of them were scary and some of them were funny. The scary ones were the rats. They were scary because they were giant and they swarmed around and their eyes glowed red. The other one is a teddy bear called Teddy (Sprunger). It was Fritz's teddy bear which had been lost in the snow. The bear was a funny thing because he had a lot of funny lines and he had a cowboy hat. It was cool because you could see the person doing the puppet behind it but he also did the voice. I thought that was a good idea because it wouldn't be the same if it was just someone in a bear costume. Somebody in a bear costume wouldn't be able to be as funny because his speaking would be muffled. I think the puppet also looks more like a toy than a person could have.

I saw it first when I was six and now I am nine, so I have a different opinion about magic and how magic is not real. It changes my take on the story because I think about sadness and grief differently. When I first saw the burying of the nutcracker, I thought, "I don't want to talk about that. It is too sad." So I said that the nutcracker was going to come back to life again. Because he did it once he could do it again. But now I know that is not going to happen because they bury him. The story is now to me is about Clara really knowing that her brother is dead. It is important because it is just not true that Fritz is still alive and you shouldn't just lie to yourself because it is bad for you. At the end, after they bury the nutcracker, they are happy still because the tree starts growing, and that is bittersweet. Before I was like, "Oh the tree is growing up. Cool!" But this time I was like, "Whoa. That's emotional." I think that this play is amazing because you can find different ways to experience the play depending on how old you are and how your brain develops.

People who would like this show are people who like robots with light bulbs, Christmas, and romance between monkeys and rats. People should go see this show because it is funny and also very bittersweet and very positive about Christmas. If you are a rat, this show would be poison to you. If you are not a rat, it would be joy to you!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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