‘Hip Hop Nutcracker’ a holiday mashup extravaganza at Victoria



Maria-Clara’s grand adventures with the Nutcracker and the Mouse King originated in the 19th century but there’s nothing old-fashioned about “The Hip Hop Nutcracker.” The story gets a totally modern update in this touring program presented by Dayton Live at Victoria Theatre in Dayton on Sunday, Dec. 10.

Kurtis Blow, who became the first rapper to sign a major label record deal in 1979, is the MC for this unique holiday production.

“This show is a good look for hip-hop,” Blow said. “It’s a good look for dance. If you like theater and classical music, if you like hip-hop and breakdancing and DJing, all of these things are included. This is the hip-hop holiday season mashup extravaganza for the whole family. I’ve seen three and four generations of people (attend). It’s amazing to see these audiences. They really have a good time because they’re revitalized and inspired to spread this love. The theme of the whole show is love conquers all.”

Building on the classics

“The Hip Hop Nutcracker” was created in 2013 by director Jennifer Weber (Broadway’s ”& Juliet, “KPOP”) and writer Mike Fitelson. Weber is a Tony Award-nominated, Olivier Award-nominated, and Emmy Award-winning choreographer based in New York City and Los Angeles. Fitelson is the CEO of the United Palace of Cultural Arts in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

The roots of this program stretch back to 1892, when Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created his two-part ballet. It was based on Alexander Dumas’ reworking of an 1816 short story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” by E.T.A. Hoffman. Fitelson’s adaption, inspired by the original George Balanchine ballet from 1954, was updated to a contemporary New York City setting.

“We owe it all to our leader Jennifer Weber,” Blow said. “She’s the main choreographer and comes up with these incredible dance routines and skits. Of course, a lot of the original story is the same, but she added a violinist who comes out and collabs with the DJ who plays those funky beats under classical music all night long. We’ve also assembled all-star dancers from all over the world. I call them the B-Boy-B-Girl Dream Team and they’re incredible.”

The initial “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” production was a 15-minute trial balloon presented at the United Palace in 2013. Three-time Tony Award-winning producer Eva Price was impressed by the short program and signed on as executive producer. A full-length version was presented the following holiday season at the United Palace and at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. A touring production of “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” launched an 11-city tour of the United States and Russia in 2015. The creators have continued to enhance the annually touring production with new updates.



Enlisting a musical pioneer

Blow, who signed on as MC for the first full production of “The Hop Hop Nutcracker” in 2014, was the perfect fit for the show. He is a pioneering hip-hop figure that has long been associated with Christmas. He was 20 years old when he signed with Mercury Records, becoming the first rapper to secure a major label deal.

Blow’s debut release was the 1979 single, “Christmas Rappin’,” which was also the first holiday song in the fledgling musical genre. It sold more than 400,000 copies and has become a contemporary holiday standard. The follow-up single, “The Breaks,” is another hip-hop classic. It was released in June 1980 and reached No. 4 on Billboard’s R&B chart. Blow’s self-titled debut album was released that September. He released nine more albums over that decade, scoring six more Top 40 hits on the R&B singles chart.

“I am an avid supporter of the fusion of rap into other genres of music,” Blow said. “I first went to the rehearsal studio 11 years ago. When I saw all these young people breakdancing to the hip-hop beats under classical music, I had to be a part of it. The hip-hop pioneers never envisioned having the music of Tchaikovsky involved and that to me was the icing on the cake.”



Man of many pursuits

Blow, who still tours as a solo artist, parlayed his early music success into an eclectic, active life as an activist, radio personality, television producer, ordained minister and leader of the Hip Hop Church. He was an associate producer of the 11-episode series, “The Get Down,” which aired in two parts on Netflix in 2016 and 2017. Blow was appointed to the Nightlife Advisory Board by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2018. In 2020, the rapper received a heart transplant.

“I’m so thankful for the miracle blessing I received by acquiring a heart donor in 2020,” Blow said. “I am a walking, living, breathing testimony that God is still in the miracle business. I’m so grateful I’m still here on the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The celebration is a whole year from August 11, 2023, until August 11, 2024. There are so many events, concerts, festivals, summits and conferences happening. I was part of a big Yankee Stadium concert and that was incredible.

“When you think about live theater, concerts, productions and events celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, ‘The Hip Hop Nutcracker’ is top of the line,” Blow added. “We’re playing the greatest theaters around the country. Shows are selling out everywhere. It has been amazing to still be able to be on stage and deliver ‘The Hip Hop Nutcracker’ to audiences around the country. I’m so very grateful.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or donthrasher100@gmail.com.


What: “The Hip Hop Nutcracker”

Where: Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton

When: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10

Cost: $35-$85

More info: 937-228-3630 or www.daytonlive.org

Artist info: www.hiphopnutcracker.com

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