Kurtis Blow Headlines ‘The Hip Hop Nutcracker’ at Cadillac Palace Theatre

Kurtis Blow stars in “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Dec. 12-17 (Photo Credit: Cheryl Mann).

Starting Tuesday, when Hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow takes the stage at the Cadillac Palace Theatre for “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” it will mark an occasion where legacy, history and good fortune meet. 

Blow stars in this award-winning reimagining of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” in the same year the genre he helped pioneer celebrated its 50th anniversary. Moreover, the rapper who created Hip-hop’s first holiday song in “Christmas Rappin,’” will perform during the holiday season in the very town that once housed the record label that gave him his first deal. 

“I was the first rapper signed to a major label back in 1979, and the label was Mercury Polygram. And do you know the main office was right here in Chicago on Lakeshore drive?”

Here’s another kicker: It was “Christmas Rappin’” that landed Blow that record deal, which would make him Hip-hop’s first commercially successful rapper.

However, it’s Blow’s health journey that adds another layer of significance to him being involved with “The Hip Hop Nutcracker.” Why? Some years ago, he experienced heart failure and needed a new one to live.

“The doctors told me I need a heart transplant. So, I prayed to God,” he said. “God is in the miracle business, I needed a miracle. So we were praying, my family, all my friends and around the world. Everyone was praying for this miracle to happen and God delivered.”

Kurtis Blow and The Hip Hop Nutcracker: ‘I Gotta Be a Part of This’

Indeed, and you could also call his involvement with “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” as serendipitous. 

Blow was introduced to the production through his friend, legendary music executive Bill Stephney. When he got invited to a rehearsal, he saw up close this dynamic amalgam of a show where Tchaikovsky’s classical sounds were fused with the Hip-hop elements of breakdancing and Hip-hop beats. 

And it captivated him. 

“I saw these kids break dancing to the classical music of Tchaikovsky, and there was a DJ cutting up funky beats under this classical music. I said, ‘Man, I gotta be a part of this.’”  

Over the last 10 years, “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” created by Emmy winner Jennifer Weber and writer Mike Fitelson, has been performed over 250 times in 70 cities. Along with the DJ, It features a dozen all-star dancers and an electric violinist who transforms Tchaikovsky’s sound into something very contemporary where audiences are transported from traditional 19th century Germany to contemporary New York City and all that vibrancy it entails.

With Blow serving as the MC, there is a call-and-response component to the show that you would find at a classic, old-school Hip-hop concert.

That “wave your hands in the air and act  like you just don’t care” type of vibe. 

“The special thing about The Hip Hop Nutcracker is that we have that crowd response in the intro that gets everyone ready and prepared for what they are about to see,” Blow said.

Kurtis Blow stars in The Hip Hop Nutcracker

He leads off the show with a song called “New Year’s Eve” and leads audience members through an NYE-like countdown. He comes back toward the end to perform one of his biggest hits, the esteemed, 43-year-old Hip-hop classic known as “The Breaks.”

For as much as “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” owes its existence to the nearly 133-year-old classical ballet, this particular reimagining is careful to also pay homage to the classical sound that Blow helped create.

“If you like theater, if you like dance, if you like Hip-hop, if you like fun, you need to check out The Hip Hop Nutcracker, and that’s why I’m here.”

Speaking of being here, Blow reflected on being a part of this production, smiling the whole time like a grandfather blessed to enjoy the fruits of something he helped make years ago — in his case, four decades ago.  

“You know, it means everything to me to be here still, on the 50th anniversary of Hip-hop. Fifty years, y’all, and I’ve seen it from the beginning. I’m so grateful.”

For More Information

What: The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Where: The Cadillac Palace Theatre

When: Dec. 12-17

What Else: For times and ticket information, please visit www.broadwayinchicago.com/shows/the-hip-hop-nutcracker. Runtime for this show is 2 hours and 20 minutes including an intermission. The Hip Hop Nutcracker is recommended for all ages.

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