(LIGHTS RISE on a grand party. It’s Christmas Eve. There are decorations everywhere. Everyone is dressed in their finest, mingling and dancing.)
FAMILY: (singing) THE NIGHT IS FILLED WITH COMFORT AND JOY
FOR ALL THE FAMILY, GIRLS AND BOYS
WE GATHER FOR OUR CHRISTMAS BALL
(Two elderly gentlemen, Fritz and Drosselmeyer, enter. They are each other’s opposites, but both look unhappy. Drosselmeyer carries a wrapped Christmas present. Fritz carries a crystal ball.)
FAMILY: (singing) THE FAMILY EMBARRASSMENT RUINS IT ALL!
WE ALL HAVE THAT UNCLE WHO’S RATHER QUEER
WHO COMES KNOCKING ONE TIME A YEAR
AND YET STILL INSISTS THAT YOU SIT ON HIS KNEE
IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT YOU’RE FORTY THREE!
OUT AUNT WHO HIDES SILVERWARE IN HER PURSE
AND CRUISES THROUGH TOWN IN A BIG, UGLY HEARSE
WHO STAYS UP COMPLAINING FROM DUSK UNTIL DAWN
AND LOSES HER TEETH IF SHE HAPPENS TO YAWN!
EVERY FAMILY’S GOT A BLACK SHEEP OR TWO!
DROSSELMEYER: I think they’re referring to you!
FAMILY: (singing) THEY DON’T SO MUCH PARTY AS SHOW UP AND MAKE QUITE A FUSS!
FRITZ: No, no, they’re talking about us!
(Fritz and Drosselmeyer exit.)
FAMILY: (singing) FRITZ AND DROSSELMEYER HAVE BEEN AWAY
WHY, OH, WHY DID THEY COME BACK TODAY?
WE DON’T WANT THEM HERE, THEY SURE DON’T FIT IN
OUR NO GOOD, EMBARRASSING
QUIRKY AND BAFFLING
(Clara, her Brother, and her Sister enter. Brother and Sister dance around while Clara watches.)
BROTHER: Aren’t you going to join us, Clara?
SISTER: You know she won’t. Little Clara never dances.
BROTHER: What’s the matter, Clara? Afraid to look stupid?
SISTER: Poor, poor little Clara. Our elephant of a sister.
CLARA: Shut it!
SISTER: You know very well she can’t dance. She just stomps.
BROTHER: She can’t dance at all!
SISTER: She can’t do anything.
CLARA: I can do one thing very well.
SISTER: And what ever is that?
CLARA: I can wallop you!
BROTHER: So rude! Hasn’t anyone told you? You’re supposed to be a girl.
SISTER: Girls are supposed to be perfect, little angels. Like me.
BROTHER: Like her!
CLARA: I’ll be an angel. The Angel of Death!
(Clara rushes at the two of them. They shriek in alarm and run off, Clara chasing after them. From the other side, Fritz and Drosselmeyer return.)
FRITZ: I do so hate having to come to this world. Everything is so…moist. It’s fogging up my readings.
DROSSELMEYER: I don’t see why you had to bring that thing to a ball.
FRITZ: The only important ball to a psychic is a crystal ball! I wouldn’t leave home without it!
DROSSELMEYER: Well, you didn’t have to come at all. Anyway, we’ll have worse things to worry about than your magical mumbo jumbo if this plan of yours fails.
FRITZ: Of course the plan will work! It’s foolproof.
DROSSELMEYER: Can’t possibly be.
FRITZ: Why not?
DROSSELMEYER: How can a plan be foolproof when I had to bring along a fool?
FRITZ: Oh, ha, ha, ha. You’re very funny. And need I remind you that it’s every bit as much your plan as it is mine.
DROSSELMEYER: That’s where you’re wrong.
DROSSELMEYER: If it succeeds, it’s my plan.
FRITZ: And if it fails?
DROSSELMEYER: Why, then it’s your plan, of course, old man.
FRITZ: Old man? You’re as old as I am, my dear.
