"The Nutcracker" (House Theatre of Chicago): Quest for Holiday Bliss

"The Nutcracker" (House Theatre of Chicago):  Quest for Holiday Bliss

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.

2011 review of THE NUTCRACKER

2010 review of THE NUTCRACKER

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


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  • I've been meaning to go to this but never have. This year I'm making it a priority.

  • In reply to Kim Z Dale:

    Go!! It'll put you in the Christmas spirit!

  • I took some friends and their kids (ages 5-13) on Friday, they ALL really, really liked it. I was afraid the kids would be bored but they were on the edge of their seats.

  • In reply to Veronica411:

    Great to know. I didn't think kids would be bored but I wondered how they would react to the death. I'm glad your gang enjoyed themselves. Thanks for sharing!

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