The House Theatre of Chicago presents
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division Street
Based on the classic story by E.T.A. Hoffman
Written by Phillip C. Klapperich and Jake Minton
Music composed and conducted by Kevin O'Donnell
Directed by Tommy Rapley
Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
Thru December 26th
Running Time: Two hours with a fifteen minute intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Sugar plum cookies, holiday decorations, red and green festive attire, the Christmas spirit is in the House. The House Theatre of Chicago presents NUTCRACKER, a re-imagined version of the classic story. It's Christmastime! The annual bash is rocking at Clara's home. Everyone is 'Joy to the World' high. On the holiday happiness meter, it's like the end scene of 'It's a Wonderful Life' but it's at the beginning of the show. Suddenly, an uninvited guest hurls the gathering from elation to devastation. The party is over... forever!? Fast-forward a year, the family is still stuck in gloom. It's up to Clara to bring Christmas back to light. Her biggest barrier is the notorious holiday-hating rats. Clara doesn't tackle tinsel troubles alone! Her holiday smack-down comrades are a dolly, robot, sock-puppet and nutcracker. The House's NUTCRACKER is a shell of solid comedic hilarity wrapped around a center of warm, uplifting holiday goodness.
There is no ballet but under the direction of Tommy Rapley, this NUTCRACKER dances with high-energy antics and enchanting choreographed movement. The show gets nutty and messy when toys come to life. Snow adds to the frolicking ambiance, blown from hands or dropped from the ceiling. All the ornamental elements are there to add to the childlike wonder and this talented cast knows how to have fun at playtime! Leading the merriment, Michael E. Smith (sock puppet), Trista Smith (doll) and Joey Steakley (robot) are wound to perfection in their toying around. As dolly says, 'everyone is good at something.' Smith, Smith and Steakley are good...no... great at being toys! Carla Kessler (Clara) and Chance Bone (Fritz) create this beautifully protective bond. Kessler and Bone add to the jollity but it's their tender connection that is memorably inspirational. Jake Minton and Carolyn Defrin are magnificent going back and forth between playing heart-wrenching somber parents and side-splitting funny rats. Instead of tip-toeing around the subject, Blake Montgomery (Drosselmeyer) is clomping through it hysterical. Montgomery is mysteriously magical bringing light to the party.
Phillip Klapperich and Jake Minton have penned the next holiday classic. Without baby Jesus or Santa themes, the story is still spiritual enchantment. Finding the light in dark times is a challenge. Creating a tale that preaches that enlightenment with witty frivolity is a gift to be received! This NUTCRACKER is a present to unwrap right now! Trust me no gift receipt required. It's a keeper.
Enjoying some holiday cheer with me, Rick describes the show with 'Joyful, clever, smile.'