Back to show

'The Nutcracker' for young audiences!


As we near “turkey-day” aka Thanksgiving, our minds begin to truly think “holidays” and what better way to get into the mood than “The Nutcracker”. For years, when one thought about “The Nutcracker” they envisioned the amazing Tchaikovsky score and the Joffrey Ballet (last year was the final version of that particular presentation/ a new version will be reviewed shortly), but, for some families, ballet is not their thing. The House Theatre has a special version for these people and now, the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, through its “for young audiences” program, brings to its stage a delightful re-telling of the classic tale that will please audience members of ALL ages. It is a new version that mixes music and dance with a revised book by Marc Robin (a very familiar name in our Chicago theater scene) who also wrote the music.

The story is pretty much the same: It is Christmas Eve and Marie (the enchanting Leryn Turlington) is still playing with one of her toys from last year, Clara (later played by Lauren Blane). Her brother Fritz (it will seem as if this role was created for Alex Weisman) is awaiting new toys and will have nothing to do with those from last year-they are old and unwanted! One of these is his soldier (who, when the toys come to life is played by Alejandro Fonseca). When their Uncle Drosselmeyer (Jason Grimm) brings them their gifts, their world changes. For Fritz, a Mouse King, but without a crown. For Marie, a Nutcracker (who it seems wears the magic crown). Traditional lore is that whoever wears the crown and appears before the Sugar Plum Fairy can become human. I guess this is toy or doll lore!

That is where our story goes. Marie falls asleep and dreams (or does she) that the Mouse King (now played by Weisman to absolute perfection) and his aides, Joe (Alexis J. Roston is a stitch) and Shmo (Jeff Max, who also plays their father) steal the crown from the Nutcracker (who is now played in realty by Brandon Springman) and they begin their quest to reach through the lands of the Holiday spirits- snowland, toyland (that of the broken down toys of old) and of course sugar land. This is one hour of fun and music as directed and choreographed by the brilliant Matt Raftery. Glad to see him back on the scene. Welcome back, Matt! By the way, the dance numbers are worth the price of admission (and then some). Tap, jazz and ballet- loved it!

The other performers in this fine-tuned cast, who take on many a role are: Amanda Tanguay, Nate Braga and the amazing Rashada Dawan. While it appears that this is a gigantic cast, it is only in talent that they are so, proving that quality outweighs numbers every time. The costumes are by Nancy Missimi and are perfect in every detail (as always) and the band is sheer magic under the leadership of Patti Garwood. This is a fun bit of theater. We took our granddaughter, Sarah, who is quite the theater person (already appearing in her third production with Kids Stage) and her best friend , also a budding actress, Leslie. They both enjoyed the show and the beauty of the story-telling. Having experienced the Joffrey production, and both loving it, they did like the speaking and singing part of this production. It was easier to learn about the importance of friendship, love, trust and the holiday spirit from the words they heard and the dances just added to the beauty.