BWW Review: Company XIV Brings Back Erotic Sensation, NUTCRACKER ROUGE

In less than ten years, the brilliant director/choreographer Austin McCormick has established Company XIV as one of the most vibrant and original troupes regularly contributing to New York City's performing arts scene. Although eroticism flavors every aspect of his creations the textures and levels of excitement, romance and humor he achieves through baroque dance, burlesque, gymnastics, non-traditional storytelling and an eclectic mix of classical and contemporary music is unmatched in terms of elegance and sophistication.

Steven Trumon Gray and Laura Careless
(Photo: Mark Shelby Perry)

The company's signature showpiece, the annual NUTCRACKER ROUGE, is a work that has been continually tweaked and revised since premiering in their former Brooklyn home six years ago. The one extraordinary constant is the sublime performance of XIV's lead dancer, Laura Careless, an artist whose ethereal movement is greatly enhanced by sensitive silent acting skills. Once again she plays the womanly child Marie-Claire, who ventures forth to the Kingdom of Sweets for a luscious sampling of sugary goodness and discovers a world where shame has no power and joy is defined by freely succumbing to one's urges.

The bulk of the evening is the presentation of delectable treats as represented by scantily-clad specialists and for the first time, this incarnation significantly beefs up the role of Madame Drosselmeyer, the evening's guide through the bountiful candy box, played by burlesque vocalist Shelly Watson with cooing flirtatiousness. The versatile singer captivates with selections like the traditional "Russian Lullaby," and a corny "If I Knew You Were Coming I'd Have Baked a Cake" and even performs a lovely strip-tease.

Marie-Claire encounters goodies such as candied cherries, candy canes, Turkish delights 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.

Lea Helle, Marcy Richardson (on hoop) and Laura Careless
(Photo: Mark Shelby Perry)

In Company XIV's previous production, CINDERELLA, Marcy Richardson supplied the most jaw-dropping moment by performing an elaborate pole dance while singing from Charles Gounod's FAUST in a full soprano. She achieves the same results this time suspended in the air, spinning and maneuvering in a lyra hoop while singing a legit arrangement of Sia's "Chandelier."

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 join by Steven Trumon Gray as the Nutcracker Cavalier, for a passionate climax that is never at a loss for elegance.

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.

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From This Author Michael Dale

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