December 29, 2012

Christmas With Puppets

Ever since I saw the Halloween Hoop De-Doo at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in October, I've been dying to see its Christmas sequel, The Nutcracker.

But with my work schedule and their limited showings, I couldn't make it until after Christmas - two days after Christmas, in fact. And as it was, I was running late. And I didn't get there as early as I wanted. And I nearly didn't get a seat.

The usher (also one of the puppeteers) tried to seat me all the way in the back by the door, but "You can't see anything back there!" I insisted, instead leading him to the center of the room, pointing out empty seats to the left and right of the carpeted "stage" area where the puppeteers interact most with the audience. I balked when he told me they were taken. He tried to seat me at the opposite end of the room, right next to where the puppets enter, but again I complained that I wouldn't be able to see anything.

"Well, you could sit on the floor..." he said.

"Oh really? That's OK?" I wasn't sure how the parents would feel about me consorting with their children, for whom the carpet is usually reserved. But, feeling as enthusiastic as any toddler in the room, I cast my concerns aside and plunked down amongst them.

Looking up at the proscenium, knees already aching in their crooked Indian-style position, I realized the best part of all: I would be at eye-level with the puppets.

Unlike the Halloween show, which is a kind of musical revue, a relatively cohesive storyline unfolds during The Nutcracker ...

...told by a selection of the theater's thousands of puppets...

...including a narrator who dreamily sets the stage...

...introducing a little girl and her beloved nutcracker, which comes to life as a prince and whisks her away.

The cast of characters includes the usual suspects of Christmastime lore, like wooden soldiers...

...sugarplum fairies...

...and otherworldly creatures spinning about and swooping in on the floor-seated audience, sometimes sitting on their laps or tapping their shoulders.

Among the more secular performers - besides the politcally-incorrect Chinaman, bellydancer, and carpet-riding prince - are a dancing dog...

...and a troupe of whirling dervish bouquets...

...that sweep the story into full climax as a Christmas tree made of golden garland rises from the floor.

Sitting cross-legged with uncomfortably tingling circulation for an hour, I literally had children crawling on me, but I sat still and stoic, mesmerized by the puppets, with hopes that one might sing to me or sit on my lap.

I'm sure those kids - and maybe the puppets themselves - were wondering who that strange lady was sitting with them, her purse between her legs to keep her skirt in place. But I paid no attention to the quizzical stares from the grown-ups, who probably wondered why I was childless. That morning, I was a child, just as excited as any of them to see a magical show.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Halloween at the Marionette Theater

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