Leo Finelli’s THE NUTCRACKER
The Setting: Modern America, One Cold December Night
Eleven year old Clara and her eight year old brother Fritz join their parents in the living room of their home, awaiting the arrival of the guests at their annual Christmas party. The Stahlbaums live a cozy middle class life. Soon guests begin to arrive at their house. The children play while the adults talk. Soon the guests begin to play on their digital devices. Suddenly, the digital devices fizz out. A mysterious caped man enters. This is Clara’s grandfather, a magician named Dr. Drosselmeyer.
Drosselmeyer gives everyone small candy canes, then gives Clara a special gift, a Nutcracker - a small toy soldier that can crack nuts in its teeth. Drosselmeyer then presents a life size dancing doll which dances for the children. Drosselmeyer also leads the children in a sprightly jig and dances for the families at the party.
Everyone begins to get tired after one final dance and leaves the party.
Later that night, after everyone has gone to bed, Clara tiptoes back to the living room to get the Nutcracker. She is tired. She rocks the Nutcracker and cozies up in a chair. She hears a loud noise. She looks around to see what it is. Mice begin cornering her from all sides of the room. Clara sees the room growing around her. She drops the Nutcracker in shock. When she goes to recover him, he is her size! The Nutcracker summons an army of a dozen toy soldiers to battle the mice. When the mice return, the Nutcracker fires a cannon at them.
The Mouse King arrives on the scene, here to take all the presents for himself. He leads the mice against the soldiers. They surge back and forth across the room, but the Nutcracker fends off all the mice. The Mouse King challenges him to a swordfight. The Nutcracker fights bravely but is pinned. Clara yanks the Mouse King’s tail, tipping him over. The Nutcracker puts the Mouse King under arrest.
The Nutcracker leads Clara out into the snow. When Clara touches him, he becomes his old self - a prince - again.
The watchful Snow Queen and the snowflakes gracefully guide Clara and the Prince along their way to the Palace of Dreams.
Clara and the Prince journey to the Palace of Dreams, where the Prince rules. The Prince shows his court the arrested Mouse King, who tries to escape but is stopped. The Prince tells of Clara’s bravery and how the fact that she believed in him restored him to his old self. The Prince commissions his court to dance for him and Clara.
First a matador performes an elaborate bullfighting routine, then ribbon dancers perform. Then the largest lady Clara has ever seen enters the room. This is Mother Ginger. She bakes a gingerbread cookie. The cookie evades a maid, a police officer, and finally a fox before rushing back under Mother Ginger’s skirt.
Four little clowns dance next, followed by a beautiful peacock, then a troupe of roly-poly candy canes, then twelve flowers dance a long waltz. The beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy then dances a tinkly solo. The Prince takes the stage next. After dancing a solo, the Prince calls Clara to dance with him. Servants wheel out a large cabinet. Clara steps into the cabinet and the doors are closed. When the cabinet is opened again, Clara can hardly believe her eyes - she has become a beautiful princess!
Princess Clara joins the Prince in a long, slow pas de deux, then all the people of the Palace of Dreams dance one final dance together. Clara becomes a young girl again and Santa Claus returns her home in his sleigh…..was it all a dream?
Major Differences between Leo Finelli’s Nutcracker and Jean Pierre Bonnefoux’s Nutcracker (Charlotte Ballet)
- Set in modern times rather than the 19th century
- Drosselmeyer is Clara’s grandfather, not her uncle/godfather
- The Nutcracker is given to Clara before the life-size doll dances, not after
- Fritz never breaks the Nutcracker. In fact, no one does.
- Drosselmeyer does not turn all the toys big. It happens spontaneously as in the Balanchine.
- Clara pulls the Mouse King’s tail rather than throwing her shoe at him
- The Mouse King never dies, he is placed under arrest
- There is no Snow King, only a Snow Queen
- The Nutcracker Prince does not appear in the Party Scene as Drosselmeyer’s nephew
- The Nutcracker Prince is played by an adult rather than a teenager or tween
- The music Bonnefoux uses for the Prince’s mime is used for the Prince turning the Mouse King in
- The “Land of Sweets” is now the “Palace of Dreams”. Why? Because, think about it. Like what kids really want is a candy kingdom. Because of this change,
- The Chocolate Dance is now done by a Matador and a Bull, both danced by men
- The Marzipan Dance is now done by Clowns (four little girls)
- The Coffee Dance is now done by a Peacock, and is a solo
- Mother Ginger’s dance is completely different. See outline above.
- There is no lead in the Waltz of the Flowers
- The Tiramisu dance has been excised
- The Sugar Plum Fairy is a much smaller role, dancing only to her famous tinkly music
- The Cavalier has been omitted
- The Adagio of the Pas de Deux is moved to be after the other dances of the Pas de Deux
- So who does dance the Act II Pas de Deux? The Prince and Clara, of course. Clara is transformed into an adult dancer in order to dance the Pas de Deux with the Prince. See outline above.
- Santa Claus appears at the end to return Clara home
- It is left to the audience to decide whether Clara dreamed the whole thing or not.
- Clara (little girl, age 10-12)
- Fritz (little boy, age 8-10)
- Mr. Stahlbaum (adult male dancer)
- Mrs. Stahlbaum (adult female dancer)
- 5 Party Fathers (adult male dancers)
- 5 Party Mothers (adult female dancers)
- 9 Party Girls (ages 9-11)
- 1 Party Boy (age 9-11)
- Dr. Drosselmeyer (adult male dancer)
- Dancing Doll (adult male dancer)
- The Nutcracker Prince (adult male dancer)
- 6 Mice (adult male dancers)
- 12 Toy Soldiers (children, ages 7-9)
- The Mouse King (adult male dancer)
- 14 Snowflakes (adult female dancers)
- Snow Queen (adult female dancer)
- 8 Servants (children, ages 10-14)
- Matador (adult male dancer)
- Bull (adult male dancer)
- Ribbon Dancers (children, ages 6-8)
- Mother Ginger (adult male dancer)
- Gingerbread Cookie (little girl, age 10-12)
- Maid (little girl, age 8-10)
- Police Officer (child, gender does not matter, age 8-10)
- Fox (little girl, age 9-11)
- 4 Clowns (little girls, ages 9-11)
- Peacock (ironically an adult female dancer)
- Lead Candy Cane (adult male dancer)
- 8 Candy Canes (children, ages 12-16)
- Sugar Plum Fairy (adult female dancer)
- Princess Clara (adult female dancer)
- Santa Claus (adult male dancer)
How I Plan to Choreograph It:
With professional help. I am not a ballet expert and lack much real in-depth knowledge of ballet, yet I can envision how everyone will move and where in my head. The most efficient way, in my opinion, to get this down on paper will be to work with a professional, describe what I see in my head to the music, and have this professional write it down.
Costume and Set Design sketches
Clara - Party Dress
All Party Fathers
All Party Mothers
All Party Girls
Clara - Nightgown
The Mouse King
Matador (Spanish Dance)
Bull (Spanish Dance)
Ribbon Dancer (Chinese Dance)
Maid (Chasing Gingerbread Cookie)
Police Officer (Chasing Gingerbread Cookie)
Fox (Chasing Gingerbread Cookie)
Clowns (Marzipan Dance)
Peacock (Arabian Dance)
Lead Candy Cane
Sugar Plum Fairy
The Stahlbaum’s Living Room
Outside in the Snow
The Palace of Dreams