The Hip Hop Nutcracker | Stafford Centre

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Hip Hop Nutcracker – Dolby Theatre – November 17, 2017Photo by: Tim Norris

Like ugly Christmas sweaters, fruit cake and getting tangled up in strings of multi-colored lights, The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition. And it’s one you may think can’t really be improved on. You’d be wrong, and Mike Fitelson successfully bet on it.

Fitelson adapted the holiday classic into The Hip Hop Nutcracker, pairing Tchaikovsky’s iconic score with an on-stage DJ and an electric violinist, adding plenty of breakdancing, digital graffiti art and parachute pants.

Still, Nutcracker aficionados will easily recognize E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story despite the differences. Maria-Clara is the young girl hero, who with the help of The Nutcracker defeats the Mouse King and his troop of mice, earning herself a trip to the Land of Sweets.

But The Hip Hop Nutcracker opens on New Year’s Eve in present-day New York City. Maria-Clara’s parents are ruining the holiday by fighting, the Mouse King is the leader of a gang, and The Nutcracker is the nut peddler who helps her. More than that, the eventual trip to the Land of Sweets is actually a trip back in time to a 1980s-era nightclub where the characters have to help Maria-Clara’s parents find each other.

Rap pioneer Kurtis Blow sets the scene as the MC, a role he’s been performing since 2014. It’s a surprising union until you remember that Blow’s first song was “Christmas Rappin’” in 1979.

Blow’s been known to perform the aptly themed song during the show, as well as Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” and “The Breaks.” Composed from a 1920s-era philosophy song, Blow’s said the construction of “The Breaks” parallels The Hip Hop Nutcracker, telling Detroit News that it has the “same idea of The Hip Hop Nutcracker — taking an old classic and making it an up-to-date smash hit.”

Smart Financial Centre presents The Hip Hop Nutcracker on December 4, 2019. — Natalie De La Garza

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