The MeshugaNutcracker

December 4, 2017
 

 

meshuganutcracker-kersh-branz-photographyMove over Sugar Plum Fairy, there’s a new Nutcracker in town. “The MeshugaNutcracker!” a Hanukkah comedy musical, is coming to theaters nationwide on Dec. 19.

The story takes place in the fictional town of Chelm, legendarily made up of fools, and features a klezmer-ized orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite.”

Full of colorful costumes and singing and dancing to adaptations of Tchaikovsky pieces from the ballet, the musical also manages to relate moving Jewish stories.

“It’s a show that’s really never been done before,” said Susan Gundunas, one of the stars of the ensemble cast. “Not just because there’s finally a big, beautiful show about Hanukkah in the same way there are big, beautiful shows celebrating Christmas, but also because the cast is singing an amazing, challenging score that was originally intended for musical instruments! We get to sing the piccolo line and clarinet line of melodies you’ve had in your head forever but that have been wordless for hundreds of years. It’s a real treat to sing such melodious, grand music.”

The musical features the Chelmniks regaling the audience with eight stories that tell the history of Judah Maccabee, the first celebration of Hanukkah when Israel was a new state and tales of survival during the Holocaust.

Those who see the Nutcracker every year will appreciate the familiarity to the ballet and the effort taken to adapt it seamlessly into a Jewish story, but it is just as entertaining for those who have never been.

Fathom Events, which often brings movies into theaters for special releases, will distribute the film. “We are always thrilled to embrace the holiday spirit with audiences and celebrate such a special time of year, and this year there’s no better way than watching a fun twist on a beloved classic,” Fathom Events VP of Programming, Kymberli Frueh, said. This performance is a fun way for audiences to learn more about the history and traditions of Hanukkah in a kitchy spin, using the Nutcracker’s classic music in a way they’ve never experienced it before.”

“No matter what religion you are, no matter what you celebrate this time of year – it’s about finding the light in people, finding light in yourself, letting the holidays truly illuminate everything around you,” Shannon Guggenheim, lyricist and one of the co-producers, said. “And yes, it does sound schmaltzy but that’s why we balance it with a lot of schmaltz in our show! That really is what we’re trying to do: give families something bright and fun but also poignant and meaningful to celebrate this time of year.”

The musical was written and directed by Scott Evan Guggenheim, Shannon Guggenheim and Stephen Guggenheim in association with the San Francisco-based theatrical production company Guggenheim Entertainment. The film was produced by Scott Evan Guggenheim and the music and lyrics were adapted and choreographed by Shannon Guggenheim. Musical direction and arrangements were by Stephen Guggenheim and Thoams Tomasello with costumes and set designs by Juie Engelbrecht. The cast includes Jackson Davis as Yacob, Lynda DiVito as Rivka, Susan Gundunas as Esther, Jeremy Kreamer as Velvel, Benjamin Pither as Motke and Krista Wigle as Yetta.

With dancing dreidels and singing sufganiot and a special appearance by Emmy winner Bruce Vilanch, even the grumpiest among us will find themselves in the holiday spirit with this soon-to-be Hanukkah classic.

In San Diego, “The MeshugaNutcracker” will play at Mission Valley 20, Plaza Bonita 14 and Mira Mesa Stadium 18 on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. 

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