Last updated: December 13, 2015

Prairie Nutcracker Watercolor Tree

    Once upon a time in Germany on Christmas Eve...so begins the traditional Nutcracker.

    Based on the original Nutcracker tale by ETA Hoffman, Prairie Nutcracker was conceived locally by the staff of ArtisTree in the spring of 2000. The inspiring music of Tchaikovsky remains, freshly arranged by Boston composer, Rick Kuethe. A fine Christmas Eve party still opens the story, not in Germany, but in the heartland of Kansas. Magical moments still happen: toys come to life, snowflakes dance, a fanciful and entertaining Kingdom ruled by a lovely hostess still welcomes a little girl. That popular German Christmas ornament, the Nutcracker, is now a toy frontier soldier. And the Sugar Plum Fairy, the hostess of that lovely Kingdom, is now a prairie doll.

    Prairie Nutcracker is a moving tribute to the local prairie spirit still surviving on these plains. A spirit as pure, simple and honest as the prairieland settled by Kansas' hard working and selfless pioneers.

    Our story begins Christmas Eve 1869, somewhere between a Kansas railroad station and a western fort. Lieutenant MacGuffie, his wife, and daughter, Laura, have just arrived from Boston to fulfill his Fort West post.

    Filled with warnings from her Eastern friends, little Laura arrives clinging to her mother and clutching her fancy Boston doll. Laura is not at all sure about her father's promotion, as it means facing the unknown-and her fears. Could her family really be leaving the elegant trimmings back East for these plains with their harsh winds, prairie fires, Indians, coyotes, hard work, and loneliness?

    The new arrivals are greeted by the wife of Fort West's Commanding Officer and their oldest daughter. The MacGuffies are then whisked away to prepare for their welcome at the Officer's Christmas Eve post party soon to begin.

    Final preparations convert the largest space on the post, the hospital barracks, to a party room decorated with patriotic decorations, as was the popular Christmas decor of the day. As was also customary, the Commanding Officer's family bestows a favorite Christmas gift to each officer's child, a luscious, delicious apple!

    Retiring early, Laura is tucked into her new post bed. The Commander's oldest daughter presents Laura with a prairie doll which years ago had welcomed and comforted her, for she, too, had once arrived from the East. Little Laura still clings to her Boston doll, but not for long...

    Finally, little Laura awakes from her dream on the Open Prairie eager to face the new day. Was it really just a dream, or had Laura truly experienced the comforting peace of the prairie?


Read the Prairie Nutcracker ballad