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Nutcracker Rouge at Minetta Lane Theatre

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.

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 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

 

EAGER TO LOSE at Ars Nova

When the ladies of the Tim Tam Room are not playing human-Shimmy Machine or stripping down to their thongs and pasties, they’re hatching tantalizing plots and finding love, all in rhymed and metered verse. Eager to Lose feels like a romantic farce plucked from the 17th century, sprinkled with some contemporary language and cultural references, and heavily soaked in the sexy, frivolous, yet always classy world of burlesque.

Drama and confusion strike the Tim Tam Room when its owner and leading lady, Tansy (a real-life burlesque performer who bills herself as the young Elizabeth Taylor of burlesque) reveals that tonight will be her last performance. She has been offered to tour the country with her act alongside a 90’s television star (to tell you his identity would soil the fun). Tansy announces that she will leave the club to one of the two other performers, Trixie (Stacey Yen) or Glinda (Emily Walton). Trixie immediately begins plotting her victory over Glinda, setting everything in her path awry. Tansy’s departure also affects the club’s MC (John Behlmann), who realizes he has always loved Tansy. MC enlists the help of the club’s mute janitor Peeps (Richard Saudek) to help him win her love.

Tansy and John Behlmann Photo Credit: Marielle Solan
Tansy and John Behlmann Photo Credit: Marielle Solan

Eager to Lose maintains a consistent, exciting energy and uproarious humor throughout its 90-minute run time The show’s excellent cast always keeps us on our toes with their genre-bending talent and lively character portrayals. John Behlmann has been a favorite of mine since playing Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps at New World Stages, and his MC is endearing and energetic. Tansy, Stacey Yen, and Emily Walton are all wonderful, bringing charm, humor, and nuance to their roles both on and off the burlesque catwalk. Richard Saudek, however, is the unexpected breakout star of the show. His vaudeville-like performance, including a scene in which he charades for several minutes straight, was easily a hilarious favorite.

(l-r) Stacey Yen, Emily Walton, and Tansy Photo Credit: Marielle Solan
(l-r) Stacey Yen, Emily Walton, and Tansy Photo Credit: Marielle Solan

The most remarkable part of the show is the script by Matthew Lee-Erlbach, who effortlessly transitions between conventionally high and low theatrical forms. It follows in a growing trend of democratizing theater by mixing low-brow and high-brow entertainment (now you can play flipcup with Romeo and Juliet). Gender studies aficionados have studied the artistic resonances of burlesque and it has become a much less stigmatizing, more frequently found art-form as of late. Yet in juxtaposing burlesque with the style of verse that one immediately associates with Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Lee-Erlbach works them together as one story-arc, playing them off each other as a fruitful, productive relationship.

Eager to Lose plays at Ars Nova through November 2nd. Onward for tickets!

Interview with Delysia LaChatte

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Delysia LaChatte, the “feline fatale of burlesque,” is throwing a Belle Époque-inspired event on Thursday. I was able to ask her a few questions about her inspirations, career, and the naughty association behind her name.

1) How did you come up with your name (pronounced De-li-see-yah La-Shot)?

I have my icons like Eartha Kitt and Josephine Baker (who was in love with all things French), and I wrote out a couple of different names that I liked from stories and books. One of the books, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, had this character named Delysia Lafosse, and I loved the way it rolled off the tongue. And I didn’t want to just be called “the cat.” There are a million cats in burlesque. So I decided I wanted the French word for cat… which is also… I didn’t realize how naughty “La Chatte” it is. (She laughs.)

So it also, conveniently enough, has a double association.

Yes.

What got you interested in burlesque? And how did you get started with it?

The first time I ever heard of burlesque was when my mother told me about the movie Gypsy starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood. We watched it together. I later taped it and often watched it as a pre-teen. I loved the idea of glamour and creating something out of nothing. I could relate to Rose Louise aka Gypsy in the movie, because she was the average one in the family. Not the beautiful one. Not the one with any huge talent. I was shy. I still am shy, and I dreamed of having a life where I could be that confident superstar on stage. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of burlesque back then because I had no idea that people still did it. But I used my drawings as my creative outlet. I would draw beautiful, colorful, confident sexy women all the time. And now I get to be any one of those drawings.

What are some of the things you deal with as a female performer of color in the burlesque community? Any positives? Negatives?I feel like it can be a gift and a curse. I think being a woman of color in burlesque makes you stand out. The same goes for plus-sized performers. It makes you special. I also feel that although there are so many of us on the scene, we get booked less for large scale events. It is my dream to be in the position to create these events that get us lots of attention and pay very well.

What is it like to produce your own work?

First, I started by producing with a group of my closest friends. We started a theater company called Stage of Fiends. I was the burlesque branch. Then the company split. They started to do more plays and cabarets, and I became a lone producer. I recently started co-producing again with other performers, but I also felt it was time for me to go out and do it alone. I didn’t want to compromise my ideas or have to depend on anyone, which is how it is to co-produce. It’s great because you have someone to talk to, bounce ideas off with and support, but at the same time if you have a complete vision it’s hard to make that happen. I will definitely co-produce again, but I needed one thing that is all me.

Tell me about your latest event, La Chatte’s Meow.I’ve been dreaming of doing this show for years now. La Chatte’s Meow is all about my dreams of burlesque, magic and side shows. This theme is based on Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, one of my favorite movies. It is the epitome of everything French, sexy and magical. We have some dragulesque performers like Markko Donto (La Wolverinna), who is amazing. It’s hosted by World Famous Bob and starring some of my favorite people and performers: Raquel Reed, Velocity Chyladd, Apathy Angel, and Stormy Leather, to name a few. There will also be tarot card readings, contortion, can-can dancers, a magician, and a human carpet! You name it, I want it to be happening here! The theme of my next event will be “The Last Unicorn” meets “Legend.”

What would you say to someone who is curious about seeing a burlesque show but has never gone before?Don’t be afraid to make noise! Hoot and holler when you see something amazing. We will not be offended.

La Chatte’s Meow is on Thursday, July 18th. For more information about Delysia and La Chatte’s Meow, visit her website: www.delysialachatte.com/

Marilyn is Dead: Burlesque Noir

Marilyn is Dead! puts a new spin on burlesque. Its premise is all in the title: Marilyn Monroe, the star of Hollywood sex and glamour, is dead. While many view Monroe’s death as tragedy, Marilyn is Dead! revels in it. Described by its producers as “Dark Hollywood Glamour at it’s Finest,” Marilyn is Dead! delivers. Hosted by the delightful Amanda Lepore, the show features burlesque, singing, and tarot readings, and more. The burlesque acts are all entertaining, and one in particular shows great promise: the performer, decked out in 1960s detective drag, undresses a woman sitting on a chair. The woman is a lifeless Monroe, and as the performer dons Marilyn’s dress while discarding her own clothes, it is clear that Marilyn’s legacy is in good hands.

Marilyn is Dead! performs tonight at 10:30pm at Duane Park. Presented by Anna Evans and Delysia LaChatte. Hosted by Amanda Lepore. 

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