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Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge an Erotic take on the Children's Classic

by Bonnie Rosenstock
December 15, 2015
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane
New York, NY 10014
800-982-2787
Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge, conceived, directed and choreographed by 2015 Drama Desk Award nominee Austin McCormick, is the most thrilling theater experience you are likely to have any time soon. It is a bawdy, outlandish, very adult reimagining of the iconic children’s classic The Nutcracker. But it may not be for the faint of heart, so spectators should be prepared for the ribald ride. There is a glut of glutes that are unabashedly exposed, a plenitude of bejeweled pasties on the women and sequined codpieces for the men, and one simulated, but graphic, orgy scene where both genders have attached penises—all performed with panache by the talented, hard-working classically trained corps de ballet.

From the opening sequence of a ballerina wind-up doll en pointe to the last breathtaking pas de deux, the action is a non-stop, dizzying romp, overseen by ringmaster Madame Drosslemeyer, who is Marie-Claire’s guide and mentor to the trippy wild side. Marie-Claire, performed by the lovely Laura Careless, is an innocent who experiences sexual awakening through her journey across various lands, sometimes with the aid of drug-induced visions. Madame Drosselmeyer, played by the ample and audacious Shelly Watson, is a combination of Sophie Tucker and Bette Midler. She is blessed with a first-rate voice that ranges from opera to belting out pop standards. She strides out scene after scene in opulent over-the-top costumes, designed by Zane Pihistrom, who also created the sumptuous sets. One of her more eye-popping costumes transforms into a curtain from which performers pour out onto the stage.

Company XIV takes its inspiration from theater, dance and opera under the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France (1638-1715), who was a great patron of the arts as well as a ballet dancer.

Nutcracker Rouge marries ornate baroque court dance—check out those pointed and heeled shoes that the performers deftly dance in—with contemporary burlesque, dance-theater and circus. In two awesome aerial numbers, Marcy Richardson gyrates and rotates with enormous strength and agility on a suspended pole and later on a large suspended ring, while sweetly singing on the latter. Identical twins, Nicholas and Ross Katen, do a wondrous death-defying duet on a suspended rope and bar. They are also terrific as the sensuous Turkish Delight, as is the entire corps.

In addition to the beloved Tchaikovsky score for many of the classic divertissements, there is an array of pop tunes, such as “Sugar Shack,” “Peppermint Twist,” “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d’ve Baked a Cake,” “Lollipop” and “Material Girl,” with no shortage of double-entendre, that accompany the salty gender-bending spectacle. But one of the most memorable dances takes place at the finale, when Marie-Claire, now a woman in full bloom, and Steven Trumon Gray, as the dashing Nutcracker Cavalier, perform a passionate, utterly perfect pas de deux. The suspended in-air lifts and choreography rival those of the best ballet companies.

McCormick, who founded Company XIV in 2006, is a monster of imagination. His next production is Snow White opening on January 26, 2016 at the same intimate Off-Broadway Minetta Lane Theatre. Be there, or be square.

Nutcracker Rouge is playing through January 17, 2016. For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com, or call (800) 745-3000. For more information about Company XIV and its upcoming productions, go to www.companyxiv.com.
Steven Trumon Gray and Laura Careless.

Steven Trumon Gray and Laura Careless.

Photo © & courtesy of Mark Shelby Perry


Lea Helle, Marcy Richardson (on hoop) and Laura Careless.

Lea Helle, Marcy Richardson (on hoop) and Laura Careless.

Photo © & courtesy of Mark Shelby Perry


Laura Careless (on floor) and cast members of 'Nutcracker Rouge.'

Laura Careless (on floor) and cast members of "Nutcracker Rouge."

Photo © & courtesy of Mark Shelby Perry


Davon Rainey and Laura Careless.

Davon Rainey and Laura Careless.

Photo © & courtesy of Mark Shelby Perry


Shelly Watson and Laura Careless.

Shelly Watson and Laura Careless.

Photo © & courtesy of Mark Shelby Perry


Brett Umlauf (on left wearing black boots) and Laura Careless (on right) with cast members of 'Nutcracker Rouge.'

Brett Umlauf (on left wearing black boots) and Laura Careless (on right) with cast members of "Nutcracker Rouge."

Photo © & courtesy of Mark Shelby Perry


Laura Careless and Steven Trumon Gray.

Laura Careless and Steven Trumon Gray.

Photo © & courtesy of Mark Shelby Perry

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