Diary of a Hip Hop Nutcracker #3

I’ve devoted the better part of the last 14 years of my life exploring the changing neighborhoods of Northern Manhattan. As a photographer. As a newspaperman. As a small business owner. As an architect of and advocate for the growing arts community.

During those endeavors, nothing has made me more proud than watching a half dozen artists bring to life what a few months earlier had only been a wisp of an idea to create a hip hop version of “The Nutcracker” with the story taking place in contemporary Washington Heights and hearing a few hundred audience members roar their approval of what they had just witnessed.

On December 22, 2013 we presented a few scenes from “A Hip Hop Nutcracker in Washington Heights,” which we hope to mount in full for December 2014.

In dance lingo, the three performers, Megan "Megz" Alfonso, Ann-Sylvia Clark and Sammy "Samo" Soto, under the direction of choreographer Jennifer Weber “killed it.”

And like any good Broadway production, it took a miracle to even accomplish that much.

Monday, the day before the show, the Palace installed its new light board, giving the tech team of David Tennent and Joe Cantalupo fewer than 24 hours to come up with lighting and video effects. The day of the preview was the only time that we had both the MC, Audubon, and musicians, DJ Boo and Filip Pogády, on stage together to rehearse.

We had exactly one (1!) full rehearsal with all the players in place (which is where these photos come from). Nevertheless the 25-minute show was a hit with the audience, most of whom had never before seen a production of “The Nutcracker.” Our audience members are typically more familiar with the nutcracker street drink (a Washington Heights specialty) than the ballet. But combining a story they could relate to with Tschaikovsky’s music, and replacing ballet with hip hop helped whet their appetite.

We will spend the next few weeks exploring whether we have the capacity to pull off the full production next Christmas. But based on what we saw, heard, and felt, this could be the holiday production that brings Washington Heights together under one roof, one more step in transforming our many different communities into a single, more unified community.

Read the previous diary entry about “A Hip Hop Nutcracker in Washington Heights: http://unitedpalace.org/index.php/upca/29-upca-articles/upca-world-class-theatre/388-diary-of-a-hip-hop-nutcracker-2