Tonight was extravagant date night. Kyle and I have had it planned for at least a month when he bought our tickets to the Nutcracker. This is something I really
wanted to do. I watch the Nutcracker ballet every year on television -- I have since I was a child. It's a personal tradition that just sort of developed -- I almost always find it while flipping through the channels around Christmas Eve. I love the music -- I know every beat by heart. I mean come on, who doesn't love the Dance of the Sugar Plum Faries? But for some reason, I never really considered seeing it live.
Then I heard Beth mention wanting to go. Turns out it was playing in Birmingham -- one of only 6 companies in the world licensed to perform it. So I suggested it to Kyle -- it's right up his alley. He loved the idea and purchased a set of tickets. Cut to tonight:
We drove down to Birmingham in time to make our dinner reservation at 5:30. He had reserved us a table at Veranda
-- a restaurant I'd never heard of. When we finally found it, it turned out to a be a gorgeous house in a not-so-great location. Location, in this case, was quite deceiving. I've never been to a restaurant that even comes close to Veranda -- it's a completely different class of restaurant than I've even had the pleasure of dining in. The restaurant itself, interior and exterior, was adorable and quite exsquiset. Inside, the white linen tables were set with different goblets and perfectly folded napkins and your many forks and spoons and knives all laid out at each seat, ready to serve. The host escorted us to our table and kindly pulled out my chair and pushed me in and even laid my napkin across my lap. When we were addressed, they always looked at me as they spoke and always addressed me first (being the lady) -- which was quite enjoyable, actually. The service was beyond wonderful -- it really felt like we had 5 people just waiting to have the pleasure of speaking with or doing something for us.
When I excused myself from the table, I asked the host where a bathroom was -- he escorted me there and opened the door for me. And he was waiting to again seat me when I returned (again pulling moving my chair and placing my napkin). And when I had stepped up and left my napkin folded in my seat, someone was quick to come over and fold it and place it neatly on the edge of that table (as Kyle tells me).
The food was... honestly perhaps the best I've ever had. We had an appetizer of crab on flap jacks -- which sounds odd but could not have been executed more artfully -- it was delicious. As were our entrees and the chefs own eggnog creme brulee we shared for dessert. It was a wonderful experience and one I've no doubt we will have again.
The Nutcracker was also beyond expectations. The performance was top-notch and truly amazing. There were many surprises that just wowed you. In the opening, Fritz and Clara were fighting over who got to use the peephole in the door to glimpse the Christmas tree. The door and wall and hall itself was obviously a backdrop -- a simple curtain as is usual. But then when Clara looked through the hole, the lights behind the curtain were lit and it became a faint overlay over the scene behind it. This effect couldn't have been done better had it been a film.
The best part was towards then end of the first act when Clara and the Nutcracker are in the forest and snow is coming down. There was actually snow coming down on the stage -- which was awesome. Then came intermission ... and the snow began to fall on the audience!
There is no way to convey how awesome those minutes were. It was pure joy -- a ton of snow pouring down on us (remember folks, Alabama doesn't get snow so the stuff amazes us). It was worth everything just for the snow. It made
the show for me. The "snow" appeared to be glycerine bubbles, but it looked just like the real thing falling from the ceiling. Just looking up towards the ceiling and seeing that tiny blizzard snowing down -- it was incredible. We were both totally amazed and both wished our loved ones could be there to see it with us.
The dancers were also great. It amazed me how young the children were -- the stars themselves were very young and their poise and skill and performance just blew me away. Who knew kids could do that? I'll say it again -- the whole thing just blew my expectations out of the water. I hope I'll be able to see it again next year!
Oh and to top off the evening, Kyle bought me a Nutcracker ornament for me Christmas tree! It's Clara dancing with the toy Nutcracker. I love it! Now I can remember tonight and how wonderful it was every year when I get it out and remember that Kyle bought me this when we went to see the Nutcracker :) I've given it a spot right in the middle of the tree. It makes me happy.