December 12, 2012

Sendak's Nutcracker

(Julia and her friends waiting before 'The Nutcracker', she's on the far left.)

I took Julia to see 'The Nutcracker' this holiday season ~ she's been before, with me and my mom, but this time we went on a trip with her school. If you're in the Seattle area, there's only one place to see this holiday classic -- at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Are any of you familiar with PNB's version of 'The Nutcracker'? (I linked you to the trailer for it.)  See the book below? See who did the art?


Maurice Sendak designed both the sets and the costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1981, and worked with the PNB ballet's director and choreographer to create a whole new vision for the story.

It's quite different from the traditional ballet. And it's amazing.

The show has been reimagined as taking place in an Arabian Nights-esque fairytale land, which Clara and the Nutcracker must cross an ocean (with LEAPING DOLPHINS) to visit. It's quite a bit darker in tone. 

There is no Sugar Plum Fairy. (yes you heard me right. It's ok, it works for the show. Clara takes her place basically.) There are trapped exotic birds in cages. The Mouse King is ENORMOUS. Herr Drosselmeyer borders on cruel to Clara and then becomes a pasha-king in Nutcracker land, cracking his whip to keep his subjects in line.

There's even a Wild Thing! Or a troll. Not sure what he is.

Through it all, in every scene, in every costume, in every place you look....

Sendak's art.



My mother used to dance, and she was obsessed with taking me to the 'Nutcracker'. She made sure that I saw pretty much every 'Nutcracker' every made, either in person, or on film. When I was 10, we went to New York to see Balanchine's version, which is just breathtaking. But my next best favorite? The Pacific Northwest Ballet version. (Sorry Mikhail Barishnikov, but your version with Gelsey Kirkland that I saw on TV....oh so boring.)

Have you seen Sendak's book? Have you seen the PNB's 'Nutcracker'? Do you have a favorite place to see it? DO YOU FLIPPING LOVE THE NUTCRACKER???

Oh, you should also check this post I did last year on a very special Nutcracker book, 'cuz the Nutcracker is just awesome, any way you slice it. And in my family, we slice it a lot.

(oh P.S. camera buffs - I used my Lumix point and shoot camera and the zoom is so outrageously amazing on this thing, that's how I got these shots. I was not sitting anywhere this close. It did well even without the flash, which is a big no-no..)

15 comments:

  1. I used to have the VHS tape of this version when I was younger, but haven't seen it in ages. I'd love to see it again. And your mention of the Mikhail/ Gelsey version really took me back. I watched that one so many times on PBS when I was little. I actually didn't mind that one so much, though now that I think back they were probably both a little old for Clara and the Prince!

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    1. definitely most of the focus was around him leaping around which is cool and all, but not the most entertaining for kids! I like the version with Mother Ginger and all her children under her skirt, I LOVE that!

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  2. Oh wow! I had no idea there was a Sendak version. You are so fortunate to live close enough to see it every year!!!

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    1. it's wonderful, my mom and I have been going to see it here, ever since we moved here -- we've been going since before Julia was born!

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  3. Ooo, I'm doing my Nutcracker post next week! We're seeing the Ballet Wichita production on Sunday (lots of friends in it!), and Big Sis is seeing the shorter version with her school on Thursday. (The dance teacher at her perf. arts elementary school is in it this year, so her entire school gets a field trip!) I've shown the girls Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, which of course stars the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Sendak's design. I'm so jealous you get to see it live! I've never seen any of the big versions live, but we try to watch all the movies. (I don't care much for the Barishnikov version, either.) I knew Little Sis could sit through a live production when she sat glued to the PBS airing of the San Francisco Ballet version, impatiently waiting for me to fast-forward through all the pledge drive stuff. (We DVRed it.)

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    1. By the way, Good Books for Young Souls has a post up on The Woodland Nutcracker today!

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    2. It's such a brilliant book, so gorgeous! I can't wait to see your Nutcracker post!! Julia hasn't seen anything but the PNB version, I think I should watch the movie of the New York peoples with her, have you seen it? Is the Macauley Culkin factor not too dominant?

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    3. I haven't seen it in years, but if I remember correctly, he's really just there. He isn't the focus. I found it on Amazon Prime instant streaming, so we plan on watching it soon. (The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture is also on Amazon, and Netflix, too!)

      Part of me wishes we could have afforded to see one of the local university productions, too. Wendy Whelan from NYC comes to guest star as the Sugar Plum Fairy. I saw that one in college a couple times, and she's so freaking amazing. Then the hubby and I got to see the NYCB at the Kennedy Center in DC this spring, and it was so cool seeing her again, this time in her element with that amazing company.

      The downtown production we're seeing has the full orchestra, though, some friends, and the guest stars are from the TV series "Breaking Pointe." ;o)

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  4. Okay, so we went last weekend to see the traditional version (juliet's first time) and she loved it. We checked out all the nutcracker books we could find at our library and got this Sendak one--but didn't read it because it looked different from what we were going to see! Now I understand why it was different! :) Thanks! I have my nutcracker post coming up friday--I'll link to this for more info. I think we'll try to see this one one day--maybe on video? I"ll check your links for more info! :)

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    1. I did some reading around the other day, because Julia wanted to know why Herr Drosselmayer was "so mean" -- there are other versions of the story that are REALLY dark, and involve Drosselmeye's nephew, who trades places with a cursed princess, not realizing that he will be forever cursed himself to go through life as a Nutcracker...

      I can't wait to see your post as well! Love that we're all on a massive Nutcracker high!!! xoxo

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  5. WHAT THE? I had no idea there was a Sendak Nutcracker! Here I am in my little bubble. I've spent my life seeing a very traditional version of it done by the local Cache Valley Civic Ballet (lil sis Bonnie was a member of the company for years, she performed in many a nutcracker- all of which I saw and enjoyed very much) OH and that pic of Julia and friends waiting for the show! I just love it! I can't wait til miss Kitten is old enough to take.

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    1. Oh you and Miss Kitten will have so much fun!!! Isn't it so exciting to think of all the fun things we get to experience with our children?

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  6. I totally had this book. I guess it's now somewhere in the vast warren of bookshelves that is my parents' house. I didn't know there was a stage version, though. I really ought to check it out sometime!

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