New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: Rattlestick Theater holds first annual ‘Ratcracker’ fundraiser

Taking a comedic approach to a holiday classic, the theater reimagined “The Nutcracker” through the perspective of the ballet’s villain, the Rat King.
Eleanor Jacobs
Rattlestick Theater put on a show that presents The Nutcracker from the comedic perspective of the Rat King. (Eleanor Jacobs for WSN)

The Rattlestick Theater on Waverly Place between 11th and Perry Streets is inconspicuous, hidden behind a flight of stairs between taïm Mediterranean kitchen and Saint John’s in the Village. On Dec. 11, local residents gathered to support the theater’s first annual “Ratcracker,” a theatrical holiday fundraiser for the theater. Rattlestick has raised $4,050 so far through the fundraiser, which will be put toward workshops, readings and fellowships at the theater. 

The event had wine and hors d’oeuvres, and guests were able to mingle near the handmade set after the show. Ticket holders who braved the frigid wind to make their way to the venue were met with undeniable warmth in an auditorium decked with paper snowflakes and strung with lights. 

Rattlestick’s “Ratcracker” teased an abridged parody of the Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet, instead placing its main antagonist in the limelight. Traditionally, Tchaikovsky’s ballet is performed during the holiday season by dance companies nationwide, with the story varying slightly depending on the production.

The first act tells the story of Clara, a young girl who is gifted a Nutcracker doll by her godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer during a holiday party. After the party is over, Clara is mysteriously shrunk down to the size of a mouse, and a battle ensues between a group of rats and toy soldiers, led by the Rat King and Clara’s nutcracker, now come to life. At the end of the battle, Clara defeats the Rat King by throwing her shoe toward him, and she and the Nutcracker Prince head to the Land of Sweets, where Act II takes place.

“I’m just so excited for what we are going to accomplish tonight,” Davis said to the “Ratcracker” audience. “And one of the things that we’re going to accomplish together is more fun per square inch.”

Currently led by Artistic Director Will Davis, the Rattlestick Theater’s mission is to produce “energetic theater that responds to the complexities of our culture in conversation with community partners.” “Ratcracker” lived up to Davis’ promise. 

The play featured an original script by NYU Tisch alum Olivia Hunt, where Clara, the original protagonist of the classic “Nutcracker” story, was nowhere to be found. The focus was instead on the Rat King, played by Sam Gravitte, who acts as the ballet’s antagonist. Interviewed by Clara’s uncle Drosselmeyer (Salty Brine), the King divulges the truth around his demise in the original 1816 battle between mice and soldiers. In the interview, the Rat King says that the battle was really the result of a love affair between himself and the Nutcracker Prince. 

In lieu of his traditional royal garb, Gravitte’s Rat King appears on stage in leather pants and combat boots. He has an exhausted air to his voice, due to his tale being misrepresented. The performance concluded with an ensemble number, put on by a small cast whose infectious enthusiasm brought new life and humor to the traditional musical suite.

Upcoming Rattlestick productions include a February performance of “Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance.”

Contact Eleanor Jacobs at [email protected].

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