Puppet Theater's Sweet Nutcracker Deserves a Big Hand

Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.

There's always humor and elegance in the shows performed at Dallas Children's Theater by the Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts. The master puppeteers use superb timing and expert storytelling techniques, earning big laughs for something as simple as the bounce of a ball or the playful flight of glow-in-the-dark butterflies.

For The Nutcracker, the Burks troupe uses "black theater" style - puppeteers clad in black hoods and bodysuits, working against black velvet backgrounds. All we can see in the light are rod puppets so beautiful you start to think they're making facial expressions.

B. Wolf's adaptation employs the music of Tchaikovsky's ballet, but includes an appearance by the composer (in puppet form) to explain how the rhythmic rocking of a moving train inspired the familiar Nutcracker theme. Then we see the story of Clara and her Christmas Eve dream of being whisked off to a magical land of fairies and candy by a handsome prince. In this version, the Sugar Plum Fairy is a pirouetting poodle in a purple suit. Perfect.

Under two hours, the show is just long enough for all ages of kiddos, who'll go home humming classical tunes, with happy images of a Sugar Plum Poodle dancing in their heads.

The Nutcracker continues through December 22 at Dallas Children's Theater, 5938 Skillman Street. The performance schedule includes morning, midday and afternoon performances. Call 214-740-0051 for tickets.

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