Hanukkah is often overlooked during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. With Christmas taking the largest piece of the celebration pie, Jewish families struggle to find ways to spread Hanukkah cheer while getting their children excited about the meaning behind the holiday.
While there have been hundreds of Christmas-centered plays and musicals, the most notable traditions are the stage performance of A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker ballet – neither of which even touches on the spirit of the eight-day Hanukkah celebration.
Guggenheim Entertainment* knows how difficult it can be to be a Jew at Christmas. The production company searched for a way to bring the joy of Hanukkah to the masses. But, instead of screaming from the rooftops and celebrating behind-the-scenes, the creative trio of Scott, Shannon and Stephen Guggenheim took matters into their own hands, using their talents to write their own musical.
The idea was a little crazy. Take one-part Hanukkah history, combine it with one part The Nutcracker, write the lyrics and script, and see what happens. What they got was their holiday hit, The MeshugaNutcracker! – scheduled for its off-Broadway debut next year – which combines the story of Hanukkah with the music of The Nutcracker.
With a cast of only eight, Hanukkah, as well as the struggles of Jewish people during the Holocaust, is told in an easy-to-understand format. The libretto centers around the people of Chelm, who gather together for a Hanukkah festival. Through eight stories (seeing a theme yet?), the triumphs of Hanukkah heroes are told – including a couple poignant segments sure to bring a tear to the eye. But, in true Guggenheim fashion, tears are fleeting, as the things quickly shift from sad (“Little Matchstick”) to silly (“Golden Latkes”) just before the intermission (during which, by the way, latkes – potato pancakes – and sufganiot – jelly doughnuts – are available at the concession stands).
If The Nutcracker has “The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” The MeshugaNutcracker! answers with “The Dance of The Dreidels,” and if The Nutcracker has the “March” (Children’s dancing scene early in the ballet), The MeshugaNutcracker responds with the highly entertaining “This is a Menorah.” It’s a unique combination of the classic Peter Tchaikovsky score and the witty stage shows Guggenheim Entertainment has become known for. The show is a delightful mix of family-friendly entertainment, creativity and history, sure to be enjoyed by all – regardless of religious beliefs and background.
Guggenheim Entertainment will bring The MeshugaNutcracker! to the South Bay Dec. 25-28 at Campbell’s Heritage Theatre, 1 West Campbell Avenue. Tickets ($54/$72) are available at www.themeshuganutcracker.com.
*Guggenheim Entertainment ran The Retro Dome at San Jose’s Westgate Mall until its dome-shaped home was demolished for development. The company continues to search for a new home, with Santa Clara one of the ideal cities for a Retro Dome reprise.