I Got Ya Sugar Plums Right Here: Nutcracker Rouge

01/01/2014 4:00 AM |


Photo via shortandsweetnyc.com

Nutcracker Rouge
Minetta Lane Theatre

In the program for this explosively hedonistic reimagining of the classic Christmas ballet, director-choreographer Austin McCormick writes that his “dream is to open a Baroque Burlesque nightclub in New York.” If his ideas for such a place include anything like the revelry on display in Nutcracker Rouge (through January 12), I hope he finds financing immediately. This show is a joyous antidote to the feeling we all have (at least sometimes) that theatergoing can be punitive. Baby candy canes are passed out in the festive lobby of the Minetta Lane, and when the show starts, all manner of visual candy is thrust playfully into our faces. McCormick has created a world of pasties and bustiers, of jeweled jockstraps and feather boas, of fans and pearls and dominatrix boots, and he has gathered dancers who gleefully show off some of the juiciest, fleshiest, most obscenely rounded bodies ever to be put on theatrical display.

The slim plot involves Marie Claire (Laura Careless), who seems to be a French lady of title plunged into a world of sensual delights presided over by the commanding and sometimes whip-cracking Drosselmeyer (Jeff Takacs) and his Texas Guinan-like wife Mrs. Drosselmeyer (Shelly Watson), who knows her way around a torch song. In the first act, the male dancers are often dressed in frilly women’s panties and garter belts while the women favor evening gowns and more ornate finery. There are acrobatic feats of wonder on parallel bars and trapeze, but they’re never mere virtuosic displays: McCormick keeps his dancers working toward the creation of a carnal netherworld where the idea of sex is pervasive, expressed through movements that start out as lingering and slinky and then move into outright staccato simulated rutting.

It feels like a party from beginning to end. Glitter keeps exploding from the ceiling onto the audience, whose members are encouraged to bring drinks to their seats and shout randy encouragement to the performers. It feels hot, yes, but also warm, an all-inclusive vibe bathed stimulatingly in smoky red light. Watson comes out during the intermission to sing to the crowd, laughing and joking and keeping up the convivial mood. Nutcracker Rouge closes with a series of violently energetic routines in which the dancers keep interlocking into hilariously filthy orgy-like patterns until Careless emerges as the Sugar Plum Fairy and does a striptease that would have made Tchaikovsky blush. When the show ended, I didn’t really want to leave, which is why this sort of thing really would make an ideal entrée act or floor show for a nightclub, even if it needed to be reduced in length. What is Nutcracker Rouge about? I don’t know. But all the bent-over bare ass and flaunted near-naked breasts amid the pirouettes and glitter make a wonderfully lurid impression.