The Nutcracker, from Company XIV: Red, Hot and (Pretty) Blue

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Nutcracker Rouge. Photo Joshua Flannigan.

Nutcracker Rouge. Photo Joshua Flannigan.

Take The Nutcracker standard and blend with a dash of Sally Bowles, a soupçon of Marie Antoinette, a pinch of dominatrix and a lot of spangles and you have the basis of the 2015 iteration of Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge. Everyone wears heels; in many instances, no one wears a lot else if you discount the G-strings, glittering codpieces and pasties. It’s a lot of fun watching the company prance through bits of this naughty-with-a-wink version of the classic Nutcracker with other fairy tales thrown in. There is some actual dancing including the opening, a vaguely Coppelia-ish number with one dancer in pointe shoes clad, as is her partner in Harlequin-like costumes. An even bigger hoot is the take on Mother Ginger who raises her enormous skirts to let out dancers costumed as poodles with pink and blue rumps and wagging penises. The pas de deux for the Nutcracker Rouge version of Clara, known here as Marie-Claire, and her prince, has him in a flowing open coat with G-string beneath; she has removed her crinolines and wears purple pasties and panties. No child, this woman has eyes agape and breathes heavily as she discovers a world of almost-naked dancers and acrobats as well as her own sexual awakening  as the pair negotiates some spins and displays attitude run amok as they lead to a dramatic final lift.

There is emphasis on the Nutcracker Sweets variations with accompanying music that switches between Tchaikovsky and songs like Lollypop and Madonna’s Material Girl. An earlier number, If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d Have Baked a Cake is sung by zaftig Shelly Watson who has a Mae West quality that serves her well as she moves the evening along. This scene, more burlesque than ballet, ends with a pie on the floor and in the face of dancer Jakob Karr.

Aerial work gets plenty of play with Marcy Richardson singing as she twists around a circle high over the stage ending in rain of gold confetti. Other numbers incorporate the obligatory pole as well as a trapeze along with lots of costume changes as well as break-away skirts and corsets.

The whole combines traditional (more or less) dancing with Baroque choreography, eclectic music, pop culture, opera, burlesque, gender bending, high fashion, theatrical staging and sumptuous design created Drama Desk Award Nominee Austin McCormick.

Zane Pihlstrom gets deserved credit for Costume and Set Design) with Jeanette Yew responsible for Lighting Design and Sarah Cimino for Makeup. At times it’s hard to tell the guys from the dolls but that’s part of the plan and couldn’t matter less. The whole is elegantly—if gently—erotic and more fun than a barrel of sexy monkeys. The bodies on display are beautiful and the audience—gay men, women with gal pals, couples—is out to have a great time.

If the standard Nutcracker elicits a yawn, the Nutcracker Rouge will make you sit up and pay attention. Just remember to leave the kids at home.

Nutcracker Rouge

Nutcracker Rouge

About the author

Mari S. Gold

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. Her blog, But I Digress… , on cultural events, travel, food  and other topics is at She lives in New York City.

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