’Urban Nutcracker’ Comes Out This Sunday

by Kay Bourne

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday December 3, 2012

My next door neighbor Lucca tells me he is five, although that birthday is a couple of months away. (Remember those days in your life when you hoped to be older?)

Having two dads, he also represents the re-definition of the American family in the 21st century.

One of the things we've started to talk about," says Javier Amador Pena, one of Luca's dads, "is the different kinds of families that there are. Some have one dad. Some have two dads...

"Lucca is identifying himself as having two fathers," he adds.

"It's very important that he see that."

Pena also sees Luca as grown up enough so that his two dads are thinking about taking him to the theater.

What, though, to take him to?

The brand new "out" matinee during the run of "Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker" may be just the thing.

Dash of drag

The much-anticipated show opens on Saturday, December 8, and plays ten weekend performances through December 23. What may be the most special of all, especially for Luca and his gay dads, is the GLBT-slated matinee that takes place on the day after that opening.

Urban Nutcracker Comes Out is slated for Sunday, Dec. 9 at 3:30 at John Hancock Hall in the Back Bay. You can expect a dash of "drag," (including a guest dancer from Broadway's recent "La Cage Aux Folles"), as well as see LGBT parents and a teen couple (one of whom is transgendered) at the Christmas Eve party in the famous ballet's opening scene.

Ironically "The Nutcracker" was not a success when it premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892, and it was more than a half-century before it became a holiday staple in the United States. The watershed production proved to be the one choreographed by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet in 1954.

Now in its 12th consecutive year, the "Urban Nutcracker" offers a unique twist on the classic ballet with a score derived from the jazz suite adapted from Tchaikovsky by Duke Ellington and his long-time collaborator Billy Strayhorn.

Celebrates diversity

The show has become a holiday tradition that celebrates diversity. But for this matinee Gay pride (while always a subtext) comes center-stage.

With most of the major roles filled by outstanding professional dancers of many stripes from classic ballet, urban tap, hip hop, swing, flamenco, on to step, jazz, traditional Chinese and modern, the production also features 130 students from Williams' school in Jamaica Plain.

Among the many highlights are flamenco choreographed by Sabrina Aviles with Spanish musician Sergio Martinez Dia; the return of the trouble making Minimeyer (performed by Broadway's multi talented Yo-el Cassell who recently did choreography and costuming for "The Lily's Revenge" at the American Repertory Theater); tapping from Sean Fielder (lead in national tour of "Bring on Da Noise, Bring on the Funk"), and members of the 1950s doo wop group the G Clefs harmonizing on "I Only Have Eyes For You."

Party crasher

Coming off a two-year stint with "La Cage aux Folles," which began with the Broadway run, Matt Anctil is portraying one of the aunts at the festive Christmas party crashed by Drosseelmeyer and Minimeyer who perform magic tricks for the children's delight and give Clarice the magical nutcracker.

Matt plays the eccentric Fanny (matched with another wild aunt, Lily, performed by Todd Lattimore, a nationally known drag star who started out in Boston). Think the comedic stepsisters in the ballet "Cinderella!"

"Being in "La Cage" was "a gay boy's dream come true," enthuses Anctil, who delighted in playing the role of Angelique with her gorgeous clothes and attitude comic writer Bruce Vilanch called "grumpy!" That's the style he brings to "Urban Nutcracker."

Anctil began his involvement with Tony Williams when Williams came to his high school in Worcester to give a ballet class. "He was the male figure in my dance training," says Anctil," the one who taught me to dance with my chest out and deliver a male image."

He adds that he is so proud of Williams for "the work he does with inner city kids and the community" and feels he has been a beneficiary of Williams's gift for teaching children.

Focus on family

Of French/Irish background, Anctil also enjoys the ethnic diversity of working in "Urban Nutcracker." He says "I love how he brings all the different layers of cultures together on stage for the world to see. It makes the show interesting to look at and it reflects the story-line to when Clarise in the second act gets to see the dances which are inspired by many different cultures."

Anctil dances in the Arabian piece and as the Snow King, as well as, in the party scene earlier.

As to the LGBT matinee, "Our community is a family to begin with. And then, I love how this show focuses on the intimate family aspect. We are celebrating family whether two men, two women, adoptive. We erase the definition society has too often imposed and celebrate the reality of our lives."

Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker returns to the stage for its 12th season with performances from Dec. 8 to 23 at John Hancock Hall, 180 Berkeley St. near Copley Square, downtown Boston For more info and tickets (including "Urban Nutcracker Comes Out") phone 617-524-3066 or visit the Urban Nutcracker website.