It’s official: all Nutcrackers are not created equal.
We’re talking about ballets here, of course, not ugly wooden trinkets. If you want to see a traditional version of the holiday classic The Nutcracker, you can take your pick of productions full of artistry and refinement up and down the Wasatch Front at Christmastime. But if you want to see a Nutcracker that’s full of imagination and fun, the only game in town is The Redux Nut-Cracker by the Odyssey Dance Theatre.
It’s not entirely accurate to refer to the Odyssey Dance Company’s version of The Nutcracker as a ballet, because ODT founder and choreographer Derryl Yeager’s production of the holiday classic is actually a contemporary dance review. Yeager has skillfully rearranged Tchaikovsky’s score for the original ballet into upbeat popular music that drives reimagined dance production numbers with a distinctly modern, hip-hop flavor.
While that whole idea might seem a little sacrilegious, rest assured that the artistic team members at Odyssey Dance are masters at doing this sort of thing. In recent years, they’ve done similar treatments of the ballet Giselle, the opera Carmen and Shakespeare’s immortal romance Romeo and Juliet. This was the seventh year that ODT has been performing The Redux Nut-Cracker and the production keeps changing subtly to keep up with evolving pop culture.
In The Redux Nut-Cracker, the innocent youngster Clara was transformed into a precocious teenager who gets a cell phone for Christmas rather than an old-fashioned nutcracker. The various apps on the phone then became Clara’s tickets into the culturally themed dances that follow.
Bailey Evans played Clara with wild enthusiasm, leading some of the show’s most ambitious hip-hop production numbers. She co-starred with Diego Ballesteros as the magician Drasselmeyer, who served as Clara’s digital tour-guide in this updated production.
Clara’s cell phone is by no means the only pop-culture addition to the original story here. The traditional Sugar Plum fairy became a biker chick in The Redux Nut-Cracker. The dream battle between invading rodents and toy soldiers became a high-tech clash between robots a la Star Wars and a horde of gangsta mice. The original ballet’s Russian folk dance became a cheerful tap routine. Finally, an otherwise lovely ballet interlude was hilariously interrupted by Angry Birds from the popular video game.
These kind of unexpected changes came fast and furiously in The Redux Nut-Cracker, but they didn’t hold a candle to the breathtaking dancing in this production. The combination of witty reimagining of this holiday tradition and the athletic artistry of the ODT performers made this production utterly fascinating to watch.
I’m already making a note on my 2020 calendar to see The Redux Nut-Cracker again next year.