Review: NUTCRACKER ROUGE is an Elegantly Erotic Holiday Dance Spectacle
It was a year ago that one of the city's most exciting and inventive performing arts companies, the brilliant director/choreographer Austin McCormick's Company XIV, was removed from its Brooklyn home because of damage suffered from Hurricane Sandy.
The nomadic troupe has, at least temporarily, found a much higher-profile venue at Off-Broadway's Minetta Lane Theater, where its return production of Nutcracker Rouge riffs on a holiday favorite with a sumptuously sensual blend of erotic dance, jazzy vocals and stunning baroque fashions filtered through a neo-burlesque sensibility. Revised quite a bit from its 2010 production, the evening is sexy, but never smutty, as the elegant movement of the human body is celebrated with breathtaking litheness.
Laura Careless, a dancer whose performances are greatly enhanced by her silent acting skills, appears once again as the womanly child Marie-Claire who ventures forth to the Kingdom of Sweets for a luscious sampling of sugary goodness. The bulk of the text is the presentation of delectable treats as represented by scantily-clad specialists.
She encounters wild Irish cherries, candy canes, a Turkish delight and licorice boys, dressed by designer Zane Pihlstrom in styles that cross the centuries with teasing glimpses of bondage, dominance and submission, seen through Jeanette Yew's soft and sensual lighting.
Guiding her way are actor Jeff Takacs as the menacing Monsieur Drosselmeyer and vocalist Shelly Watson, known primarily for her performances on the burlesque circuit, as his madam. Though the recorded dance music used is taken from Tchaikovsky's original and Vivaldi, Watson snazzes up the night with hot renditions of American songbook entries like "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" and "I Call My Sugar Candy," going so far as to take her performance into the lobby during intermission and delightfully flirting her way through the audience to begin the second act.
Highlighted acts include circus performer Nicolas Maffey, whose beautiful muscles balance his body from the floor and maneuver him through a hoop in the air. Vocalist Katrina Cunningham performs a ravishing dance upon Takacs' lap and contortionist Cassady Rose Bonjo bends her physique unimaginably as the Nutcracker Doll.
After the company partakes in an orgiastic can-can, obligatorily set to Offenbach, Careless, who has been encased in large-bustled dress all night, finally enters in something less restricting, and performs a dazzling solo celebrating Marie-Claire's sexual awakening. She's joined by Alexander Hille, as the Nutcracker Prince, for a thrilling climax.
Sometimes a little kinky, often hedonistic, Nutcracker Rouge is, above all, quite tasteful and beautiful. An enchanting evening of adult fun that might certainly inspire attending couples to partake in further holiday cheer.