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REVIEW: Rockin’ Old-School Hip Hop Nutcracker (Ordway)

Photo by United Palace of Cultural Arts.

At this point the official Hip Hop Nutcracker tour is rather like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mannheim Steamroller, or the Bolshoi Ballet Nutcracker – you know exactly what you’re going to get each year, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Photo by United Palace of Cultural Arts.
Photo by United Palace of Cultural Arts.

If you’re not familiar with Hip Hop Nutcracker, it’s not precisely dancing sugarplum fairies in the old Nutcracker ballet mold. Instead, it’s something of a NYC urban fantasy ballet with street rats popping moves and breaking. There’s not a lot of bugaloo, but it does start with a set of classic hiphop songs done singalong style with rapper Kurtis Blow as the MC. There aren’t normally many times when the whole audience of the Ordway stands up, dances, and sings, but on Tuesday there were several of those.

The cast as a whole has a lot of polish zest in their performances, although the lead quartet of Ann-Sylvia Clark (Maria-Clara), Josue Figueroa (The Nutcracker – one of the ubiquitous roasted nuts salesman in this production), Yorelis Apolonario (Mom), and JD Rainey (Dad) certainly stand out. There’s an escalating cycle of dance battles throughout each segment, which is a lot of fun to watch; kids will likely have their favorite characters and scenes, of which there are many to choose from. David Marks’ violin and DJ Boo’s turntables inject some liveliness into the affair.

Photo by United Palace of Cultural Arts.
Photo by United Palace of Cultural Arts.
Kurtis Blow leads the dance circle. Photo by United Palace of Cultural Arts.
Kurtis Blow leads the dance circle. Photo by United Palace of Cultural Arts.

Hip Hop Nutcracker plays through Nov. 23 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN.

Basil Considine
Basil Considine is the Twin Cities Arts Reader's Performing Arts Editor and the Senior Classical Music and Drama Critic. Before joining the Arts Reader, he was the Twin Cities Daily Planet's Resident Classical Music and Drama Critic and a contributing writer for The Boston Music Intelligencer. He holds a PhD in Music and Drama from Boston University, an MTS in Sacred Music from the BU School of Theology, and a BA in Music and Theatre from the University of San Diego.
http://basilconsidine.org
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