Have you ever longed to hear the classic Tchaikovsky “The Nutcracker Suite” rewritten to tell the story of the Jews, accompanied by klezmer music, with a special appearance by comedy legend Bruce Vilanch?
If your answer is yes, set aside time at 7 p.m. on Dec. 19 to screen “The MeshugaNutcracker!” It’s playing in theaters nationwide, including several throughout the Boston area.
If you enjoyed the lyrical stylings of, say, “Hamilton,” this just might be the movie experience for you (and it’ll be far easier to snag a ticket).
It’s a distinctly Jewish spin (ahem) on “The Nutcracker” ballet. Set to the classic music with a klezmer orchestra, this version tells eight stories that pay tribute to the first Hanukkah in Israel, plus Judah Maccabee’s triumphant saga and accounts of perseverance. It all happens in Chelm, a fictional town of fools populated by dancing dreidels, among other things.
The tale opens with a rousing rendition of “Joy to the World”…until the cast discovers that such a tune has no place in such a production. Commence a lyrical explosion: “Santas everywhere! Each December Jews from East to West, Jews confess/They cannot get away!…That is why we go out for Chinese, to the movies, to escape Christmas Day!/ You can’t walk through the shopping malls without Christmas decor hanging from the ceiling to the floor. There is a feeling of dread/When Christmas songs fill your head…Grab your yarmulke, it’s time for Hanukkah!”
These catchy ditties populate the entire show, which is a nice blend of history and satire. It’s punctuated by a second-act appearance by Bruce Vilanch, who bolts from the audience in a “Jewbacca” shirt and red spectacles. His next project? “Shalom, Dolly!” Heh!
“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 in a release. “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.”
And where might you find it next? It’s appearing on “Jew-Ray,” of course. Hey, every true Jew loves a good play on words.
Get tickets and find locations here.