The Nutcracker, Now With Karen O And Conor Oberst
Photo illustrations by John Seaborn Gray
Have you ever seen The Nutcracker? It's pretty weird. We can't think of another story in which the main plot gets resolved in the first half and the second half is just one big-ass party. Seriously, the conflict is resolved so thoroughly by the end of the first act that the second act is just people dancing around celebrating how awesome that was.
The Nutcracker revolves around a pleasant bit of Christmas sorcery, wherein a young girl named Clara's godfather gives her a nutcracker on Christmas Eve. The creepy godfather then works his (Christian?) summoning rite, shrinking the girl down to the size of the nutcracker and bringing pretty much every anthropomorphic thing in the house to life.
The mice become intelligent and fight a pitched war against the gingerbread men, who are soldiers and also cookies. The nutcracker comes to life and leads the gingerbread men into battle, where he triumphs over the evil Mouse King with help from Clara, and then takes her back to his magical realm. Here, he is actually a missing prince, and a massive celebration ensues featuring lots of dancing confectionaries and their queen, the Sugar Plum Fairy. And just think, all of this was dreamt up more than 40 years before the invention of LSD.
So of course the question remains: If we had to recast The Nutcracker with nothing but musicians, who would we cast?
Young Clara should be a sweet, graceful girl with nothing but good intentions who nonetheless isn't afraid to get her hands dirty and join the fray when things get rough. We're thinking Emily Haines of Metric, who's a cute little thing yet also seems like she'd most certainly plant a foot in the balls of anyone who messed with a loved one.
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Clara's younger brother has a brief but crucial role: he is the one who tries to crack a walnut with the nutcracker early on in the play. Unfortunately, the nutcracker isn't designed to crack anything tougher than a hazelnut, and the thing breaks. For the rest of the play, the nutcracker carries that break like a wound.
So for Fritz, we need someone mischievous and callous, who leaves a path of destruction everywhere he goes. Damian Abraham of Fucked Up seems like a natural; the man once confessed to us that he almost killed his guitarist.
The children's godfather, he sets things in motion by generally behaving like a creepy bastard. It's strongly implied that he is somehow responsible for the magic that ultimately winds up granting his goddaughter a kingdom of her own, yet could just as easily have killed her. We need an otherworldly journeyman-mystic who is affable and friendly, yet whose true motivations you can never quite pin down. We need Tom Waits.
Mark C. Austin
Though he's guilty only of something which comes quite naturally to mice (eating gingerbread), the Mouse King and his kin are nonetheless the villains of the story. That means we need someone dangerous, a formidable opponent for the meek, crippled nutcracker and his edible, crumbly soldiers. Someone competent and confident we're afraid could actually pull out the win. We think the only problem with casting Jack White would be that people may start rooting for his character over the nutcracker.
In charge of running the nutcracker's kingdom until his return, she's happy to see him even though it means immediately abdicating her stewardship and crowning Clara, a total stranger, as her replacement. Her dance is the finale, so it should be someone grand and gorgeous with a bigger-than-life presence. So Karen O, then.
For the play to really work, the nutcracker has to seem like a true underdog, with unwavering heart and bravery but questionable ability. A youthful, inexperienced soldier, he nonetheless manages to man up and achieve victory when it really matters. Tiny but fierce Conor Oberst would be perfect for the job.
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