Monday, December 12, 2011

Shari Lewis: Lamb Chop's Nutcracker Suite

One of the great joys of childhood was Shari Lewis. She appealed to kids with good, wholesome, somewhat educational entertainment that was actually funny. I absolutely loved Lamb Chop's Play Along and was so sad when I heard she died in 1998.

Lamb Chop was a puppet of a ewe lamb who would often be Shari's foil. However, despite Lamp Chop's silliness, she was an endearing character and no matter how exasperated Shari could get at Lamb Chop, they'd always be friends.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered they'd made an audio cassette of The Nutcracker!

Well, the tape opens with a "ho ho ho," and Lamb Chop cheering, "It's Santa Claus!" But as it continues, it appears Shari has just had to bring Lamb Chop inside as the poor lamb has a cold. Sadly, this means they can't attend a performance of The Nutcracker ballet.

Lamb Chop is unfamiliar with ballet and The Nutcracker, so Shari explains how ballet can tell a story with dance and music, while she decides to tell the story of The Nutcracker herself.
 Shari tells the standard story of the ballet, highlighted by songs with original lyrics based on Tchaikovsky's score. These songs work really well, actually. The overture becomes Mr. Stahlbaum's greeting of the guests. The playful march theme becomes a song for Fritz as he and other boys play soldiers. The mice are represented with the Coffee theme (Shari notes the change later), and a few selections of the later score are sung, one of the most humorous being the Chinese dance, which concludes with "Please, oh, please bring us Chinese!"

Shari's Nutcracker concludes with a dance between Clara and the Prince, and he asks her to marry him, but she must refuse as she is only six years old as Shari explains. (In Hoffman's original book, Marie had just turned seven, so Shari isn't too far off.) However, the memories of that night, Shari assures us, Clara will treasure forever.

The tape concludes with pieces of the famous score without lyrics this time.

Many parents have recommended Shari's tape (later re-released as CD) as a great way to introduce children to ballet and The Nutcracker story, and I suppose that's true. Lamb Chop's quips and remarks make this enjoyable for all ages as well. ("Do you know why parents take their children to see The Nutcracker?" "Freddy Kruger isn't in it?") However, copies of this one seem to go for high prices nowadays, so if you want to check it out, you might have to look hard for a good deal or prepare to spend a bit of money.


Christopher said...

I would love to have the words that Lambchop sings.

Christopher said...

I would love to have a copy of the words Lamb Chops Sings.