Ashley Dragon. Credit: Mark Shelby Perry
Even when Company XIV produces a problematic show, it’s vastly entertaining. While the Nutcracker Rouge’s version of this well-known holiday tale loses some of its magic — relegating the role of Clara to more of an assistant narrator rather than a girl on the cusp of discovery — its vignettes provide constant amusement and titillation.
Most of the show is situated in the kingdom of sweets and the traditional first act is quickly dismissed onstage, removing most of the Staulbahm’s party (dubbed here after Clara’s godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer) and rushing through the Mouse King’s challenge of the Nutcracker.
“Snow,” Rouge’s second scene, featuring Vivaldi’s “Winter,” beautifully reinterprets “The Waltz of the Snowflakes,” which usually closes out Act I, with snow trickling from the rafters. Then the show’s tone changes as it becomes more vaudevillian with each holiday treat participating in its own sideshow for three acts. Some are readily recognizable from its source material, including numbers with Mother Ginger and the Sugar Plum Fairy. Others like Ashley Dragon on her Cyr wheel or arialist Nolan McKew, while graceful and thrilling, never offer that Nutcracker-holiday feel.
Company XIV’s artistic director/founder and choreographer often mixes genres to great success — his versions of Alice in Wonderland and Snow White, for example — but Ballet Rouge’s storyline falters, and the additions of burlesque, circus and opera limit the tale rather than exploring it in a new way.
But, there’s a reason why the show is marking its eighth year — even with its fragmented story, each scene entertains as performers sing, strut and even escape elaborate bindings Houdini style. Acts like Marcy “Operagaga” Richardson’s astound — how does she belt those notes suspended upside down?
Imbibing is encouraged, with one number celebrating the wonder of absinthe before selling it during intermission, and small tables make your cocktails easily accessible at your seat. Lilin Lace even saunters in a champagne glass as part of one routine.
Nutcracker Rouge plays through January 26 at 383 Troutman St. in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Running time is two hours and 25 minutes. For more information, see: http://CompanyXIV.com