I have a very deep affinity for Christmas things.
As I've chronicled here in the past, I'm all about real-live Christmas trees, carols sung by a choir, and treasured cookie receipies.
What's more, I am an unapologetic fan of It's a Wonderful Life. Last year, I sought out a big screen showing, just to enjoy the pitfalls and redemption of George Bailey in its glorious 1946 aspect ratio of 1:37:1.
One Christmas tradition that passes me by, however, is The Nutcracker.
I've seen plenty of incarnations, from film to stage to animated adaptations to jazz and hip-hop versions.
Doesn't matter. Before the tree grows to gargantuan proportions in Act I (or does it???), I'm nodding off.
I should say, however, that I do enjoy the music. The Tchaikovsky score is lush and beautifully ornamental. The pieces that landed in Disney's Fantasia are among the high points of that film for me, which is deep praise because I consider the entire feature to be genius.
Eileen, let it be said, loves the ballet.
What sends her snoozing during the holidays is Handel's The Messiah.
Which I enjoy.
Early in our marriage, we agreed to cross-pollinate interests: I treated her to two tickets to sa professionally-mounted production of The Nutcracker; she treated me to two tickets to the Philadelphia Orchestra's version of The Messiah.
Neither one of us came out of the opposite experience with any additional enthusiasm.
Maybe it's the lack of clear storytelling that bugs me. Clara -- or is it Marie? -- gets a Nutcracker as a present from her uncle -- or is it family friend? -- Herr Drosselmeyer. He's a magician -- or maybe he's the villain? -- who loves her dearly. Or maybe he's intent on scaring the tar out of her.
Then there are mice. And a giant tree. And a woman with kids scurrying out from under her skirt. And a sleighride into snowy-fairy land.
And wake me because it's over.
Well, the performance Eileen and I saw together wasn't a total bore. From our seats in the mezzanine, I had a clear view of the orchestra. So while the sugar plums sugared and the flowers waltzed, I was enjoying watching these fine musicians at work.
I'm sure there is something amiss in my cultural DNA to not appreciate this seasonal gem.
Maybe it's that I spend the majority of the ballet waiting for those coolio Disney dancing mushrooms that never appear.