Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nutcracker Rouge **

Laura Careless & Steven Trumon Gray
(photo by Mark Shelby Perry)
This show by Austin McCormick’s Company XIV now at the Minetta Lane Theatre is back for another holiday season. A review of an earlier production called it a melange of 3 B’s — ballet, baroque and burlesque. It could just as easily be 3 C’s — circus, cabaret and camp. It does not earn a fourth C for coherence. The overwhelmingly favorably reviews from previous years compared it to an adults-only Cirque du Soleil, but it reminded me more of a naughty cabaret show called “Absinthe” that played the late, lamented Spiegeltent at South Street Seaport some years back. Whereas that show wisely made no attempt to provide a unifying narrative, this show presents itself as an erotic version of The Nutcracker. First of all, this led me to expect music from the Tchaikovsky ballet, which, it turns out, provides a small percentage of the score, which ranges from Madonna to Vivaldi. Secondly, the attempt to graft some of the excellent acrobatic routines onto the Nutcracker story are strained, to to put it mildly. The 14 scantily-clad cast members are talented performers who provide lots of eye candy. Marcy Richardson, the singer/aerialist, is most impressive. The final pas de deux by Laura Careless and Steven Trumon Gray is something I won’t soon forget. Shelly Watson as the buxom Madame Drosselmeyer who presides over the event, is a hoot. The scenery and costumes by Zane Pihlstrom are appropriately over the top, but I found the thick haze more annoying than atmospheric. Both men and women wear high-heeled pointy baroque shoes — and often very little else. Strangely, the show is not very sexy. The audience was young and enthusiastic. Running time: 2 hours including intermission.

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