Meet the Mouse Kings of Boston

mouse kings boston nutcracker

Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of the Boston Ballet

—Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Matthew Slattery / “Mouse King”

Why should people come see your version of The Nutcracker?

The Nutcracker is a great way to get into the holiday spirit, and this version by Mikko Nissinen has something for everyone. From the thrill of the ballet scene to the sparkle of the Sugar Plum, it’s sure to keep you coming back every year.

Describe your pre-show routine for us.

Pre-show, I’m always listening to music to get me in a good mood. My pre-show ritual for Mouse King, though, is very different from most of the other roles in The Nutcracker. It has a massive mouse head, so I don’t have to do my hair or makeup. Before getting into costume, I always make sure to put rosin on my hands and feet to stop the mouse gloves and feet from slipping when I start to move. Another part of the costume is a big piece of popcorn that I like to tie a special way to make sure it’s really secure. Last, before every show, I try and say “Chookas” to everyone in the show—it’s Australian slang, similar to saying, “Break a leg,” or “Merde.”

What do you like to do around Boston outside of dancing?

Growing up in Australia, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I really like to spend my free time exploring wherever I can. The beach is one of my first choices when we have a day off and the weather is warm. When it’s too cold for the beach, I love to hike. That’s why I love Boston so much. There’s so much just outside the city. When it comes to the winter, I find it pretty difficult. I don’t handle the cold very well. In the winter, I try and get outside when I can, but I spend most of the time trying to stay warm, watching cartoons or movies.

***

—Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker
Ryan Bulson / “Rat King”

Why should people come see your version of The Nutcracker?

The Nutcracker at JMBT stands out from the rest because it’s constantly evolving. We are always finding new ways to give the audience a new experience during the holiday season. Whether it’s new choreography, new dancers, new costumes, or new sets, you’ll annually come to the show and see a different show every time.

Describe your pre-show routine for us.

My pre-show routine varies from show to show depending on the roles that I’m playing that night. There are times when I enjoy being around the people that I’m performing with and other times that I like to be on my own to focus my mind on the task at hand. It really varies from night to night.

What do you like to do around Boston outside of dancing?

Having just recently moved to the Boston area from Hartford, Connecticut, I’m very new to the area and am continuously finding new, exciting things to do here. However, during our Nutcracker season, there really isn’t a lot of time for outside activities. But we love what we do, and we love being in the theater, so we don’t mind the lack of free time.

***

—Tony Williams Dance Center’s Urban Nutcracker
Ndubuisi Ofoegbu / “Rat King”

Why should people come see your version of The Nutcracker?

People should come see this version of The Nutcracker because it’s not your typical Nutcracker. This show brings wonderful new aspects to a timeless story that has been told for many, many years. The addition of other styles of dance, including jazz, hip-hop, and tap, gives this show an extra flare that most Nutcrackers do not possess. There is an aspect of comedy and fun that everybody can enjoy. I don’t think there are many people out there who wouldn’t find this show entertaining or enjoyable.

Describe your pre-show routine for us.

I find that I have the best run of the shows when I’m able to get a good rest the night before. Physically, I make sure that my body is fueled for the day. I make sure I’ve had a great meal before each show. A couple hours before curtain is when I get in the zone. I warm up my body, taking company class, getting in some jumping jacks, doing a few push-ups, maybe a few crunches and sit-ups to make sure I look good on stage. This cardio is really important because I don’t like to stretch my body unless I’m actually hot—I won’t start to stretch until I’m literally dripping sweat. After a nice, good stretch, I put on warm clothing and then prepare my costume and makeup for the stage. Once I hear “Places,” it’s show time!

What do you like to do around Boston outside of dancing?

I have fun spending time with my friends. I always enjoy having a night on the town with old grade-school friends or college colleagues. It can be anything simple as going bowling at Jillian’s or Kings, going to the movies at the Fenway theater, or going to get dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in the Prudential Center.

***

The Slutcracker
Jon Smalls / “Rat King”

Why should people come see your version of The Nutcracker?

People should come to the Slutcracker for a show that is filled with laughs, high energy, and fun. Traditional Nutcrackers are great, but The Slutcracker takes the tradition and turns it into something else entirely, while still staying true to the Nutcracker spirit. The TLDR is if you are curious, looking for something new, high energy, exciting, then you should definitely see our show.

Describe your pre-show routine for us.

My pre-show routine actually starts in transit to the theater while I go over my mental notes of the previous run and what I can do differently: what scenes landed as expected, where I had difficulty, and where I can mesh better with my cast mates. When I hit the building I start with checking all of the props that I touch during the course of the show to ensure that they are where I expect them to be and in working order. This usually involves a fair amount of walking around backstage, so it is a good chance to chat it up with the crew and see whether they have any comments. Once I have done that, I will check all of my costume pieces to ensure that I have them and they look good. I once went out on stage without an important costume piece and swore, “Never again!” After the technical preparation, the only thing I want is to associate with my cast mates, and go through the normal stretching and makeup process. It feels great to clear my mind of the outside world and get drawn into the energy of the world we are creating on stage. Once that turns to laughing and joking with my buddies, then I have gone from street Jon to stage Jon and feel totally ready for the big time.

What do you like to do around Boston outside of dancing?

I dance ballroom competitively as my main dance focus, but cross-train other dance styles as much as I can manage. I have always wanted to get more involved in stand-up comedy, and have recently started improv acting because I like to delight people with words as well as dance. Often I manage to get a film/stage credit or two in my off season, but come December, there is only one thing on my mind. I try to remember that Boston is a rich community of student, amateur, and professional performers of all styles performing for our pleasure all of the time. Why not see and participate in as much of it as we can? I might be a little biased, but I heard that Slutcracker was pretty good.

Interviews have been edited and condensed. 

***

Check out the productions for yourself:

Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker, $35+, through December 31 at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, bostonballet.org.

Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker, $20+, through December 6 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St., Boston, December 11-20 at the Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Rd., Dorchester, ballettheatre.org.

Urban Nutcracker, $25+, December 11-27, Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley St., Boston, urbannutcracker.com.

The Slutcracker, $27, December 4-31, Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, theslutcracker.com.

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/2015/12/04/mouse-kings-boston-nutcracker/