Posted by: instanthausfrau | November 27, 2007

Nutcracker Brunch: A Suite Experience

Nutcracker BrunchI’m big on the whole “Give Experiences Instead of Stuff” idea when it comes to holidays — so, knowing the in-laws would be in town for Thanksgiving, and given my mother-in-law’s love of dance, The Nutcracker Brunch seemed a marvelous fit. I bought tickets for everyone ($60/adult, $40/child), and got us up early the Friday morning after Thanksgiving to hit Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall. The brunch was on Saturday. So, tail between my legs, we bundled the freezing family back into the car and safely back home. Moon was crushed, and immediately suspicious that all our other holiday plans were not really going to happen either.

With lots of joking about our “dress rehearsal” we headed back the next day. Note: when they warn you that traffic will be a mess because of the Children’s Marathon, believe them. The parking garage across from McCaw Hall ($5/day) is still open for the event, but getting there is the tricky part. Half the roads around Seattle Center are closed or half-closed for the marathon.

Once inside, we checked in and received our assigned table number, then met with members of the cast. Moon was leary of the Nutcracker Prince (as were many other children), but the ballerinas were a huge hit (one enterprising mother posed her children in a row, then had a friend get the Nutcracker Prince to stand behind them. The result was a lovely photo, and no need to let the children know anything was happening with the scary masked man).

Nutcracker Hand Painting - a candy cane.Other children’s activities included face/hand painting in various holiday motifs and coloring pages featuring ballerinas and Nutcracker scenes (much like the ones you can download from PNB here). The face painting was a huge hit. Around 10am, they let us know it was time to be seated and we headed upstairs to our table.

We were seated with another family — including a three year old dancer and a six year old long-suffering older brother. Families with boys take note — get them to the ballet early in life, or risk them feeling awkward and alone when you go later. There was a large nutcracker as the centerpiece at every table, and a fruit cup waiting with small danishes to nibble as well. There were some hiccups in the meal portion of the event — coffee was slow to arrive, horrible when it got there, and creamer was missing for over half the meal (a carton of half and half was dumped at our table when it arrived). Tea for my father in law did not arrive until his meal was finished. When plates were brought around, the adult meal was served first (individual quiches) and at first offered to the children as well. When the kids’ meals of pancakes did come, the blueberry eyes and nose made them Highly Suspect to most young children around us. Many a parent was seen removing the offending fruit, and pancakes were consumed suspiciously or not at all as they had obviously been contaminated by contact. On the plus side, the hot cocoa offering for the children was pitch perfect — silver bowls with marshmallows, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings were at every table and allowed for the creation of sugary masterpieces. The small sugar tongs allowed us to practice counting as we added marshmallows to Moon’s cocoa.

Clara and her Nutcracker PrinceEvent volunteers brought individual Nutcracker toys to each of the children as we ate, another perfect touch. These small wooden Christmas tree ornaments were relatively sturdy (Moon did still manage to remove a beard from hers), appropriate to both season and occasion, and helped keep bored children at the tables while parents ate. Could something like them be bought elsewhere for cheaper? Of course, but it never would have meant as much to the kids involved as getting this gift did. There was a small Nutcracker gift stand open as well, so that adults finished with their meal could browse a selection of more tree ornaments and children’s books themed around the show.

After the meal, we headed upstairs to the Allen Room, where a small wooden dance floor, black backing curtain, piano, and Christmas tree were the scene for the performance. Children were encouraged to sit on the floor at the front, while adults took seats in the back. This would have been wonderful if the show started right away, but we had 15 minutes or so of raffle ticket drawings to get through. Embarrassed parents cam to shuffle their children off the stage as impromptu games of tag erupted towards the end. Thankfully, it was the right crowd for that sort of thing, and the other parents were more than understanding.

Maurice Sendack's version of the Chinese LionThe performers were all children and teens, including the ones who had greeted the kids in the lobby before the show, which added to the enchantment for the kids in the audience. Clara danced beautifully, and covered with grace when her nightgown managed to catch her up at one point. The dance performance was an hour long, and was narrated for the benefit of an audience who didn’t know the story. The kids, ranging in age from two to six or so, were transfixed. We saw Drosolmeir’s wonderful sword dancer and ballet dolls, Clara receive the Nutcracker present, her brother Fritz break it, and the fight between mice and toys. Clara threw her slipper, the mouse king was defeated, and the Chinese Lion made his appearance to the absolute delight of the young audience. There were squeals, I tell you.

Following the show, the kids got to go up on stage and greet the performers. There was a huge line of little girls waiting to get their photo with Clara, and some proud parents of the performers heading up to congratulate their child. We checked to make sure Clara got her shoe back (Moon was quite concerned when the mouse king took it off stage after his defeat), and headed out to enjoy the Winterfest activities in Seattle Center before heading home for nap.

This was an expensive event, but very worth it for us this once (and yes, I was forgiven the mixed up dates and “dress rehearsal” — at least, I hope I was!). Moon has always loved dance and movement, and has spent the last several days throwing slippers at various mouse kings in our house. If you have a small child who loves dance, a particular need to see the Nutcracker (and small children who can’t make it through the entire performance), or a great desire to see the Maurice Sendak costumes up close, this is a great option for you.

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Responses

  1. OK. We HAVE to do this next year (I take it there aren’t going to be any more this year?)

    Are you taking Moon to a full-blown performance?

  2. I’m still gun-shy on the full blown performance (though she was remarkable through the whole of this one). But yes, this is a once-per-year deal, and I wasn’t sure how it would be. Next year, if my bank account is sufficiently recovered, we should certainly go!

    (Now go blog, we miss you!)

  3. […] October 10, 2008 in Holidays/Special Events, Seattle Clara and her Nutcracker PrinceWhile it pains me to note that Christmas decorations are already up at Costco (!), I apparently have no qualms about the fact it’s time to grab Nutcracker tickets, judging by the time I spent on hold with the PNB box office earlier today. Worried that your small one can’t sit through an entire Nutcracker performance, but still want to see the amazing Maurice Sendak nutcracker costumes that Pacific Northwest Ballet has to offer? Try the Nutcracker Brunch (review from last year here). […]


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