The sixth annual presentation of Debbie Allen's quirky, kid-friendly "The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker" will move to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion from UCLA this year to accommodate what have been sell-out audiences, Allen said.
The show, which she wrote, choreographed and directs, will star Raven-Symone and will introduce 12-year-old dancer Destiny Wimpye, whose mother packed up their lives and moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles so that Destiny could study with Allen.
"She's a Red Bird at my dance academy. Those are the youngest dancers who have the potential to go the distance," Allen said, comparing them to a popular principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. "I have a few Misty Copelands in the making, and she's one of them."
Allen was inspired to create "The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker" after an off-hand comment made by her son -- now 27 -- during a performance of "The Nutcracker" when he was 5.
"We were sitting there, and he was getting more and more bored, and in the middle of Dorothy Chandler he screamed, 'Mom! When is the rat coming?'" Allen recalls, laughing. "It made me realize, young boys wanna see some energy up there!"
The rat idea resonated. Allen's version of the classic holiday tale stars three smart-aleck rats who bounce the action through imaginary and real places -- Fairy Land, Candy Cane Land, Bollywood, Egypt, China, the rain forest and more.
Allen calls the furry trio "the real Rat Pack," and says their leader, Harvey, comes off kind of like a "union worker from New York."
"It's just a riot of beautiful dancing and costumes. Plus it's very diverse. There's every ethnic group you can imagine," Allen said. "The fairies don't have to look the same, they just have to dance together."
Allen takes diversity in dance seriously and relocated her academy to Baldwin Hills in 2009, just after
"We were in Culver City and embraced by the developer of Baldwin Hills' Crenshaw Plaza who wanted us to create a cultural identity for that beautiful space -- that neighborhood, that area," Allen said.
One hundred percent of the show's proceeds will benefit youth arts education in Los Angeles, she said.
"In the nonprofit world, dollars are shrinking every day and the need has never been greater so young people can grow up and be creative and not live in a climate of fear," Allen said.
That climate of fear is what Allen is addressing in her show "Freeze Frame," which will have its U.S. premiere in Los Angeles in February. That production is an anti-gun violence piece that, Allen said, unfortunately could not be more relevant.
But for now, Allen is just excited to see "The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker" expand its audience into downtown Los Angeles. The production has won Goldstar's National Nutcracker Award for best "Nutcracker" production -- the Nutty Award -- three times.
"We're going to a new land, we're going to the South Pole!" she said. "I'm living in high cotton, girl."
"The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker"
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18, 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 19
Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.
Tickets: Starting at $46