December 13, 2023

This “Nutcracker” Goes In a Different Direction

A UNIQUE “NUT”: Kurtis Blow, the pioneer of rap, stars in “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” at State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick on December 29. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

State Theatre New Jersey presents The Hip Hop Nutcracker on Friday, December 29 at 8 p.m. Tchaikovsky’s 130-year-old ballet is reimagined as a holiday dance spectacle, and is celebrating its 10th season. Tickets range from $39-$69. 

This touring production features hip hop pioneer Kurtis Blow, the first rapper to be signed by a major label in 1979. Blow is considered one of hip hop’s founding fathers and will perform as the MC of The Hip Hop Nutcracker. The tour includes a cast of 12 dancers, an on-stage DJ and an electric violinist who turns the Nutcracker score on its head.

Created in 2013 by director/choreographer Jennifer Weber and writer Mike Fitelson, The Hip Hop Nutcracker pays homage to the original (George) Balanchine ballet, retold through the modern, self-expressive gaze of hip hop culture. The production has evolved due to the creators’ never-ending commitment to enhancing the production. To date, the show has been performed more than 200 times in 70 cities.

“I love taking this show on the road each year and creating lifelong memories for our audiences,” said Kurtis Walker, known professionally as Kurtis Blow. “And to be celebrating our 10th season this year is such a big accomplishment for the show.”

It’s a big accomplishment for Blow as well, who on December 6, 2020, had a heart transplant that has given him a new life. He paved the way for generations of hip hop artists and fans after scoring the first certified gold record rap song in 1980, “The Breaks.” Blow is also responsible for “Christmas Rappin,” the first rap holiday song. 

Just like the classic Nutcracker story, in The Hip Hop Nutcracker Maria-Clara and the Nutcracker Prince go on a dream adventure battling a gang of mice, visiting the land of sweets, and learning the lessons of the holiday season. Innovative digital graffiti and visuals transform the landscape of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s beloved story from traditional 19th century Germany to the diverse sights and sounds of contemporary New York City.

State Theatre NJ is at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick. Visit for tickets and more information.