It’s holiday season! Which means it’s time to wake up from your Thanksgiving-induced food-comas and go see some theater! And if you’re looking for some holiday-themed cheer, this post is a friendly reminder that the Rockettes aren’t the only ladies in town in short skirts and tights dancing to classic Christmas melodies.
Nutcracker Rouge provides a steamy, fresh alternative to the traditional holiday ballet with a lot more sensuous thrills and a lot less clothing. In this version, presented by Company XIV and The Saint at Large, Marie Claire (Laura Careless) is an adolescent girl who is led away from her aristocratic home to the Kingdom of Sweets, an uncanny, sensual world of burlesque dances and other guilty pleasures.
Every act in the Kingdom of Sweets is energetic, exciting, and sexy. Nutcracker Rouge achieves an opulent and classy decadence through its genre-bending work. The set and costume design by Zane Pihlstrom is essential to setting Nutcracker Rouge‘s beguiling atmosphere. Every glittery crotch piece and bedazzled pastie reveals the rich detail and playful sensuality embedded in the show. Mr. and Mrs. Drosselmeyer (George Takacs and Shelly Watson) have nearly a dozen costume changes, all of which set a vivacious tone for their ensuing acts. These acts also mesmerize with a versatile and seductive cast which includes a soulful singer, circus performers, ballet and contemporary dancers, and instrumentalists. The acts retain parts of Tchaikovsky’s notable original score while adding some new and contemporary numbers (Madonna’s “Material Girl” makes an opportune appearance).
While Nutcracker Rouge is certainly an aesthetically pleasurable experience, it sometimes felt no more engaging than a performance of the classic ballet. Mr. and Mrs. Drosselmeyer act as MC for most of the show, but the bare plot and lackluster writing prevents any connection from actually happening. During intermission, Mrs. Drosselmeyer wandered around the house asking hardly engaging questions like “How do you like the show?” and “What do you think will happen to Marie Claire?”, just so that the show could justify writing “immersive” on its billing. Burlesque is notable for breaking that fourth wall, for engaging the audience in plenty of playful sexual innuendo and often witty banter (anyone who has seen Eager to Lose at Ars Nova knows how much of a difference an engaging MC and audience participation increases the viewer’s investment in the story). If it weren’t for one or two ambitious audience members’ catcalls and exclamations, the house would likely have remained too formally silent for a show that aims to set a sensual and lively environment.
Despite this detachment, Nutcracker Rouge heats up the theatre with a visually sweet and sensually scrumptious show that would make the Sugar Plum Fairy proud. Catch it at the Minetta Lane Theater through January 5th, Tickets here