PLAYBILL: The Nutcracker is nuts

The Nutcracker GigCity EdmontonHow in God’s name did we ever wind up with a Christmas tradition called The Nutcracker? And what’s The Nutcracker all about, anyway? Cracking nuts? Nope – no nuts are harmed in this fever dreamy ballet that’s become such a crucial part of our Christmas entertainment appetite.

Presented by the Alberta Ballet and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at the Jubilee Auditorium Dec. 8-11, The Nutcracker is an old and very strange story.

Premiering in Russia in 1892, the music of course is written by the brilliant Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who is largely responsible for the ballet’s success ever since. The guy who wrote the story it’s based on, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, must’ve been high. The action literally revolves around the little girl Clara, whose toy nutcracker carved in the shape of a man comes alive in the night, whereupon both girl and nutcracker are embroiled in a battle between mice and edible gingerbread soldiers, which doesn’t go well for the cookie-men until they get the tin soldiers in for back-up – and then they all end up in a land of candy ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Spoiler alert.

Odd Wednesday

What’s so odd about Wednesday? It’s the middle of the week, the half-way point, the pinnacle, the “hump day.” The rest is all downhill, gravy, coasting until the weekend.

Odd Wednesday is also the name of a new biweekly sketch comedy show presented at the Sewing Machine Factory, 9562 82 Avenue, and hosted by the local troupe The Debutantes. They perform this Wednesday, and again on Dec. 21. They promise sketch, plus “bizarre” stories and “outrageous” performance art in a themed “milk bar.” Shades of A Clockwork Orange? Admission to the 8:30 pm show is only $5 at the door.

A Christmas Carol GigCity EdmontonA Christmas Carol

“Here’s the deal: You will be visited by three ghosts. Well, four if you include me. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one. That’s 1 am. Expect the second on the next night at the same hour, and the third upon the next night when the last stroke of 12 has ceased to vibrate, an hour earlier than those other two for some reason. Future is always showing up early …”

Wait a minute here. Wasn’t it Christmas Eve when Scrooge was visited by the three spirits? And wouldn’t it then be the day after Boxing Day by the time he was finished with them? Wow, just caught a HUGE continuity error in the Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic, being presented by the Citadel Theatre until Dec. 23. Oh, we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief, are we? OK, maybe there’s some kind of magic going on here, like how Santa Claus couldn’t possibly give presents to billions of good little girls and boys in one night unless he had a time machine – and maybe you’re still going to be grumpy you didn’t get that giant edible Sugar Plum Fairy you’ve always wanted. Bah, humbug.

Only in Vegas

It’s a bit much to cram a weekend of Sin City into two-and-a-half hours of pure entertainment in this Mayfield Dinner Theatre production – featuring impersonations both uncanny and canny of Frankie, Sammy, Dino, Elvis, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Wayne Newton, Barbra Streisand, Cher and all the rest in spectacular riot of a show that tries to do too much in one sitting, kind of like this hard-working sentence, in fact the same one that was used in last week’s Playbill except for this last bit – but that’s Vegas for you. Head hurts now.

Plays through Jan. 17.