On Sunday The Girl and I took in the Alberta Ballet‘s (fantastic) production of The Nutcracker. It has been many years since I have been to a production and I was looking forward to it as much as The Girl.
She had a wonderful time, and has since been carrying her nutcracker around the house, pretending she is Clara, with me playing the part of Herr Drosselmeyer.
It was an expensive gamble. Money in our house (like many homes) is tight and my wife and I talked about whether the $100 was money well spent. So, if you are thinking of shelling out the dough to take in this annual Christmas tradition in your neck of the woods, here are a few tips that might be handy to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
As with any “parent tip”, results may vary – greatly – depending on your kid. Mine is going to be 5 in January, so these are written with that age in mind.
- Know the story before you go. Knowing the story, and what to expect, ahead of time prepares them for what will come. For some kids, the fight scene between the soldiers and the mice can be especially frightening and confusing. YouTube has clips from various productions of The Nutcracker. There is also a full length production (about 90 minutes) available online, and PBS has a nice synopsis of the story.
- Pick a matinee. Chances are it will be loaded with kids and a bit more kid friendly.
- Take the opportunity to dress up. A few days before we went, my daughter turned to my wife and said, “Is Dad going to wear something distinguished?” Of course, I couldn’t disappoint a request like that, so out came the old suit and tie. She (being 4 and a girl) had no problem getting decked out in appropriate attire. It added an extra element of specialness to the event. But be sure whatever you wear is comfortable.
- Avoid the temptation to bring a friend. Friends can be distracting, and it is challenging enough to focus one preschooler, let alone 2. It also avoids the potential problem that could arise if one wants to leave and the other wants to stay.
- Explain theater etiquette beforehand, but don’t be ruled by it. Explain that theater is different than a movie. The people are real, and they people in the audience like to listen to the music and pay attention to the dancers. People clap when they like something on stage, and there is a break 1/2 way through the show. But it would be impossible to expect a preschooler to be completely still and focused for 45 minutes, so don’t get on their case if they start getting fidgety. Instead try to refocus them on what is happening on stage. Chances are, they may have lost the plot and are confused as to what is going on.
- Bring a small booster seat. Check with the theatre beforehand to make sure this is okay.
- It’s okay to talk (okay whisper) to your kid during the show. Hardcore theatre goers may disagree with this, but some whispering to explain the plot is okay with me. Keep it brief, and keep it focused on the show. My girl loved that I would occasionally lean over and whisper in her ear, drawing her attention to things she might like on stage or in the orchestra pit. I also tried to explain what was going on if she looked lost.
- Be prepared to bail. If, after the first act, your kid is bored and you sense the second half isn’t going to be fun for either of you, leave and console yourself that you had a nice first act together.
- Make it live on. Talk to them about the show after it is over. Ask them what they liked, didn’t like. What they thought of the dancing. Save the tickets and the playbill and display them around the house for a few days.
Finally, if you still want to give your kids the joy of The Nutcracker but are worried about attending a live performance, Cineplex will be carrying the National Ballet’s live performances this holiday season, live in HD at a movie theatre near you.