The Hip Hop Nutcracker | 11.30.18, The Fabulous Fox Theatre

When you think of the nutcracker, hip hop is usually not the first thing that comes to mind, nor is Kurtis Blow. Last Friday night, both came together in a nostalgic display of ‘80s and ‘90s hip hop featuring Blow as the night’s MC. He opened the show in what has to be one of the most energizing entrances the Fox has ever seen. Blow came to the stage in grand fashion with a white suit on and quickly took to rapping his way through his entire introduction. Enticing the crowd to get up and move with snippets of songs like “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang, “Jump Around” by House of Pain, and of course his own track “The Breaks” in addition to many other hip hop classics. Blow’s part was essential to the show, hyping up the crowd, stirring up great memories for the older generations, and bridging the gap between parents and their children. He made old school hip hop entertaining and fun for all ages. His intro was very well received, with the majority of the audience up and out of their chairs dancing, clapping, and waving their hands in the air to song after song as he took everyone down memory lane. By the time the Nutcracker portion of the evening began, the crowd was revved and expectations were as high as they could possibly be.

While the original The Nutcracker written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky centered around a young girl and her favorite toy, The Hip Hop Nutcracker tells the story of a guy and girl who fall in love in the streets of New York City. In this new telling (penned by director/choreographer Jennifer Weber and co-writer Mike Fitelson), the female protagonist of our story Maria-Clara (Ann-Sylvia Clark) enjoys walking the streets of the city listening to music, dancing, and spending time with her close circle of friends. The story takes place in present day, but takes you back to 1988 momentarily, before whisking you back into the present. The musical is interpretive with nothing more than the music and actors to guide your way through the story. It uses the same music from the original Tchaikovsky classic, but with a few slight scratches and beats added in here and there. The change is hardly noticeable audibly, but extremely different visually, with a DJ (DJ Boo) permanently set to one side of the stage and an intermittent violinist (Jarvis L. Benson) injected here and there throughout the musical. If it wasn’t for the music, you would not recognize the musical as a Nutcracker adaptation at all. A large digital screen in the background transforms the stage into New York City on New Year’s Eve. Minimal use of props lead the audience to use their imagination for a good portion of the musical. The original storyline has been omitted and updated to a more modernized interpretation of each track that fits the more modern storyline.

If you’re looking for something different and entertaining for the holiday season, you can never go wrong with The Hip Hop Nutcracker. Whether you’re taking the whole family, a spouse, or a group of friends you’ll enjoy this rendition of a traditional holiday classic. The content and subject matter is completely family-friendly. The musical stays clear of any profanities and keeps the mood positive and fun for kids to enjoy as well. If you get the chance to catch The Hip Hop Nutcracker, you will not be disappointed. | Jennifer Manjarez

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