Four people stand and form a pyramid. They are all wearing rat ears on their hats and are making rat claws with their hands.

Ashleigh Prince spoke with Randi “Rascal” Freitas from Hip Hop Nutcracker about her career, the live show, the Disney Plus special and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Ashleigh: Hello everyone, welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre! Today, we are shaking things up and we are connecting with Hip Hop Nutcracker. Today, we have Randi Freitas. Hello, Randi! 

Randi: Hello! Grateful to be here, Ashleigh. Thank you for having me. 

Ashleigh: Thank you for joining us. We are super excited to have The Hip Hop Nutcracker joining us here at The Hanover Theatre on December 29. Before we dive in, let’s talk a little bit about you and your role with the show. 

Randi: I am Randi Freitas! I am the associate choreographer and dance captain, as well as the Mouse Queen performing in the show. 

Ashleigh: Excellent! For the listeners that are familiar with The Nutcracker but aren’t familiar with The Hip Hop Nutcracker, or maybe those who have never seen either, can you tell us a little bit about the show itself? 

Randi: Absolutely. We are doing a fusion of the two. You’ll hear the tracks, music and Tchaikovsky score from the original Nutcracker, but we have now adapted it to all three styles of dance. You’ll see breakers, you’ll see poppers and you’ll see lockers, and we brought the story up to a more modern time. It’s actually a story that’s set in today’s time in Washington Heights, New York. It’s about a family that’s living up there that’s trying to find the magic of love, the magic of Christmas and the magic of New Year’s again, and our Nutcracker helps save the day by bringing the family back together. 

Ashleigh: Beautiful! I think it’s a wonderful story as a whole. I think that that The Hip Hop Nutcracker, falling on December 29 is like the perfect sweet spot. Your family and friends are all around, you’re waiting for the New Year and you’re looking for that something to do between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. 

Randi: Absolutely, absolutely. The show is actually set on New Year’s Eve, so the 29th falls even closer to that. It’s a great build up for the anticipation of the New Year. 

Ashleigh: Yeah, it’s perfect. From my understanding, hip hop royalty MC Kurtis Blow will be a part of the show, which I think is incredible. 

Kurtis Blow stands on stage in front of a purple background. He wears a full white suit and white hat. He stands with his arms extended and holds a microphone in his right hand.
Kurtis Blow. Photo Credit: Cheryl Mann.

Randi: Yes! He kicks us off with a mini concert before the show, and then has a couple moments after that gets the crowd on their feet, gets everyone moving and excited. It’s an honor to be sharing the stage with such a legend. 

Ashleigh: I recently watched the trailer for The Hip Hop Nutcracker special that’s coming to Disney Plus and I noticed that Rev. Run was in it. I know he’s not going to be in the in the touring production, but as someone who’s a big fan of Run-D.M.C. and classic hip hop, I was like, “Oh my God!” It’s just incredible all around. 

Randi: Yes, absolutely. Keep an eye out for the Disney special because you’ll see both Kurtis Blow and Rev. Run. They even have a moment together which is, for those of us that love hip hop, it’s really legendary to see. 

Ashleigh: It really is! I am really excited for the Disney Plus special to come out. I think it’ll give everyone some good prep time before it arrives at The Hanover Theatre. How has classical music influenced hip hop and rap artists? I feel like the overlap is clear here, but I think that it’s a really interesting take on this classic tale. 

As movement artists, even above any specific style, we’re really responding to the music. Our vocabulary is in hip hop, but you’ll see it adapted on stage in response to this classical music.

Randi Freitas

Randi: You’ll see things that normally would be done really fast that are slowed down. You’ll see movement open up, you’ll see different takes on some original things like head spins and such. As artists that react to music, we’ve adapted our movement to fit this music. Traditionally, in hip hop, a lot of the first music came from sampling. It’s taking something that was there before and twisting it to make it original, fresh and new. That’s what we’re doing on stage. 

Ashleigh: Yeah! This is the 10th anniversary of the show, so how would you say that The Hip Hop Nutcracker has evolved in this 2022 version of the production? 

Randi: I think this year is a really special year. We had a majority returning cast, so we had the time and space in rehearsals to add those nuanced little moments of allowing each character to shine. Hip hop is a lot about freestyle, so you’ll see a lot of our cast actually creating their own movement, creating their own solos and creating their own moments on stage within this greater scheme of choreography. We’ve had the time to really build that out. I think every individual on stage really shines this year. 

Ashleigh: I was looking at your bio before our interview, and holy moly, your bio is stacked! Obviously, there’s The Hip Hop Nutcracker, but you’ve been on shows like Jimmy Kimmel, The Ellen Show, the American Music Awards, the Kids Choice Awards and the Grammys®. I saw Tracee Ellis Ross on that list and I just wanted to die! You have been all over the place doing such incredible, incredible work. I’m really excited for people to see this raw talent in person on our main stage in the heart of Worcester. I think people are going to be really excited. 

