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The Puppet Company’s Nutcracker: Delightful Departure From the Original

Nutcracker puppet show

The famous sword fight between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King! Photo credit: Christopher Piper.

The Nutcracker with puppets? A purist at heart, I couldn’t quite fathom it. After all, the Nutcracker I grew up with was performed by the Miami Ballet Company, one of the few licensed to perform George Balanchine’s version of The Nutcracker™. 

But the JavaKids’ first exposure to a live version of this classic tale was yesterday at The Puppet Company in Glen Echo Park in Wheaton, MD and though it is very much a departure from the ballet performance I grew up with, it was absolutely appropriate for their ages and a great introduction. This was also our first visit to the puppet theater and we are already looking forward to attending another show.

Nutcracker Arabian magician

JavaGirl had many questions after the performance about how this puppet floated and how the magic tricks worked. Photo credit: Christopher Piper

The theater has mostly floor seating, though there are some plush banquettes on the sides and very back.  Children who are willing to sit apart from their parents may sit at the very front, close to the stage. For this particular show, some of the puppets were actually actors in costumes with gigantic puppet heads, while others were marionettes and a few were hand puppets.  Though the basic story remained the same (Clara receives a Nutcracker and a magical journey ensues), the scenes in the land of sugar plums are different, including characters from Mother Goose, a donkey from Spain carrying chocolate, a black-light Arabian magician on a flying carpet and more.

Nutcracker family

We had never seen "puppets" quite like these before. Photo credit: Christopher Piper

Since JavaGirl had specifically requested a Mouse King nutcracker for Christmas, she carried it with her to the show and it was wonderful to watch her expressions throughout the performance.  She cringed during the famous sword fight between the Nutcracker and Mouse King and was a bit afraid of Drosselmeyer.  Dancing flowers and flying fairies were quite delightful. Even seven-year-old JavaBoy found himself wrapped up in the 50-minutes of fantasy. JavaDad and I also enjoyed this new interpretation of a family favorite – we marveled at how expressive the gigantic heads could be even without moving features.

There is one more day of performances – Saturday, December 31 11:30 am and at 1 pm.  However, if you miss those, I highly recommend making a trip out to see a future show at The Puppet Company.  We’re already talking about trying to catch a performance of Peter and the Wolf!  Note that there are special Tiny Tots performances for younger kids as well as an American Sign Language version for the hearing impaired.  See The Puppet Company’s web site for ticket and performance information.

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Disclosure:  Though I am often offered complimentary tickets for performances at many venues, in this case, my family purchased our own tickets.  All photos provided by The Puppet Company and are credited to Christopher Piper.

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