An Evening at Tulsa Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’:

With My Very Own Little Clara

Lucy and I have decided that going to the theater together is our “thing.” I invited each of the boys to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the PAC a couple of weeks ago, and it seems Arthur shares his dad’s views on musicals, operas, and ballet. Because this is a family publication, I won’t repeat them to you, but suffice it to say, the male gene of my family carries a Grinch factor.

Noah thought it might be cool to go, but not as cool as a less neurotypical environment, like say, watching black-and-white World War II films on his VCR.

However, my lovely Lucy, who is the anti-Arthur, loves the theater. Although this girl can barely make it through an episode of The Good Place, which she is something of a superfan of, she somehow becomes enraptured in the experience of being in the theater, lost in the sights, sounds, and experience of it. She is surprisingly attentive and focused, and afterward, she gives anyone who will listen a play-by-play of it.

Of course, we had to squeeze into our celebration of the holidays a couple of visits to the Performing Arts Center together! We saw Irving Berlin’s White Christmas on November 20th and had such an amazing time that we went back this past weekend to check out The Nutcracker.

Lucy was already familiar with Tchaikovsky from seeing Tulsa Ballet’s amazing production of Swan Lake a couple of years ago, so she was pretty excited. I’d seen The Nutcracker a few times before, but the last time was back when I was teaching piano lessons in college to little kids. One of the cool things about this year’s production is that unlike the productions I’d seen in the past, it was set in 1920s Paris. After reading The Great Gatsby for the first time in my life last year, I have a newfound appreciation for the aesthetic, and I must say the production was beautiful.

Lucy loves to dress up for the theater. “Look at my amazing outfit, meow!” she beamed. She was wearing a formal dress with a peach sweater over it, a fuzzy pink bolero vest over that, and some pink kitty ears. She looked absolutely bonkers. I loved it.

Outside, it was 20 degrees. The words “bitterly cold” passed over my mind like a recording.

We had an incredible evening out together. In the lobby, Lucy stared at the performers’ glossy pictures. “They’re all so pretty,” she said. Two of the “they” were male performers. I love the way Lucy uses language.

This was the first time we sat close enough that I could show Lucy the orchestra. The look on her face was like I’d pulled off a magic trick.

Throughout the production, the ladies to my left were whispering in Russian, but I wasn’t even mad. As we watched the Grand Pas de Deux, I imagined we were in Moscow, the year 1919. Ballet has a power of transcendence, a way of lifting you across space and time, engaging your imagination.

I know very little about ballet, but I find it boggling, the sheer athleticism and mental clarity the performers need. I can’t remember a five-step recipe without having to look it up on the Internet. But these incredible ballet dancers hit step after step with perfect precision, telling their gorgeous story to music that has enchanted generations now. There’s a physical intelligence that’s every bit as complex as solving an algorithm, and it steals my breath to watch it.

To my right, Lucy was transfixed. Every so often she’d whisper, “Mom, who are those guys?” or “Mom, that’s amazing!” It stuns me when I think there was ever a time before Lucy.

Filing up the path past the frosty air through the exit doors after the show, Lucy spoke a mile a minute: “Did you see those guys with the sticks? They went like this — and this — and then they’d do like this–”

I chuckled, shooing her up the steps. “Come on, kitty cat.”

“Meow,” she replied deliriously.

The crowds shuffled into the lobby from all directions after the show, crowding around the merchandise table where dozens of gorgeous glittering ballerinas and nutcrackers were hanging. “Oh my God! They’re beautiful! Mom, can I have one?” Lucy begged.

I leaned forward and grabbed the little tag on the Clara she loved to see how much it was and it crashed to the table, its arms breaking off tragically. Sheepishly, I pulled out what cash I had to pay for the broken ornament, handing both to the clerk. “Do you want to keep the broken ornament?” she asked.

Lucy’s eyes were enormous. “YES!!!” she begged. And so that is how we ended up with an armless Clara.

On the ride home, Lucy twirled Clara around and around, gasping and fawning over how beautiful she was.

“I’m really sorry I broke her,” I told Lucy, feeling ashamed.

Lucy squeezed my arm from next to me on the seat of our friend’s old truck. “Please don’t be,” she told me. “I love her. She’s amazing. Besides, it’s now it’s just like when Clara’s brother broke her nutcracker.”

I leaned over, squeezing back. “Meow,” she replied. And then she told Justin the story of The Nutcracker the rest of the way home.

If you haven’t had a chance to catch The Nutcracker, it’s still going every weekend between now and December 23rd, and you can get your tickets here. Tickets start at $25, and you can get a lovely commemorative ornament for only $10 more, arms included.

What holiday productions are you taking your kids to see this year? Drop me a line in the comments and give me your recommendations!

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