While other ticketing sites focus on covering as wide of a breadth as possible, Fever has found a niche in producing exclusive immersive experiences. With their backing, immersive creators can produce well-marketed events to an audience that expands well beyond the traditional immersive crowd. This Halloween, they did this to wide-spread success with House of Spirits – and this Christmas, they are attempting to do the same with The Immersive Nutcracker Cocktail Fête. But what exactly is this immersive foray into a classic Christmas tale? Well, Become Immersed sat down with director Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Fever Original’s Manager Kevin Madden, and creative producer Rachel Foti-Adams (The Count’s Den) to answer questions about this experience.
In your own words, what is The Immersive Nutcracker Cocktail Fête?
It’s a 90-minute theatrical and comedic take on the classic wintertime story. Guests arrive and experience a show where they are transported back in time to the house where much of The Nutcracker story takes place. It will feel a bit like you’re in the main ballroom, seated at a fancy holiday party.
To be clear, this is not a ballet. It’s more like a pantomime – a comedic musical theatrical performance that is often based on a fairy tale and involves a lot of audience participation. Our version of The Nutcracker, however, is only for adults, as cocktails are served to the audience at different times during the show.
Can you speak to the talented team behind The Immersive Nutcracker Cocktail Fête?
Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx directed this show. He is an Ovation Award-nominated director who most recently directed a production at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the LA Phil. He also directed The Immersive One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, among many other projects across Los Angeles.
Rachel Adams-Foti is our scenic designer. Rachel has overseen the design of many immersive and interactive productions, from large-scale experiential marketing projects for Ready Player One and Smallfoot, to intimate personal productions at her own themed venue, The Count’s Den.
Sound design was provided by John Zalewski, who has received numerous awards for sound design in theater (7 LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards, 7 LA Weekly Awards, 3 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, and 10 Backstage Garlands). He designed the site-specific soundscapes for the immersive work The Day Shall Declare It with Annie Saunders and Sophie Bortolussi in London and Los Angeles, and will be heard in The Father at Pasadena Playhouse, The Scarlet Letter at South Coast Rep, and the telenovela musical Destiny of Desire at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Milwaukee Rep and The Guthrie next year in 2020.
Lighting design was done by Andrew Schmedake, who is an award-winning designer known for live events such as The Immersive One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Experience, and various themed party activations for the immersive theatrical production company Little Cinema.
With themes of festive cheer and comedy, what inspired your team to create this experience? Are there any specific films, novels, comics, or other immersives that influenced you beyond The Nutcracker?
We hoped to create something entertaining for the holidays and early winter. The Nutcracker is a beloved ballet and story that you usually see from afar (unless you have front row seats). For this experience, we thought about changing the story and bringing the audience into the show itself.
How is comedy utilized in The Immersive Nutcracker? Will this mainly be generated through comedic actors or will there be situational comedy and gags utilized throughout?
With the support of the playwright, this is an ensemble-based theater piece. We’re fortunate to have eight extraordinary, comedic actors (four in each of our two casts) who have helped shape and build this project every night. Additionally, because the show is rooted in improv and includes opportunities for audience participation, each performance will be a unique experience. We’re proud to have re-imagined The Nutcracker for a contemporary audience, weaving a fun, 2019 lens onto a classic holiday story.
Fever’s previous experience House of Spirits offered drinks, puppet shows, two great immersive events and a scavenger hunt of sorts. What will guests experience here? Will there be group immersive offerings inside? A scavenger hunt? Maybe the ability to dress up and dance?
This is very different from House of Spirits, which Fever produced in partnership with Meyer2Meyer Entertainment. That project really came from the creative direction and operations direction of Justin and Melissa Meyer. House of Spirits was a large free-roaming, sandbox-style party atmosphere, where guests could explore and move around an old mansion.
Our version of The Nutcracker is performed for a much smaller group, and is a guided theatrical show based on the classic story. There are moments where the actors will ask for the audience to participate, and so there will be some audience agency over the narrative. But overall this Immersive Nutcracker is not a choose-your-own-adventure type of experience.
Fever is known for their alcoholic offerings. With three cocktails per guest in this experience, we’re excited to see what’s offered. Can you tease any of the craft cocktails – maybe your favorite?
We’ll keep the recipes secret for now! But they are all very unique, delicious, sparkly, and fun for the holidays/winter. Our bar menu was developed by Jennifer Disotell from Bubble Tap.
Guests will be able to choose either a whiskey or vodka version of the cocktail. And, of course, we’ll have non-alcoholic offerings as well.
Locations often become characters in their story. The Count’s Den is a staple in the immersive community and a wonderful location. Why was your specific location selected and what attributes were needed to fully tell your story and evoke your theme? The Count’s Den usually feels regal and gothic, filled with velvets and vampiric relics. How is the location changing and being decorated to evoke more of a Christmas theme?
Rachel has built and designed her space to evoke a mystical, antique atmosphere, which naturally suits the themes of The Nutcracker, and is easily transformable to incorporate the show’s more festive elements! While The Count’s Den may be a familiar venue to some audience members, the world they enter for The Immersive Nutcracker will be completely different. Through elaborate set dressing and furnishing, the space has been painstakingly transformed to serve this unique take on the classic festive story.
It was also really great to find a location in the heart of Downtown L.A.
Christmas is a time for friends and family. How many guests will be allowed in this experience? How do you balance the audience size to experience ratio to ensure that it does not feel overcrowded?
The audience will be just over 40 guests. People will be seated on a variety of couches and chairs surrounding the room. It will feel like you are at a holiday party!
What do you want people to walk away from your experience with? What do you want them to feel or learn?
We’re thrilled to merge cabaret, night club, improv, and theater all into one. We hope audiences leave this event feeling wowed by the opportunity to leave reality behind for an hour and step into a whole new world, filled with magic, humor and play. This show is a hybrid – part party, part theater – and we’re looking forward to engaging audiences from different backgrounds, and in many cases, introducing guests to something they’ve never seen before.