‘Mutt-cracker’ promises to be a circus with a twist
Darren Peterson can truthfully say that he ran away to join the circus.
Then he came back, finished his degree at the University of Texas, and tried jobs teaching and editing books. Those didn’t stick like the circus did. When he started playing with his dog at the park, doing Frisbee tricks with her and drawing a crowd, he realized he had the opportunity to create his own show.
“I started thinking, couple what we were doing in the park with my juggling, and I’d have a show,” he said.
And he did. Circus Chickendog, named after the dog he taught the Frisbee tricks, has been around for nearly two decades and grown into a series of shows at kids’ parties and venues around Austin. Currently comprised of Peterson, three dogs and a parrot named Lauren McCaw, the family-friendly circus is getting into the holiday spirit and putting on its yearly production of “The Nutcracker” with a circus-tricks twist: “The Mutt-Cracker (Sweet!).”
The hour-long “The Mutt-Cracker,” running Thursday through Sunday, with additional performances from Jan. 3-5, will be a faithful adaptation of the original ballet, albeit circus-style. Peterson’s dog, Mouse, will jump rope. His dog, Moose, will do rhythmic gymnastics. The new Chickendog — who replaced the first when she retired after about 17 years of enchanting audiences — will surf. And Lauren McCaw, the parrot, will be on the ship that transports Clara and the Nut cracker prince to the Land of Sweets.
Not to be outdone by his multitasking animals, Peterson, acting as the prince’s godfather, will play the accordion while juggling on a unicycle. In addition to other performers, there will be a sword-swallower and another juggling unicyclist, although he will play the trombone, not the accordion. (Got all that?)
Peterson promises that this show, like countless others they’ve done through the years, will be complete chaos. Lauren tends to talk when live music starts playing, and sometimes the dogs don’t do their tricks, meaning that improvising for Peterson is in order. But for him and his audiences, it’s always fun.
The music that will probably turn Lauren into a disruptive chatterbox during the “Mutt-Cracker” will be a jazz version of the “Nutracker Suite,” played by Austin pianist Bowman Maze. It’s also been adapted with a twist: Rather than the familiar melody of the Sugar Plum Fairy, audiences will hear “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Puppies.”
They will also see the animals on stage throughout the show.
Join Circus Chickendog for its family-friendly annual holiday classic, “The Mutt-Cracker (SWEET!)” to end the year in spectacular fashion.