‘Mutt-cracker’ prom­ises to be a cir­cus with a twist

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN 360 DAILY - By Ari­anna Au­ber aauber@states­man.com Con­tact Ari­anna Au­ber at 445-3630.

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.

ContriBUteD BY Cir­CUS CHiCK­enDog

Join Cir­cus Chick­endog for its fam­ily-friendly an­nual hol­i­day clas­sic, “The Mutt-Cracker (SWEET!)” to end the year in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion.

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