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Nutcracker Rouge

A thrilling bawdy dance revue set to classical and pop tunes with lavish costumes performed by a flawless ensemble in a recreation of a Paris nightclub.

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Laura Careless and Steven Trumon Gray in a scene from Company XIV’s “Nutcracker Rouge” (Photo credit: Mark Selby Perry)

Laura Careless and Steven Trumon Gray in a scene from Company XIV’s “Nutcracker Rouge” (Photo credit: Mark Shelby Perry)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

 Madonna’s “Material Girl” deliriously sung by the bewigged full-figured Shelly Watson in a grand hoop dress with a company of provocatively clad male and female dancers snapping fans and suggestively cavorting around was among the exhilarating highlights of Nutcracker Rouge.

It’s presented by Company XIV which specializes in opulent bawdy dance extravaganzas.   The only real and occasional sights of mild partial nudity are bare buttocks and breasts with pasties so it doesn’t cross over into the actually pornographic.

Brett Umlauf (far left) and Laura Careless (far right) and cast of "Nutcracker Rouge" (Photo credit: Mark Shelby Perry) 

Brett Umlauf (far left) and Laura Careless (far right) and cast of “Nutcracker Rouge” (Photo credit: Mark Shelby Perry)

This is a revival of one their most successful shows.  The pretext for it is a racy variation on Tchaikovsky’s perennial holiday classic, The Nutcracker, but it goes off on many outrageous tangents.

Executed as a revue, it’s series of dance and song sequences set in a recreation of a 1920’s style seedy Paris nightclub with 18th century visual flourishes.  The score is heavy on Tchaikovsky but also cleverly incorporates Vivaldi, Duke Ellington, Christina Aguilera and Handel.

Bejeweled codpieces, sequined thongs, taut bustiers, powdered wigs, elaborate masks, frock coats, tutus, and leather harnesses, are among the eye-catching elements of Zane Pihlstrom’s lavish costume designs.  Mr. Pihlstrom’s dazzling set is composed of spiral staircases, ramps, old-fashioned footlights, mirrors, a miniature carousel with a pole on top used for dancing, and a period-looking curtain.

Recalling John Allcott’s stunning candle-lit Oscar-winning cinematography for Stanley Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon is Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew’s rich lighting design.  Experienced often through a wafting mist of smoke it’s dim and murky and superbly enhances this provocative production.

Company creator Austin McCormick is the visionary who conceived this event.  Mr. McCormick’s wild choreography and his energetic direction make for an enthralling spectacle of numerous Baroque hijinks celebrating sensuality.  Interspersed are circus style numbers with trapeze, swings, rope flying, and gyrating hoops.

Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” becomes an erotic bullfight with male dances in little else besides bull masks with elaborate horns.  There’s also a ballet with male dancers in poodle masks wearing anatomically correct appendages.   Of course there’s a flamboyant can-can.

Devon Rainey and Laura Careless in a scene from Company XIV’s “Nutcracker Rouge” (Photo credit: Mark Selby Perry)

Devon Rainey and Laura Careless in a scene from Company XIV’s “Nutcracker Rouge” (Photo credit: Mark Shelby Perry)

“If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake,” is a hilarious showstopper with a giant cake.  It’s sung by the engaging Ms. Watson who also scores with “Candy,” “Sugar Shack,” and “Russian Lullaby.” She plays the saucy Madame Drosselmeyer who shepherds a young ballerina through the licentiousness and functions as the master of ceremonies.  Her immense singing and comic skills is an anchor of the show.

In addition to Shelly Watson, the tremendously talented and physically stunning company is comprised of Hilly Bodin, Laura Careless, Lea Helle, Jakob Karr, Nicholas Katen, Ross Katen, Malik Kitchen, Mark Osmundsen, Davon Rainey, Marcy Richardson, Steven Trumon Gray, Brett Umlauf, Nicole von Arx.  All are given and commandingly seize their moments in the spotlight as well as performing exquisitely is unison.

The good-natured eroticism of Nutcracker Rouge is showcased in this playfully decadent presentation that’s terrific adult merriment during the holiday season.

Nutcracker Rouge (through January 17, 2016)

The Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 1-800-745-3000 or visit

Running time: two hours including one intermission

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (794 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for

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