A Nutcracker for That Old Chestnut
Ah, “that old chestnut” – it’s an expression that implies something has been over-told, over-mentioned, or over-analyzed, such as an old joke. But ever wonder where this idiom originated? It apparently came into popular use in the 19th century, and is often claimed to have come from William Dimond’s 1816 play, entitled The Broken Sword, in which a character in that play – a Captain Xavier – keeps repeating the same stories, jokes, and anecdotes over and over – one in particular about a tree, that he forgets is a chestnut tree, misnames a cork tree, and gets corrected by another character, Pablo, who claims he’s heard that joke some twenty-seven times.
O.K., so let’s split this old chestnut with a nutcracker, shall we? (I can almost hear the groans as I type this review.) The ballet performance of the Nutcracker is as Christmas as Turkey is Thanksgiving and Pumpkins are Hallowe’en. But it’s absolutely anything but stale, tedious, an old joke, over-done, or over-praised. (Your Hedonista confesses that she attended her first live performance of the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) Stowell & Sendak Nutcracker at McCaw Hall as media on opening night: November 26th, 2010).
A performance for all ages across the ages, the Nutcracker ballet – with a libretto originally adapted from a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, entitled The Nutcracker and The Mouse King – premiered in St. Petersburg on December 18th, 1892 – and its score, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, has since become one of his most famous. The music is guaranteed to both move you as well as put you in the holiday spirit, and Kent Stowell’s choreography, along with the performance artists – including the too-cute tiny tots (all PNB School students) – are breathtaking; however, hands-down the absolute highlight is the scenic and costume design by Maurice Sendak. The PNB has used the same set since the Nutcracker debuted in 1983 – but I personally could never see tiring of its color, its sparkle, its magic…. In short, the PNB’s Nutcracker will plum your sugars, mint your peppers, and dust your fairies this holiday season.
The Nutcracker runs until December 27, 2010. Ticket prices depend on the performance and section seating and range from around $28 to $128, with a child rate range of around $26 to $118 (group rates are also available).
So consider braving the cold to enjoy this holiday favorite … and leave the chestnuts for roasting on an open fire.