DROSSELMEYER: I’m younger by three minutes. You’re so old, the candles on your last birthday cake raised the temperature of the room by fifteen degrees. They had to call the fire brigade.
DROSSELMEYER: You’re so old that when you were a child, rainbows were only in black and white.
DROSSELMEYER: You’re so old that if you ever started to act your age, you’d turn into a mummy.
FRITZ: Oh, enough of that. We have work to do. Which one is she? Which one is Clara?
DROSSELMEYERL The one that looks like the princess, of course.
FRITZ: Well, I don’t see her anywhere. I’ll consult the crystal ball!
DROSSELMEYER: Of course you will…
FRITZ: I’ll have you know I was trained by the very best expert in magic in the world!
DROSSELMEYER: The Sugar Plum Fairy is hardly an expert. You’re just saying that because she’s your girlfriend.
FRITZ: Jealous? (waving his hand over the crystal ball) Great, mighty crystal I hold in my hand, show us the girl who brought us to this land!
DROSSELMEYER: Are the signs hazy? Should we ask again later?
FRITZ: Do not mock the crystal ball!
DROSSELMEYER: I think there’s a more realistic, scientific way we can go about finding Clara.
FRITZ: You and your science. All right. What’s your idea?
DROSSELMEYER: (shouting) Hello? Hello? Has anyone seen a girl called Clara?
(Clara’s Mother enters and spots the old men. She does not look pleased.)
MOTHER: Uncle Drosselmeyer? Uncle Fritz?
FRITZ: (smugly, to Drosselmeyer) Ha! So much for your science! That’s not her!
DROSSELMEYER: It’s her mother, you stupid old goat.
FRITZ: Come, give your old uncles a hug.
MOTHER: What are you doing here?
FRITZ: It’s Christmas.
DROSSELMEYER: And do we really need a reason to stop by?
MOTHER: It’s just that…well…you’ve been away for so long…
FRITZ: (whispering to Drosselmeyer) I don’t think she’s pleased to see us, Drosselmeyer.
DROSSELMEYER: (to Fritz) Get that from looking in your crystal ball, did you? (to Mother) We’re only passing through town and–
MOTHER: Oh, thank heavens! (beat) That is, well, we simply weren’t expecting–
DROSSELMEYER: Us. We know.
FRITZ: (whispering to Drosselmeyer) Ask her about the children.
DROSSELMEYER: Yes. Where are the children?
FRITZ: Might we see them? It’s been so long since our last visit.
DROSSELMEYER: I doubt they even remember us.
FRITZ: Oh, of course they remember us. We’re like family to them.
DROSSELMEYER: We are family to them.
FRITZ: That makes sense, then!
MOTHER: Oh. Very well. But then you’ll be leaving soon after, yes?
DROSSELMEYER: Of course.
MOTHER: (calling off) Children! Come here quickly!
(Clara’s Brother and Sister enter.)
FRITZ: (whispering to Drosselmeyer) Neither of them look like the princess.
DROSSELMEYER: Hush, you old fool.
MOTHER: Where’s your sister? Where’s Clara? Clara! Clara! Come out here!
(Mother exits, looking for Clara.)
BROTHER: Who are you?
FRITZ: I am your great-uncle. Fritz.
BROTHER: That’s a stupid name.
SISTER: You smell funny.
DROSSELMEYER: That’s just because he’s so old.
SISTER: You look stupid.
DROSSELMEYER: Hey now!
BROTHER: Everyone’s whispering that the family embarrassments are at the party. That you two?
SISTER: I think it’s Clara.
BROTHER: It’s probably all three of them.
DROSSELMEYER: Now see here!
SISTER: What’s in the box?
DROSSELMEYER: Don’t touch it!
SISTER: (to Brother) What do you think it is?
(Brother snatches the box from Drosselmeyer.)
DROSSELMEYER: Give that back this instant!
(Brother shakes the box.)
FRITZ: No! Stop him, Drosselmeyer! Stop him!
