We go to one of the matinee performances, along with every other small child in the state, it seems, most of whom squirm, whisper, and sometimes even cry their way through the two hour show (some Nutcrackers are longer, but happily this production is streamlined and fast-paced!). Their reaction is understandable, if preventable; The Nutcracker is a fairly odd story, and seeing it acted out via ballet can be confusing if you don't know what is going on or aren't used to watching ballet. I think it is worth going because it can be a lovely visual representation of the magic of Christmas, but it is not worth the expensive tickets if your children aren't prepared to actually enjoy it. Here are my (fairly obvious!) tips for having a successful Nutcracker outing. Before you go:
- Read aloud a good, detailed version of the story that bears a strong resemblance both to the original and to the stage version many times.
- Listen to the music (full score, not the Suite) a lot and talk about which pieces go with which parts of the story.
- Prepare your child for watching ballet by addressing questions such as "Why are the men wearing tights?"
- Talk about proper concert-going behavior! Although no one expects classical-symphony-concert-level behavior from kids at The Nutcracker matinee, everyone pays a lot of money for tickets, so let's be sure they can all see and hear the performance.
N. was nervous beforehand, and in the days leading up to the event, the ragtime "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" pieces he was going to play completely fell apart. But he rose to the occasion, played beautifully, and really enjoyed performing (in fact he said he wished he'd been able to play more pieces!). It was fun to see all the kids so focused and intent as they played their holiday songs.