A scene from hot chocolate Nutcracker. Photo by Lee Tonks
From the onset, Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker was filled with spiritual fun, moving characters and a Christmas holiday flare. The prologue began with lead singer Mathew Johnson soulful rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” as the Johnson family gathered for Christmas Eve. As the traditional music of Tchaikovsky was replaced with Hathaway and Mariah Carrey’s “Oh Santa” the stage is filled with children the holiday cheer is in the air!
What Debbie Allen did next to the traditional Russian ballet “The Nutcracker” is amazing by combining the old classic story of a little girl, Kara, who receives a special doll which is filled with hot chocolate, she falls asleep & begins to dream that her Nutcracker becomes a prince and takes her on a mystical journey to many foreign kingdoms and lands full of toys and dolls.
The story is narrated by 3 wisecracking, hilarious rats, Schmink, Harvey, and the stuttering Bucky, played by Allen. They are later joined by the Mouse Queen Myrtle: Raven Symone, who was exceptional. Along the journey the dancers were exciting and wonderfully played by kids from the age 5 on up. The discipline that all of the dancers displayed were outstanding as the toys and dolls in the background would actually freeze with matrix like precision and maintain the pose for several minutes while the story and dance was told between actors stage front. The magical journey combined with the cotemporary music James Ingram and Arturo Sandoval made one feel relaxed, excited and full of anticipation as to where the next magical land the dancers would lead. While Kara and the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker traveled from Fairlyland, to Bolly Wood, to China, perhaps one the most memorable highlights were the hip-hop male dancers all dressed in red from 3 feet tall and up in the land of Candy Cane. In true Debbie Allen form they rhythmically danced up a storm! Not to be outdone, the female dancers also dressed in red clear silk in the far off land of the Indian Rainforest were exceptional having mastered the art of soulful belly dancing with latent combinations of pirouettes! All of the dancing was outstanding from the classical, jazz and hip-hop this was an extraordinary event and well worth seeing again,
This is the one gala of the year that gives the Debbie Allen Dance Academy the chance to receive charitable donations for the upcoming year. Miss Allen, said that she could not have done this show without the help of her supporters to name a few: The Gil Cates Family, Walls Annenberg, The David Geffen Foundation, Jeff & Audra Nathanson, La Tanya & Samuel L Jackson, Will & Jada Pinkette Smith, Denzell Washington, Phylicia Rachard, General Motors-Cadillac, Target, Berry Gordy, Norm Nixon. And her mother Mrs. Vivian Ayers.