Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Like colored lights and candy canes, The Nutcracker is a ubiquitous holiday season staple. Even if you rarely go to the ballet, you have probably seen a professional, student, live-on-stage, television, or movie rendition of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's Christmas fable.
Chris Davis is not a professional ballet dancer by any stretch of the imagination. It might be generous to call him a ballet student. But Davis' solo rendition of The Nutcracker, recently presented at Theatre Exile, was as entertaining as any version I have encountered. A wonderfully original take on the beloved holiday classic, Davis' One-Man Nutcracker was filled with earnest affection, viciously honest criticism, clever insight, and trenchant humor.
The setup for this holiday dance comedy was that Davis had been the greatest ballet dancer of all time until his illustrious career was cut short by a devastating injury that left him with two left feet. Literally. Hidden away from the world for years, Davis was finally called to the stage again by his old mentor, who insisted that he is the only one who could dance the One-Man Nutcracker.
It was amusing and gratifying to watch Davis dance out many of the most iconic sequences from the ballet, but the show was much more than a CliffsNotes version of the real thing. Davis displayed a rare charm interacting with the audience. He also revealed some legitimately interesting facts about the ballet's history and some real issues that ought to give anyone watching a traditional version of the The Nutcracker more than a moment's pause.
Deliciously irreverent, hilariously funny, and touchingly authentic, One-Man Nutcracker was a real holiday treat. I hope Davis and director MK Tuomanen will bring it back again next season. I would not hesitate to see this one again.
One-Man Nutcracker ran through January 2, 2023, at Theatre Exile, 1340 South 13th Street, Philadelphia PA. For more information visit theatreexile.org.
Written and Performed by Chris Davis
Directed by MK Tuomanen