I went to see the Nutcracker last night. It was about the 40th time I’ve seen it, dating back to 1971 when my father treated his firstborn to a special Daddy-and-Daughter date. Back then, I couldn’t see a thing because I desperately needed glasses but refused to tell my parents. At ten years old, with extra avoir-du-pois and a horrible haircut, the prospect of adding glasses to the mix was too much to bear. So the Snowflakes and the Dew Drop and the Flowers and Sugar Plum Fairy were just colorful cotton candy blurs.
Not so last night. The Academy glowed, the atmosphere was magical, the little girls in their dresses sparkled with delight and the young couples sharing a holiday date were enchanted. Seeing the Nutcracker from a red velvet box seat next to the mother you dearly love is a magnificent thing, especially when you can actually make out the figures on the stage.
Who cares if the steps are so familiar you can do them yourself? Who cares if the Boys Choir is now filled with tots who could be your grandchildren? Who cares if you now know that the chandelier isn’t made of fairy diamonds and frost?
The Nutcracker in Philadelphia, my beloved Philadelphia, is enough to exorcize-at least for a few hours-the knowledge that there is evil in the world. It acts as a balm to the pain of lost laughter, bitter tears and hard truths about the dangers of the world.