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"Nutcracker Rouge." Photo by Phillip Van Nostrand.
Conceived, choreographed and directed by Austin McCormick
Minetta Lane Theatre
18-22 Minetta Lane
New York, NY
Reviewed Dec 3, 2013 by Larry Litt
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always hated “The Nutcracker” ballet. Tchaikovsky’s memorable music aside, watching a bunch of of skinny young girls in tutus prancing around the stage pretending to be whatever animal they’re pretending to be. Music is damned great. Yes I blame choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov for their need to keep 19th century Russian high culture as mundane as possible so the nobility wouldn’t cut their heads off.
So when I heard that a new unexpurgated version of "The Nutcracker" was onstage I was pranced myself right over to the Minetta Lane Theatre. I was shocked with pleasure. My eyes and ears were erotically and ecstatically delighted by Austin McCormick’s adaptation from the rather tired original ubiquitous children’s hour story. Who hasn’t seen "The Nutcracker" ballet at least ten times during Christmas? What it has to do with Christmas is also beyond mortal comprehension.
I love burlesque because it’s risky and often a provocative reflection of the chaotic times we live in. I like watching beautiful bodies express their physicality in personally erotic ways. Put that all together with brilliant music, singing and dancing… well you got me.
Director/Choreographer Austin McCormick’s choice of performers says it all: impish, charismatic and teasingly buxom Shelly Watson’s (Mrs. Drosselmeyer) presence, singing and charm broke the fourth wall as she jumped into belting songs that roused spirits for the drama to come. Or is it ahead? Often I expected a full chorus would accompany her, but no her versions and style kept the audience focused onstage.
Over the top, larger than life Jeff Takacs (Mr. Drosselmeyer) is a perfect foil to Ms. Watson. He can sing, roughhouse with the cast and be benignly threatening with his rapier wit. I’m not sure if he’s the perfect Mouse King. He is the perfect baggy pants baroque pirate. I wanted to see more of him performing with Ms Watson.
Zane Philstrom’s sets and costumes filled me with as much awe as they filled the stage with erotic baroque glamour. The Minetta Lane theatre is filled with action: a wheel artist, flamenco stripping, trapeze au buff et bouffe, dancers and singers dressing, undressing and redressing onstage, it’s a spectacle for my too often squelched prurient interests. If I have to let them loose every so often then this is the entertainment I want to have for my sensual feast.
Katrina Cunningham (singing) and Jeff Takacs as Monsieur Drosselmeyer (seated) in "Nutcracker Rouge." Photo by Phillip Van Nostrand.
Oh yes. There among the sensuous dancers in drag and gown, panty hose and jocks, yes there was Katrina Cunningham. At first I thought she was just another beautiful dancer. Then halfway through this extravaganza she steps up to stage front in an ever so tight sequined gown holding a microphone. What is this? Then she sings. I closed my eyes, Amy Winehouse is on stage. I open them there’s a gorgeous blond in classic chanteuse drag bending blues notes from her heart. Her song and movement was a singular highlight. I want more of her vocal renditions.
Yes, go see "Nutcracker Rouge" if you can. It’s the best entertainment in NYC right now. Just remember: it’s adult entertainment. Go with someone you’re going to love. Both body and soul.
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