‘Hip Hop Nutcracker’ featuring Kurtis Blow comes to stages in New Haven and Hartford

The legendary Kurtis Blow has been "Takin' Care of Business" for decades now. Not only did he introduce hip hop to the mainstream, he revolutionized "turntablism" while doing so, all while launching the career of Rev Run himself, the founder of Run DMC, at the same time.  

Blow took hip hop to the next level (if that was even possible) when he joined "The Hip Hop Nutcracker." The show is running at the Bushnell in Hartford on Dec. 31, and at the Shubert in New Haven the night before. Even cooler, the show — which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year — is been filmed for Disney+.

Kurtis Blow 

Kurtis Blow 

Courtesy of Kurtis Blow

"This 'Nutcracker' is a modernized version of that classic. We do have a mouse king — or a mouse queen, in this case," Blow said in a phone interview. "All of these pieces are still there. We just tell the story in a different way, and actually bring it to 1980. The show starts off on New Year's Eve in 1980."

Coincidentally, 1980 was when Blow was first storming stages across the country with this revolutionary new art form, opening for no less than The Commodores.

"We brought the realness of hip-hop to that tour. Two turntables and a microphone. My DJ and myself. So when I'd walk out on stage people were shouting 'where's your band?'! And by the end of every performance people were shouting 'hey' and 'ho' and 'everybody scream'. By the middle of the tour, Lionel Ritchie would come out and lead the people in doing that."

So, how does one go from that to repurposing a timeless Christmas show for dancers everywhere?

"After one of my shows about a dozen years ago, I was approached with the idea," Blow said. And I was like, 'What? A hip-hop version of what?' So I went out to the rehearsals and met all the dancers and they were break-dancing and doing head-spins and windmills and air twists and backspins and popping and locking,” Blow said. “Good representations of the dance all fused together with Tchaikovsky. And when I heard it and I saw it I was sold. I had to be a part of it." 

A scene from "The Hip Hop Nutcracker."

A scene from "The Hip Hop Nutcracker."

Cheryl Mann/ Contributed photo

The holiday mash-up for the whole family is arguably better than ever in its tenth year, which is probably why Disney + decided to tape the show for streaming purposes. 

"There's a star-studded list of artists modernizing this classic story, and the music of Tchaikovsky is still there," Blow said. "The classical music fusion with hip-hop is incredible. Funky beats on top of a classical orchestra. It's really awesome to hear and definitely to see in person."

The late Stephen “tWitch” Boss was part of the performance, as well as hip hop legend Rev Run. Blow said he knew Rev. Run before he formed Run DMC. 

"He was my DJ. We were working around New York City and he was very young during that time. Like 16 or 17. I got this gig to go on tour (with The Commodores) - a national tour. And he broke his arm playing basketball down the block. He wanted to DJ with one arm but his dad said no, and that he had to go to school and everything,” Blow said. “So he stayed home and formed his own group with the kids he had been playing basketball with, and they called that group Run DMC."