Monday, December 18, 2006

This Date in History...and Just Yesterday

The original cast from 1892

On this day in 1892, the ballet "The Nutcracker" premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia. And just yesterday, I went to a local production with Daughter #2.

Small Town has a dance studio owned and operated by the mother of Daughter #2's good friend who played Clara. We also have a little theater called, rightly enough, The Little Theater, where The Nutcracker has been performed by the students of the dance studio for years. The ballet had to relocated because The Little Theater came up with their own Christmas production of something or other. So, The Nutcracker was performed in the auditorium of the local branch of Kent State University. We Small Town folks are a resourceful bunch.

While I love the quaintness of The Little Theater, the auditorium at Kent was cozy enough to provide a good Small Town experience. Here was the setting: Daughter #2 bought tickets for the front row in a section with only four seats. We were just three or four feet from the stage, and of course, seated next to me was a five-year-old girl whose mother sat two rows behind--the woman had too many people in her party to all sit together. Anyway, this little girl had been prepared for the ballet and knew all the melodies. Knowing all the melodies, she sang them...all. At first, I thought it would be an extremely miserable experience, and I wanted to wring her cute little neck, even with her blond ringlets and red plaid and black velvet dress that made her look like a China doll. But her voice was so sweet and clear, and she sang so quietly, I had to love her for it. And her little bit of music in my ear only added to the total experience.

Not so sweet and clear was the balling up of phlegm from the impatient old man who sat behind us. He was some dancer's grandfather and was there out of obligation. And he had phlegm. Daughter #2 kept wiping the back of her head with her hand, thinking the guy had surely spewed something out of his grisly throat. Very nice. I'll take the singing cherub kid with the handful of fruit chews and kicky little brother.

All in all, it was one of the best performances this dance troop has ever performed. Each of the featured dancers was right on their mark, shoulders back, smiles on their faces, confidence in their steps. One thing I appreciate about small town productions of universal classics like The Nutcracker is that in a small town, almost anyone with gumption can participate. You can be a mediocre child dancer who is ten or twenty pounds over weight. You can not quite fit into the costume, and your bra strap can show, but you've got a part in the ballet. And you dance with all of your heart, and everyone applauds for you, and you go home with flowers. That's the way a small town performance should be.

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker has been done and redone almost as much as The Christmas Story--animations, comedies, swing versions, adulterated versions all mixed up with Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker On Ice--but my favorite is the Small Town production with local kids on stage and piped in music, hands down.


Sassy Sundry said...

Sounds like a perfect Small-Town evening---except for the phlegm. Why do phlemgy people gravitate toward the theater?

The Nutcracker is great, and why shouldn't the dancers be overweight? The whole thing is a giant ode to junk food.

That photo is somewhat scary, don't you think? That Nutcracker would give me nightmares.

Robyn said...

Sassy, I think the entire thing is a little scary. The whole idea of Drosselmeyer and his fascination with Clara--the Small Town version portrays him as a voyure and very ugly.

RICH said...

Thanks for sharing this with us Robyn, I can just see that little girl in her dress the way you described her. There's one of them at EVRY Nutcracker performance no matter were it is. Now there's also a grump old phlegm barking guy nearby as well. I was near one that at the Massiah a few weeks back this guy was old money and he kept clearing the phlegm from his through and then complained that the performance was "condensed" in his words. oh boy.. Glad you had a nice time just the same.

dive said...

Small town local theatre groups are always much more fun than big spectacular productions, especially when you know members of the cast.
Other than Mr. Fleming, this sounds like a great night out.

Robyn said...

Rich, I think having a phlegmy old money guy distract me from a performance of the Messiah would have been just too much. Old guys and their phelgm--I don't get it.

Dive, I have seen The Nutcracker at the Fox theater in Atlanta, and it was spectacular, but you really compare the experience to seeing kids you have know for years and their parents as the party guests--it's a lot of fun.

Gina said...

Phlemgy men behind me make me nervous.

Sounds lovely!

And geez, has it been that long since I have been here, or have you been on a posting spree? ;)