Nutcracker goes to the dogs
When Herr Drosselmeyer takes the stage in the Downers Grove production of "The Nutcracker," he just might be met with a big, slobbery kiss. And Clara won't be offended if you say she's a real dog. That's because in this production, Clara is a pug, the Mouse King is a black lab and the Sugar Plum Fairy is played by an adorable Sheltie. Actually, Herr Drosselmeyer is the only two-legged creature in this four-legged show.
The canine version of "The Nutcracker" is performed by the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe. The 40-minute production includes 29 working dogs of all different breeds, which spend months practicing their spins and dances. "The owners are always on stage with the dogs. We do some spins and jumping through arms and backing up, all kinds of stuff," says Becky Jankowski, coordinator of the troupe. "In Act 2 we have the Arabian Dancer and the Russian-type dancer and the lady with six dogs under her skirt. It's very cute and very, very active."
Not only that, but it's one of the most affordable Nutcrackers in the area at just $5 per person. Performances are in middle school gyms with bleacher seats-kids can sit on the floor near the show and get an up-close look at the pups in action. The whole production lasts about 40 minutes-easy enough for even younger kids to watch.
If a canine version of "The Nutcracker" isn't enough, check out Noble Horse's equestrian version of the classic. Horses in costume, and their riders, perform in a heated indoor theater. The matinees clock in at about an hour, or make it an evening affair and grab some dinner while you're there. Afterwards, kids can see the horses and riders as they line up for a visit.
And if your kids are really into the ballet after watching it performed by four-legged creatures, let them take a twirl themselves at the Dance-Along Nutcracker at the Chicago Cultural Center on Dec. 5. Kids, and their parents, can wear their tutus and dance alongside professional dancers in pre-show workshops. Then once everyone's all tired out, sit back and enjoy the show. Just remember to leave the pooch at home.