Every year nearing Christmas, thespians and ballet lovers alike traditionally go to the theater to watch “The Nutcracker.” This annual tradition tells the story of a girl named Clara who receives her dream nutcracker and subsequently goes on a series of whimsical adventures.
Darryl Yeager, artistic director and founder of the Odyssey Dance Theatre, says the problem with the story, which takes place in mid-19th century Germany, is that none of it relates to us in modern times. Yeager said, half-jokingly, “What if a girl was given a nutcracker today? You know, they’re going to look at the nutcracker and go, ‘What do I? What in the heck is this?’ I mean all my nuts come cracked already.” He added, “I thought, ‘What would be the catalyst nowadays for that kind of an adventure or something of that sort?’ And then the answer was pretty immediate it’s like, ‘well . . . of course an iPhone,’” Yeager said.
In keeping with this burst of inspiration, the smartphone did indeed become the catalyst for adventure in “The ReduxNut-Cracker.” The plot structure is given a contemporary twist with the addition of relatable characters like the Angry Birds, Mario and Luigi, robots and hip hop mice. Yeager explained, “That made all these pieces very, very interesting to me . . . I can update this and make it more fun and accessible to people. And we shortened it up, it’s only an hour and twenty minutes long with no intermission.”
Having seen and directed so many nutcracker performances, Yeager stayed away from it for a long time until he found the inspiration to breath new life into it. “I found some music that was the kid’s dance, which was really really hip hop oriented and it was really cool. It was a remix of it,” remembered Yeager, who decided to incorporate some of these tracks to update the play.
The ReduxNut-Cracker portrays a more realistic version of Clara. Yeager describes her as, “ . . . a bit of a goth girl, if that makes sense. A little bit of an outsider. But she slowly but surely becomes more enamored with what she can do with her phone.” In the end, however, she is overwhelmed by it all and ditches the smartphone in favor of her family.
“The normal nutcracker, Clara sits around and watches everybody dance and goes home. You know? She waves goodbye and they all wave goodbye. And you’re like, okay. Well, what was that all about?” Yeager said, who believes that Odyssey’s happy ending makes more sense than the original. He added, “Ours actually has kind of a moral to the story . . . as cool as iPhone’s and smartphones and things are, the family is still really important,”
Yeager concluded by saying, “We feel this is for anybody who’s been to one too many nutcrackers . . . We just had a blast putting it together and audiences just love it.”
ReduxNut-Cracker will be running at Kingsbury Hall from Dec. 14 – 23, 7:30 p.m., with a Saturday matinee Dec. 17, 2 p.m. Students can receive two tickets for the price of one day of any performance at the Kingsbury Hall box office. Ticket prices start at $20, extending up to $40 for Section A seating. Additional ticket information can be found here.