I used to joke that my favorite part of the Nutcracker was when the curtain falls. Not very original or inspiring, I know. But this year, without a doubt, my favorite part of our Nutcracker performances are the mice and the boys who climb into those "overstuffed sofa cushions" (to quote the Oregonian) and scamper around show after show. Christopher Stowell has decided this year to give the mice a theme every night, and, within the confines of Balanchine's choreography, the boys are free to relish and perform said theme as best they can. The results have been fantastic so far. Let's see...
Opening night: Neurotic mice. Matthew Pippin, after fielding a warning shot from a toy soldier, exited with some very vertiginous spins while Javier Ubell manically sniffed everyone's feet. Other mice grabbed at invisible butterflies or twitched nervously.
Today's matinee: Body-building mice. Lots of posing, kissing of mouse biceps, boxing, and I think I even saw some deep mouse lunges. Javier did some pushups before hauling a little soldier offstage.
Today's evening show: Robot mice. My favorite so far. Adrian Fry as the Mouse King took the cake on this one, entering with a wicked robot gait and, upon his death, shutting down his system in true robot fashion. Christian Squires moonwalked with robot mouse hands before administering CPR to Adrian's fallen form. I'm surprised the audience couldn't hear the snowflakes shrieking with delight in the wings.
I can't divulge what themes are to follow in coming shows. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. That, and I don't know what they are--the company submitted possible themes to Christopher and before every show he announces what the chosen theme is for that performance. I must say that the new mice themes have added a good amount of fun and excitement to the show. As a snowflake warming up in the wings it gives me a good laugh and lifts my spirits. The boys have really embraced it and seem to enjoy acting out the theme almost as much as the rest of us enjoy watching it. It's a great way to entertain both ourselves and the audience for the next thirteen shows.
So now, gentle reader, you are in the know about my new favorite part of each Nutcracker show. Keep your eye on the mice and see if you can guess what each night's theme is. For while they might run around as fluffy rodents, diligently jumping and turning on their given counts and cues, they will do so this year as different characters every night. Personally, I'm looking forward to Ninja mice.