(Drosselmeyer lunges for the box. Brother tosses it to Sister. The two of them laugh, starting a game of keep-away as Drosselmeyer and Fritz fight to get the box back. After a few tosses, the children rush offstage. There’s a loud crash, followed by yelping. Clara enters, pulling both of her siblings on in a headlock. She’d holding the present by the bow, in her teeth.)
BROTHER: Let go, Clara! Let go!
SISTER: Let us go!
DROSSELMEYER: There she is!
(Clara lets go of her siblings and they stumble dizzily. She takes the present out of her mouth, holding it out to Drosselmeyer and Fritz.)
CLARA: I believe this is yours?
FRITZ: (bowing) Your majesty!
CLARA: Your majesty?
MOTHER: Clara, there you are.
BROTHER: She hit me!
MOTHER: Oh, Clara. Not again.
CLARA: He had it coming!
MOTHER: Behave yourselves!
SISTER: I’m a perfect little angel.
BROTHER: And so am I! It’s Clara that’s the problem.
SISTER: Clara’s always the problem.
MOTHER: Ugh. For heaven’s sake, Clara. Could you at least try? Oh, say hello to your great-uncles. (in sotto) One family embarrassment meets another.
FRITZ: How do you do, my dear?
DROSSELMEYER: A pleasure.
BROTHER: Go on, Clara. Give them a curtsy.
SISTER: Oh yes, Clara. Do curtsy. Like a graceful little lady.
(Clara growls at them. They both back off in fear.)
MOTHER: All right, children. Your great-uncles need to head off on their journey. Say goodbye.
FRITZ: What? But we’ve only just gotten here!
MOTHER: Yes, so many family visits are long and boring. Thank goodness ours has been short and boring. I’ll go fetch you a carriage. Come along children. Quickly!
(Mother bustles Brother and Sister offstage. The clock strikes eight. Clara offers the old men their box.)
CLARA: Here. I saw them take it from you.
FRITZ: No matter, no matter. It’s a Christmas present for you, my dear.
CLARA: For me?
CLARA: But…why me? No one gives me anything. Except grief.
DROSSELMEYER: Go on. Open it.
(Clara opens the box, taking out a brightly colored nutcracker.)
CLARA: A nutcracker. What a strange gift…
(Clara works its mouth.)
DROSSELMEYER: You don’t like it?
FRITZ: Well, wait until it– (Drosselmeyer elbows him hard) Oof!
DROSSELMEYER: We know it’s a bit unusual, but we hope you’ll keep it.
CLARA: I sort of like strange things, actually.
CLARA: Well. I’m strange so…well. Why not?
FRITZ: Now why would you think you were strange, my dear?
(Dance music starts playing.)
CLARA: Oh no…
FRITZ: What’s wrong?
CLARA: The music. They’re starting to dance.
FRITZ: Don’t you like dancing?
CLARA: I…I have to go!
DROSSELMEYER: What sort of a girl doesn’t like dancing?
CLARA: Thank you so much for the lovely gift. It’s beautiful! I’ll put it under the tree! But please excuse me, I have a…noun to verb!
(Clara rushes off with the nutcracker.)
DROSSELMEYER: I wonder what could have frightened her. I tell you, it doesn’t look like much could spook that girl.
FRITZ: It doesn’t matter. She has the nutcracker.
DROSSELMEYER: I don’t know, Fritz. Do you really think she’ll be able to pull it off? She isn’t the most traditional…
FRITZ: She has to.
FRITZ: Because we don’t have another choice. The full moon is almost here. (beat) Do you think we should have told her the truth?
DROSSELMEYER: I think honesty is always the best policy.
FRITZ: You do?
DROSSELMEYER: No, I was lying. You know she would never have believed us. She has no scientific basis for understanding what we would have told her. She needs to see it with her own eyes.
FRITZ: Magic, not science.
DROSSELMEYER: Only science allows us to understand magic. (beat) She does look remarkably like Princess Marie, doesn’t she? A bit…rough around the edges perhaps. But still.
FRITZ: Let’s hope it’s enough, old man.
DROSSELMEYER: Old man? You’re so old the year you were born was one!