Kathy Burks Theater of Puppetry Arts opened its month-long run of The Nutcracker November 24, 2007, but make no mistake, this is not your grandmother's Nutcracker. All the characters are puppets and inanimate objects, grown larger than life, embarking on a familiar adventure at a Christmas Eve party at Clara's home.
If you're expecting to see ballet, well, you won't; unless you consider as ballet a large standard poodle executing some fancy pirouettes to the gleeful accompaniment of howling laughter from the moppets in the audience.
You all know the magical tale of Herr Drosselmeir bestowing a small nutcracker upon his niece, Clara, for Christmas. The nutcracker comes to life and has a fight with the Mouse King and ultimately morphs into a handsome prince. Nothing new here. What is new is KBTPAs re-imagining of their 2005 hit including the larger performance space in the Baker Theater at Dallas Children's Theater. The puppets have a new coat of paint and repaired mechanical parts (perhaps a trip to The Red Door and a knee replacement by a good plastic - make that wooden, surgeon), as well as new costumes for Clara and the Prince and refurbished scenery and visual effects.
As before, the show opens with Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky as an old man narrating how he came to write The Nutcracker on a train. This narration is accompanied by delightful visual effects in which a table and chair plus a piano and bench mysteriously fly into place.
The scene in the Kingdom of Sweets, complete with over-sized candy canes, gingerbread men (or women, who can tell?) and cupcakes create a magical world in which we see enchanting special effects, such as the genie popping out of a bottle surrounded by clouds of smoke and the whimsical routine of stacked nutcrackers with smaller ones popping out of larger nutcrackers. There are also Russian dancers, and even the decorated Christmas trees dance.
Surround all this with the lilting music of The Nutcracker, and you have a show not to be missed. The puppeteers, unarguably the best in the business, utilize shadow puppets and rod puppets in a form known as Black Theater in which the puppeteers are rendered invisible, as they manipulate the action in a stream of light against a black backdrop. The total effect is pure magic.
All this magic is in the hands of the multi-talented puppeteers: Douglass Burks, Sally Fiorello, Kathy Burks, Ted Kincaid and Patricia Long.