Company XIV Returns with its Naughty & Nice ‘Nutcracker Rouge’
Bob Rizzo, Contributing Writer, December 9, 2015
In a nutshell, Austin McCormick‘s Nutcracker Rouge is brassy, irreverent, naughty, whimsical, and delightfully creative. There’s no question that Balanchine purists may blush, but the delectable rouge that McCormick applies to this story and to his super-talented and diverse cast cannot be denied.
From terrific singer Shelly Watson‘s grandiose take on Madame Drosselmeyer (she seems to have more costume changes and shows more skin than did Jennifer Lopez in the recent American Music Awards) right down to the dedicated ensemble members who bare more than their unique talents, it’s a fantastical feast for the eyes.
McCormick has an imaginative visual sense that comes into play the moment you walk into the mist-filled theatre space. He creates, along with lighting designer Jeanette Yew’s opulent, atmospheric touch, a world of sugary and sinewy delights. Taking an adults-only spin on the Tchaikovsky classic, this production is more of a revue of extravagant song and dance sequences. Nutcracker Rouge features the now grown-up Marie-Claire, played by the very nimble and ethereal dancer, Laura Careless. Like Clara of Balanchine’s original, Marie-Claire travels to a Kingdom Of Sweets. But this kingdom, plumb full of candy canes, chocolate, Turkish delights and Licorice boys, might have made even Caligula blush. The costumes by designer Zane Pihlstrom are stunningly erotic and include leather harnesses, codpieces, animal heads, sequined thongs, gowns and men in heels. In Austin McCormick’s world, cross-dressing has never looked so delectable.
You will still hear a glimmer of Tchaikovsky’s score, but director/choreographer McCormick cleverly mixes it up with doses of pop music and opera. His trademark choreography uniquely blends Baroque dance with ballet and cutting-edge contemporary. It’s especially breathtaking in the final pas de deux between Careless and her Nutcracker Cavalier, Steven Trummon Gray.
Other highlights include Marcy Richardson as she sings a legit soprano arrangement of Sia’s Chandelier while spinning high in the air in a Lyra hoop. Shelly Watson just about steals the show with her bawdy and naughty behavior as our Master of Ceremonies for the evening, and scores high marks with her hysterical rendition If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake.
The show ends with an infectious and raucous can-can that features the entire company. This is one unified troupe of gifted players that demand you sit up and pay attention. Take your cue from them and enjoy this holiday spectacle while you can still grab a ringside seat.
Nutcracker Rouge runs until January 17th. For more information and tickets, visit TICKETMASTER.
Nutcracker Rouge at The Minetta Lane Theatre through January 17, 2016. Conceived, directed and choreographed by Austin McCormick; Zane Pihlstrom, set and costume design; Jeannette Yew, lighting design; Sarah Cimino, make-up design.
With Hilly Bodin, Laura Careless, Lea Helle, Jakob Karr, Nicholas Katen, Ross Katen, Malik Kitchen, Mark Osmundsen, Davon Rainey, Marcy Richardson, Steven Trumon Gray, Brett Umlauf, Nicole von Arx, and Shelly Watson.
Photo credit: Mark Shelby Perry with Brett Umlauf, Laura Careless, and members of the cast of Nutcracker Rouge