“Dreams are strangely familiar places. They are not all make-believe, but only the homely inside of yourself, like the inner lining of your favorite coat, or like the sweet kernel of the hardest nut that only the jaws of my Nutcracker Prince could reveal to me.”
We’re off to The Centre to take in Goh Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker.
The story of the Nutcracker was initially written in 1816 by a German man by the name of E.T.A. Hoffman and was not a children’s story; however, it was later re-written as a children’s tale by a French man named Alexander Dumas and in 1892 Russian choreographer Marius Petipa asked Peter Tchaikovsky to write music for what was to become one of the most popular ballets in the world.
The story is a delightful dreamscape (which seems appropriate to the longest night of the year) and it tells the tale of young Clara’s favourite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, coming to life and defeating the evil Mouse King before whisking her away to a magical kingdom inhabited by the enchanting Sugar Plum Fairy.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy this. I’m just not that into ballet; but it seems like something my mother in law will enjoy so I got us tickets. Mind you, there is a Land of Sweets involved, where “hot coco dances to the lively music of trumpets and castanets of the Spanish fandango and the women of coffee dance in veils and move their bodies like rising steam to an Arabian song”; which all sounds pretty amazing. Secondly, I have detected a creeping sentimentally in myself these past few years which is sure to infuse this evening with opportunities for Christmas swooning.
We start our evening with some dinner at Tuc Craft Kitchen. With it’s exposed brick walls, high ceilings and industrial accents,Tuc is a handsome restaurant in a rough neighborhood; just the way I like it. Luckily the food is also excellent! We start off sharing the Pork Belly Crackling (gelderman farms, star anise red wine reduction, coarse salt), which is perfectly salty sweet and decadent. I choose the Guinness Irish Stobhach as my main (stew of grass fed beef, yakima valley lamb, roasted button mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, balsamic glaze, goat cheese guinness crumble); the slow roasted meat melts in my mouth and is deliciously offset by the goat cheese crumble. So good! Dinner done, we head towards the theatre, known as The Centre.
Once a full time performing arts venue hosting Broadway shows, The Centre was sold to a rather fundamentalist church a few years ago. One of the terms of the purchase however was that the venue would continue to honour it’s long term contract to show the Nutcracker. And thus we find ourselves, quite improbably, on our way to church!
It’s an interesting building, although somehow more “dated” than the Orpheum, despite being much newer. We get our programs and head up to our seats in a small balcony (traditionally called a loge), where we have the whole front row to ourselves and just two people behind us. It’s a cozy little spot, tucked up and away, and it’s nice not to have anyone climbing over us to get to their seats.
Act One starts out at the Christmas Party in Herr Stahlbaum’s mansion and I find myself fantasizing about hosting a Christmas party in such an enormous house complete with maids, who take the guests coats as they arrive. The mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer arrives shortly and entertains the children with magic tricks (that are actually quite good) and gives them gifts, including the beloved Nutcracker to Clara, which the little shit Fritz (Clara’s brother) breaks in a jealous fit.
Luckily Dr. Drosselmeyer manages to fix the Nutcracker and when the guests leave for the night Clara sneaks back to the tree to check on her toy and ends up falling asleep. When the clock strikes midnight the room fills with giant mice who attack Clara. Luckily life size toy soldiers, led by the valiant Nutcracker, come to her rescue. The Mouse King corners the Nutcracker and Clara bravely throws her slipper at the Mouse King, hitting him square in the head. The Nutcraker takes the opportunity to stab the Mouse King, winning the fight and transforming into a handsome Prince. The Nutcracker Prince (who frankly looks a little old for young Clara) then takes Clara on a journey into the land of Snow, an enchanted forest wonderland, where they are welcomed by the Snow Queen, Snow King and dancing Snowflakes before he loads her up into a glistening sleigh and wisks her off to the Land of Sweets. Thus ends Act One.
During intermission Emrys runs out to put more money on the meter and I get in line for the washroom and then for the concession stand, in hopes of purchasing water. Twenty minutes later, doors about to close, and still not at the front of the concession line, I run to the washroom and greedily gulp water straight from the tap, showing the other patrons all my class. Damn salty dinner.
Act Two opens with Clara and her Nutcracker Prince arriving in the Kingdom of Sweets, where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy and they are entertained during their feast by the aforementioned Chocolate (a Spanish dance), Coffee (an Arabian dance, which was one of my favourites), Tea (a Chinese dance), Peppermints (a Russian dance), the dance of Mere Gigogne and her Bonbons (a weird drag queen in a huge dress with a vagina like opening at the front, out of which emerge 10 or so extremely acrobatic children) and a waltz of the flowers. Last but not least, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier Prince dance a grad pas de deux. Clara says goodbye to the Kingdom of Sweets and is awakened by her mother, back in her own house. Had it all been a dream?
We applaud till our hands hurt and then bundle up and head out into the night. We talk a little about the show and find both Emrys and I favour the scenes where the stage was full of dancers in colourful costume, weaving in and out, creating alluring patterns vs. the couple or solo dances, which I think are possibly less exciting to someone less technically knowledgable. All in all, a wonderful evening and a great opportunity to spend time together.