Randi: Yeah! We’re really excited to come to Worcester. Actually, the musical that just came out, “Spirited,” with Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell, I shot that last year. We were in Boston and we actually did the whole big number that was shot in Worcester. We spent a week in Worcester shooting that, so I’m excited to go back. 

Ashleigh: Yeah! That’s with Chloe Arnold from Syncopated Ladies, right?  

Randi: Yes! 

Ashleigh: We love that Worcester love! We were just talking about how “Spirited” really is overlapping with so much of The Hanover Theatre family. I think that’s incredible. We’re very excited to welcome you back. That’s going to be amazing. We’ll be keeping an eye out for you in Spirited! We have a lot to see you in, between this and the Disney Plus special, you’re everywhere! 

Randi: Absolutely. I’m excited to come in person and perform for a live crowd. That’s always the best. 

Ashleigh: In the show, what would be your favorite part, the standout part or the part that makes everyone go crazy? 

Randi: Honestly, there’s so many beautiful and magical moments in the show. There’s an epic love duet that happens between Marie-Clara and the Nutcracker. There’s a really beautiful duet that happens between Mom and Dad. But my personal favorite is the 80s bar scene. Everything just comes to color, it comes to life and you get to see all different solos from these individual movement artists on stage. There is a big finale piece where everyone on stage is dancing the same choreography, and I think it just leaves a really powerful impact. 

A man on the left spins on his head. A man to the right points with both hands and looks at the man spinning.
Gabriel Emphasis, Dustin Payne. Photo Credit: Cheryl Mann. 

Ashleigh: What we’re about to see in December is different from the special, right? It’s clearly featuring a couple of different friends, but you’re still going to be getting a different experience, correct? 

Randi: You will get an entirely different experience than the Disney Plus special. You’ll see a couple of us that were in the Disney Plus special, but we were in different roles in that. I think it’s like watching two different shows, which is a really exciting thing that we have two versions of it out now. It’ll be the similar storyline, but you’ll get the theatrics, the live action and moments of play. You’ll also get a little more freestyle and a little more street dance in the in the live tour performance, which is going to be exciting as well. 

Ashleigh: Absolutely. Just circling back to your bio one more time, I had noticed that you are also teaching your signature floor work style internationally. We have a Conservatory here at The Hanover Theatre, and I’m curious if you have any advice for young dancers that are coming through our Conservatory in the years coming? 

As important as it is to learn the foundation and the history of the style you’re in, it is just as important to find your authentic voice and know how to take this beautiful vocabulary that you’re offered and embody it in a way that allows you to tell your own story.

Randi Freitas

Ashleigh: Excellent advice. I like to ask people about that, because I really love our Conservatory and we have such a great pool of students. Whenever I see live performances by any of them, I’m always shocked. The opportunity to see all these wonderfully talented people coming on to our main stage week after week really does mean a lot. It means a lot hearing those words of wisdom from some true experts. 

Randi: Absolutely. 

Ashleigh: Who would you say has inspired you and your career? 

Randi: A number of people. I started dancing just in a rec center with friends. A b-boy named Mikey and another b-boy named A-Rock were really instrumental in getting me into breaking and teaching me. I moved to LA and there’s a plethora of inspiration here. Dancers, such as the Beat Freaks, are a huge inspiration for me. Watching them on AVDC before I moved to LA, and just seeing these women hold the stage down in that way. Older generations, like Asia One in Rockefeller out in New York and b-girls that have been holding it down for years. We’re able to do these kinds of shows and make a living off of dance because of the girls like that. 

Ashleigh: I totally hear where you’re coming from. This has been a really great interview, thank you so much for joining us on Behind the Scenes today. If you are as excited as I am to see The Hip Hop Nutcracker on December 29, head to TheHanoverTheatre.org to get your tickets today. You do not want to miss this! Tickets start at just $39.50. Take your friends and take your family right after that holiday season leading into New Year’s Eve. This is the perfect opportunity to have some fun and celebrate the season with people that you love. Randi, do you have any parting words for audiences today? 

The company of Hip Hop Nutcracker dances on stage in front of a purple background. They are dancing and there are two people holding hands in the center of the stage. Everyone around the couple is wearing white.
The company of The Hip Hop Nutcracker, featuring Gabriel Emphasis & Ann-Sylvia Clark. Photo Credit: Cheryl Mann.

Randi: We’re excited to see you at The Hanover Theatre! I think it’s a great way to ring in the New Year, so we’re looking forward to sharing energy with you in the theatre. 

Ashleigh: Absolutely. You heard it here! Go get your tickets at TheHanoverTheatre.org and we can’t wait to see you at the end of December. Thank you so much for joining us on Behind the Scenes and we’ll be right back.