(The Management would like to apologise for the increasingly drunken state of the orchestra - their stash of mulled wine and egg nog has been removed and all trumpets, cornets, flutes and euphoniums straightened. The Management hopes this will improve the quality of the performance, but asks you not to hold your breath as they will not be held responsible for any further altercations in the orchestra pit. Thank you.)
Having told the tale of how the NutCracker came into being - curses,horoscopes, crackatooks, beards, tripping over mice, you remember, don't you? - Mrs Drosselmiggins took her leave of the Stahlbaum house and left Marie to the rest and recovery of her mashed up arm.
And as Marie began to doze, hoping to see visions of sugar plums dance in her head...
('Whoah!' shouts a voice from the wings. It is Mrs Gloria In Excelsis Deo Pumphrey. 'Hold your sugar plums. I thought that came later in the production.'
'It does,' says Primrose. 'Do not worry, oh prima ballerina. You'll have plenty of time to don your tutu. Marie is only hoping of visions of sugar plums. Doesn't mean she's going to get them. Such is the disappointment of Christmas.'
'It's not my tutu I'm worrying about,' says Mrs Pumphrey, who had practised changing from her Princess Pearly Pants costume to her Sugar Plum Pumphrey costume several times and now had it down to 7.2 seconds flat. 'It's Tango Pete changing from his NutCracker Pete costume into his Handsome Prince costume. It's a very short turn around and we are having cod piece issues.'
Primrose raises her eyebrows. 'Come again?' she says.
'His cod piece,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'You know - his dangle bag...his dingle catcher...his...'
'I know,' says Primrose, very much aware there are small children and ancient aunts of an excitable disposition in the audience. 'Can't he just wear the same one for both parts?'
Mrs Pumphrey narrows her eyes. 'I think not,' she says. 'There is an enormous difference between the cod piece of a NutCracker and the codpiece of a Handsome Prince you know.'
'How enormous?' says Primrose, regretting the question as soon as it had left her beak.
Mrs Pumphrey held up her wings. 'About THAT much,' she says.
'That IS a big difference,' says Mrs Primrose.
'You see the dilemma?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I do,' says Primrose. She thinks for a moment. 'Tell you what - we'll have a mini-interval - give him time to sort out the tackle so to speak.'
'Marvellous!' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Do continue...')
...she thought she heard a little voice calling her.
'Marie!' it said in a teeny tiny pip-squeaky kind of way. 'Oh, Marie!!'
Marie rubbed her eyes. 'Who is that who is calling to me?' she said, peering into the semi-gloom of her candlelit bedroom.
'Tis I!' said the voice, and who should jump up onto her eiderdown/counterpane/blanket/duvet (please select your bed covering of choice) but the Mouse King. You know, the one with Seven Heads.
'Oh,' said Marie. 'It's you. What do you want?'
'I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want,' began the Seven Headed Mouse King.
'Oh, please,' interrupted Marie. 'Do NOT start singing Spice Girls songs at me. Quite frankly, I am growing tired of all the trouble you mice are causing. Just say what you've got to say and then go.'
'Right, well if it straight talking that you want,' said the Mouse King, 'the deal is this - give me lots of sweets and some of your dolls or I shall bite your precious NutCracker to pieces. I shall nibble him into a pile of sawdust.'
'But that's extortion!' said Marie, who was wide awake now.
'Yup!' said the Mouse King. 'That's about the nub of it. Sweets and dolls by midnight or else NutCracker Boy gets it. Okay?'
And then he was gone in the flash of the flashiest of pans.
Well, Marie would do anything to save her precious NutCracker from Sawmill City. By midnight she had made a pile of chocolate and candies and topped it off with some of her dolls. The Mouse King appeared with a couple of his Hench Mice and Marie watched helplessly as they loaded their loot into sacks and scuttled away into the dark.
And it did not end there. Every night the Seven Headed Mouse King returned, wanting more and more of Marie's possessions with every visit. She surrendered all her dolls and teddy bears, her board games and meccano kit, her painting by numbers set, her games of Twister, Kerplunk, Hungry Hippos and Dream Phone, even though 'phones were yet to be invented (the Stahlbaums were a very progressive family), her French knitting doll and her My Little Chocolatier kit. And all her Christmas sweets, and the candy sticks from the tree.
Eventually, she had nothing left to give. Everything she owned she had surrendered to the Mouse King in order to save her beloved NutCracker.
'There is no more to give,' she said the the Mouse King, when he returned the next night demanding, quite frankly, some ridiculous things, like a telescope, an Action Man, a glockenspiel and a pedal car.
'Then I guess the NutCracker gets it,' said the Mouse King and he began gnashing his teeth in a theatening 'look-at-me-I-floss-twice-a-day' kind of way.
'No,' pleaded Marie. 'Please, not my NutCracker.'
But the Mouse King threw back his seven heads and laughed. And then he fell over because seven heads upon one set of shoulders often causes amusing balance problems, and so it was Marie's turn to laugh, and when the Mouse King got back to his feet, he shouted, 'Tonight at midnight the NutCracker is DUST!'
And he swept from the room, cackling like a loon. 'Mwahahahahahahahahaha - ha!'
Marie fell to the floor and sobbed. And as she sobbed she felt a hand on her shoulder.
It was the NutCracker. 'Fear not,' he said. 'Bring me a sword and I shall deal with the Mouse King once and for all. You have given all to save me but he has gone too far this time. It is time for me to help you.'
And so Marie borrowed a sword from one of her brother Fritz's toy hussars. The NutCracker was armed and looking a bit more dangerous than when he'd had his jaw held up by a ribbon. He strode off into the night, a determined look upon his face.
'My hero,' sighed Marie.
('But will he be safe?' says Camilla. 'Will he defeat the Mouse King?'
'I think we already know the answer to that one,' says Primrose. 'But if you want to find out for certain, come back for Act 7.')