BWW Review: Company XIV's NUTCRACKER ROUGE Displays The Subversive Genius of Austin McCormick
At least once a year, this reviewer feels compelled to take to his keyboard and urge any representatives of the MacArthur Foundation to bestow one of their "Genius Grant" fellowships to Company XIV's founding artistic director Austin Mccormick, who throughout this young century has conceived, directed and choreographed some of the most joyfully thrilling theatre to be experienced in New York.
Working with an extraordinary assemblage of classical dancers, actors, operatic vocalists, pop singers, circus performers and burlesque artists, all barely dressed in a style that mixes baroque, Folies Bergères, Paris Opera Ballet and sex-positive toy store, McCormick, within the confines of the company's atmospheric nightclub venue, recreates the intimate and decadent atmosphere of the private court performances held by France's King Louis XIV.
NUTCRACKER ROUGE, his playfully erotic take on the Kingdom of Sweets portion of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet, may be the company's annual holiday offering, but part of what keeps bringing in the repeat customers is that every year McCormick tweaks and revises the festivities to showcase artists who are new to the company and to freshly frame the talents of returning favorites.
Making his Company XIV debut this year, aerialist Troy Lingelbach, representing Turkish Delights, displays strength and beauty maneuvering on his trapeze with lightning speed. Another new act is Banana Split dancer Jacoby Pruitt's wonderfully comic tribute to Josephine Baker.
The popular burlesque performer Albert Cadabra, co-hosting the tour as Monsieur Drosselmeyer, swallows something that isn't quite a sword in a tricky routine and then escapes from a straitjacket while hanging upside down, in full view of the audience. His partner in debauchery is sensuous blues vocalist Cristina Raé.
Among the returning artists featured is the always gasp-worthy Marcy Richardson, who displays a thrilling operatic soprano while gracefully undulating from a hanging crescent moon, and the sultry singer/songwriter LEXXE heats up the stage with her unbridled passion for Red Velvet.
Cara Seymour's dangerously seductive matador, Ashley Dragon's finesse with the Cyr wheel and Nolan McKew's above-the-audience elegance from hanging straps all provide fascination for the naïve Marie-Claire, effectively played by Christine Flores as a curious, but shy young woman who gradually learns to abandon fears of her natural urges as she interacts with each of the kingdom's delicious subjects.
Following McCormick's traditional orgiastic full-company can-can, Flores dances an entrancing solo of mature self-discovery set to Duke Ellington's "Sugar Rum Cherry" followed by a pas de deux with Nicholas Katen's prince that combines classical ballet with barely constrained foreplay.
With all the traditionally family-oriented entertainments to choose from during this season, an evening at Nutcracker Rouge provides a welcome opportunity for grownups to make more subversive holiday merriment.