The House Theatre of Chicago presents their annual holiday tradition, THE NUTCRACKER.
This was my third time enjoying the holidays with House Theatre. The classic tale by E.T.A. Hoffman, that is best known as Tchaikovsky’s ballet, has been completely overhauled by The House. Playwrights Phillip Klapperich and Jake Minton combine joy, sorrow and joy for their thought-provoking, emotion-grabbing, tear-inducing holiday story.
Under the direction and choreography of Tommy Rapley, the first ten minutes pushes the audience to the peak of ecstasy. The terrific cast is bubbling with holiday effervescence. And we are immersed in that sparkle. As we are enjoying the party, an unwanted guest arrives to kill the buzz. Rapley masterfully gets us high, sobers us up and then navigates the quest back to holiday bliss.
THE NUTCRACKER has a charming whimsy. Despite a storyline about loss, the show’s overall tone is hope. This year, Benjamin Sprunger and Brenda Barrie bring an especially somber tone to their parental roles. In striking contrast, they both excel in their alternative personas. Sprunger plays a cuddly, overstuffed bear. And Barrie is a hysterical, spry and witty rat. Because it’s theatre in the round, I was able to observe a little girl’s complete enchantment with Barrie as a rat. Other noteworthy performances are brought to us by the comedy stylings of Johnny Arena (monkey) and Jason Grimm (Hugo) delivering one liners with zest. Even though this year’s ensemble had a few flat notes in their singing, it didn’t take away from the high energy, entertaining spectacle.
THE NUTCRACKER is magical. It has gritty reality coupled with sugar-plum dreams. It challenges us to find the light in dark times, especially at the holidays. If you haven’t experienced it yet, it’s time to start a new Christmas tradition.
Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes includes an intermission
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division
Based on “The Nutcracker and The Mouse” by E.T.A. Hoffman
Written by Phillip Klapperich and Jake Minton
Music by Kevin O’Donnell
Lyrics by Jake Minton
Directed and choreographed by Tommy Rapley
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm and 7pm
Thru December 29th
Buy Tickets at www.thehousetheatre.com