Chris Davis’ ‘One-Man Nutcracker’ hits the stage at Theatre Exile

Chris Davis’ ‘One-Man Nutcracker’ is on stage through Jan. 2, 2023.

In Philadelphia, there are plenty of odd and unique takes on the Christmas holiday classic, ‘The Nutcracker’— The Lady Hoofers’s ‘Tapcracker‘ and Chocolate Ballerina Company’s ‘Black Nutcracker’ to name a few. And if you are looking for one man doing one dance and a dozen other characters, Philly performance artist, actor, author and now ballet dancer Chris Davis is your guy.

Davis’ ‘One-Man Nutcracker’, directed by MK Tuomanen, has hit South Philly’s Theatre Exile with a bang and stays there through Jan. 2, 2023.

“The first thoughts about doing this show stemmed from wanting to twist and turn the traditions of it all,” says Davis. “Fact is, I was surprised that no one else had ever done what I was going to do – one man, dancing, playing all the parts. It just sounded like so much fun zooming in on the littler moments and being driven by the grand music of Tchaikovsky – everything just happens to be condensed.”

What would normally take 20 minutes, say, Tchaikovsky’s “Land of Snowflakes” suite, Davis has about 20 seconds in which to relay that Russian winter wonderland to South Philly audiences.

“My show is the Cliff Notes of The Nutcracker,” he says with a laugh.


Then again, doing something strangely unique just happens to be Davis’ expertise. The actor and performance artist has done everything from the SoLow Fest to the Philadelphia Fringe Fest and the One-Man Apocalypse Now event. That show aided Davis in the art and skillsets of shrinking down a three-hour story into one bite-sized hour while allowing the Philly writer and actor to note the parallels between both piece’s creepiest characters: The Nutcracker’s Uncle Drosselmeyer and Apocalypse Now’s menacing Colonel Kurtz.

Communicating with his director of 20 years, Tuomanen, Davis is perfecting the minutia of movement and text, what people will see and hear during the ‘One-Man Nutcracker’. In scripting his work, Davis is also cognizant of the fact that author E.T.A. Hoffman’s bleak texts had deeply racist shadings as part of the original book.

“I deal with this during the “Candy Cane” segment and how Hoffmann’s text came to be, starting with the boy cursed by the evil mouse, the “Tea from China” scene the Arabian dance, and the history of how these scenes are addressed,” notes Davis. “I’ve always been surprised that modern productions still use these elements and how the racism of such scenes have become an American tradition. I feel as if I am saying something, however, that everyone is thinking.”

Not so traditional is the fact that Davis, by no means a ballet dancer, is dancing up a storm during the show.

“In order to do the show, I started to take adult ballet classes with Amy Novinski from the Bok Building. I could not do this show without her classes. But I have to tell you, that after studying as long as I have, I’ve gotten pretty good as a ballet dance, and will continue on taking classes.”

Maybe next season, Chris Davis will consider doing ‘Swan Lake.’

‘One-Man Nutcracker’ is on stage at Theatre Exile, 1340 South 13th Street, now through Jan. 2, 2023. For information and tickets, visit