Last night husband and I went to see the Nutcracker. Husband had never seen it and enough years had passed since I had that we were both genuinely excited to be hoisting this holiday cliché upon ourselves. It started well enough. We were both impressed with the Boston Opera House, a vaudeville palace built in the 1920s in a style that apes the best of Euro-gaudy. It was only in the second act when Mother Gigone waddled out on the stage that things started to sour. In a ballet full of dainty, delicate things, Mother Gigone is a man in drag wearing a giant hoop skirt and walking on stilts. Clown children scamper in and out of his/her skirts from time to time, and this is where the trauma comes in. Long ago I too was a clown child.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. I had different aspirations when as an awkward tween I auditioned for my local production of the Nutcracker. I had the good sense to realize that sugar plum fairydom was the preserve of older girls like Francesca, girls who had boobs, wore eyeshadow, and smoked Marlboro Lights between pointe and tap on Thursday nights. All I wanted was a modest role in the opening scene as one of the Christmas party kids hanging out with Clara and Fritz. Instead I got the indignity of clown child.
While I was busy suffering from my PTND, husband was busy enjoying himself. It turns out the Nutcracker is rife with British cultural references, including the 1970s Cadbury fruit and nut case ad and the inspiration for Keith Lemon’s Celebrity Juice Russian dance (you have to wait for it, but it does come around 1:30). In the end I found some consolation in the production, mostly in the fact that the role of reindeer-pulling-the-Snow-Queen-sled did not exist in my local production. I got over being hidden underneath a drag queen’s skirt, but I may never have recovered from a walk-on part in a white unitard and jingle bells.