‘Nutcracker’ gets hip hop makeover

"The Hip Hop Nutcracker" show features DJ Boo, 11 dancers, an electric violinist and digital scenery
"The Hip Hop Nutcracker" comes to Proctors on Monday night. (photo provided)
"The Hip Hop Nutcracker" comes to Proctors on Monday night. (photo provided)

The mice in Jennifer Weber’s version of “The Nutcracker” are tough customers.

“They’re all wearing baseball hats and mouse ears, and kind of like bomber jackets and crazy-looking pants,” said Weber, director and choreographer of “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” a contemporary take on a grand holiday party and grand holiday dancers.

The show, which Weber says will give “Nutcracker” fans different looks at beloved characters and a different story, comes to Proctors in Schenectady Monday. The big name attached is Kurtis Blow, who will star as the guest master of ceremonies.

‘The Hip Hop Nutcracker’

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monda, Dec. 21

WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

HOW MUCH: $45-$20

MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org

The hip hop show features DJ Boo, 11 dancers, an electric violinist and digital scenery that changes the traditional “Nutcracker” date from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. The opening party scene has become a block party in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan.

“The idea is taking the classic text of ‘The Nutcracker’ and translating it into the language of hip hop,” Weber said in a telephone interview from New York City. “We’ve taken the entire Tchaikovsky score and set it with hip hop choreography.”

Just about all the music in the show remains true to the original Tchaikovsky tunes. But like the bomber mice, Weber said people should expect different looks, and bunches of different moves.

“Hip hop is really a culture based on sampling,” she said, “so in ‘The Hip Hop Nutcracker,’ we’re sampling both images and concepts of the original ‘Nutcracker.’”

Mice will be opposed by soldiers in high-fashion jackets. The noble Nutcracker himself will lose Round 1 to the Mouse King, but receive a chance for redemption by the end of the two-hour show.

“Hip hop is all about the battle,” Weber said. “In our battle, you’re going to see head spins, just tons of explosive movements, big trips and big flips.”

The show also puts Uncle Drosselmeyer into the action with niece Maria Clara, and Uncle D’s main gag is an ability to travel into the past.

That’s how the action shifts back to the 1980s, and “Tea” “Chocolate,” “Coffee” and other variations show up at a bar called the “Land of Sweets.”

Weber believes Tchaikovsky’s work is a natural for a hip hop interpretation.

“As a hip hop dancer, what you sort of do is amplify music through your body,” she said. “We sort of pick different sounds and use them for inspiration for our movements. Tchaikovsky’s score is absolutely gorgeous. There’s so much in there to play with and to choose from.”

Blow, sometimes described as the first commercially successful rapper and an artist whose big days came during the ’80s, opens the show.

“He sets the mood and sets the stage,” Weber said. “It’s really amazing because he is such an icon of old school hip hop and doing hip hop to Tchaikovsky is a very new school idea. He’s sort of helping us bridge the gap between old school hip hop and new school.”

Categories: Entertainment

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