Nothing says Christmas like George Washington prancing through the cherry blossoms.
We’re talking, of course, about the Washington Ballet’s “Nutcracker” with surprise VIP cameos including Mayor Vincent Gray, MPAA head Chris Dodd and the Washington Nationals’ foam-headed racing presidents.
Artistic director Septime Webre debuted his patriotic version of the ballet in 2004 with the character of Washington as the Nutcracker, King George III as the Rat King, Anacostia Indians, frontiersmen — and local celebs in the Act I party scene. “I thought it would be fun for audiences to see notables on stage,” he told us.
VIPs, who are announced just before the curtain rises, traditionally take one of three non-dancing roles. Frederick Douglass has been portrayed in the past by Vernon Jordan, Marion Barry and, on Sunday night, Gray. D.C. Council member Jack Evans shows up once a year as an ambassador; Barbara Harrison, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Adrienne Arsht are appearing this season as a sexy merry widow.
“Fun is a given,” said Arsht, who donated $250,000 so the ballet could have a live orchestra this year. “For me, it adds to my appreciation of what the artists are and do.”
Yeah, but what’s with those racing presidents? “They’re just these funny, kooky characters,” said Webre. This is the second year for the four presidents, who popped up last week in Act II dancing to Tchaikovsky’s traditional score — with a few additional moves from “Swan Lake” and a kick line.
The audience went crazy; Teddy Roosevelt ended his performance by throwing himself on the stage. “It was a riot,” Webre told us. “Very post-modern.”
Read earlier: Washington Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ is, once again, plenty sweet (review), 12/2/11