The Nutcracker is a huge Christmas tradition in New York; everybody seems to go, and it is as much as a rite of passage to take your kids for the first time as it is to take them to Disneyworld for a long weekend (de rigeur when they reach the age of about five). We decided that for what will probably be our last Christmas here, we should splurge and see the most famous production of all, the George Balanchine-choreographed version, performed by New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center.
So we headed into Manhattan last night, The Doctor and Littleboy 1 bright and bouncy, myself (dosed up with painkillers) and Littleboy 2 (who had come down with a cold and temperature in the morning) slightly less bright and bouncy. Ten minutes into the opening act, Littleboy 2 fell asleep and remained so until the interval - a bit of a shame when you've spent hundreds of dollars on the trip, but at least he saw Act 2.
I've never seen The Nutcracker before, although of course the Tchaikovsky score is incredibly well-known- the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Waltz of the Flowers etc. By chance we had found the story the night before in a book of Christmas stories and read it to the boys, so we were all familiar with the story.
What I hadn't appreciated was the enchanting aspect of the first Act - that it features lots of tiny children, dancing quite beautifully. Littleboy 1 was fascinated by seeing the children on stage performing, and was thrilled by the huge Christmas tree (the set, and production values, were incredibly impressive). I was just amazed that a girl who appeared to be about six could dance on pointes (although I shudder to think of what she's doing to her feet for later life), and impressed by the boy dancing Fritz, the brother, who also appeared to be very young. The idea of the Nutrcracker coming alive and transforming into a handsome prince is going to be one that appeals to all children, and Littleboy 1 was no exception.
The second Act is all about costumes, and scenery and balletic set-pieces - the boys were less fascinated by that, although the adults could indulge in enjoying all of the above. From the deep purple tutus of the flowers to the striped candy canes, I don't think I've ever seen such magnificent costumes on a stage - New York sure does know how to do things well.
I believe The Nutcracker is becoming more popular in the UK these days - maybe as a result of all the Americans in London? - and I don't know if those productions are any good. But for anyone visiting NYC at Christmas with children, I would say the Lincoln Center show is well worth the rather extortionate price.
As for us, by the time we took the train back and rolled up at home at 8.30PM, with two boys almost asleep, and one definitely running a fever, we were all exhausted. But I was pleased to see that Littleboy 1(who is incredibly excited about Christmas) wanted The Nutcracker again for his bedtime story. Some of the magic had definitely rubbed off.
Merry Christmas to everyone.