Brooklyn Ed’s capsule review:

Company XIV: Nutcracker Rouge



I will admit up front that I have been a fan of the Nutcracker Rouge since I experienced its first incarnation in 2013.  Over the years I have watched it evolve into its current form at the Theatre XIV in Bushwick.  Austin McCormick’s Company XIV continues to seduce its audience with a fusion of classic and modern music and dance coupled with circus arts and burlesque (in both the sexy & comic senses). The opening backdrop on the stage for Nutcracker Rouge depicts a shocked couple in 18th century attire lifting a curtain onto a scene of orgiastic excess - the same backdrop that set the tone of the original production and it is still appropriate.


The show follows the basic dreamscape plot of the Nutcracker Suite but omits the battle with the Mouse King, preferring to concentrate on the delights of the Land of the Sweets.   These are brought to life by the cast of eighteen talented performers (including a corps de ballet of three men and three women). The accompanying music, while it contains a large dose of Tchaikovsky, runs the gamut from classical (Vivaldi) to a variety of modern and pop songs (Christina Aguilera, Tom Waits, among others) covered by the cast members as well as an original number by LEXXE. The choreography by Austin McCormick flows seamlessly between classic and modern with circus skills and magic acts sprinkled throughout. 


The opening party scene sets the mood of illusion with magic by Herr Drosselmeyer (Albert Cadabra) before Clara (Christine Flores) is gifted with the Nutcracker and lulled to sleep by Frau Drosselmeyer (Marcy Richardson) with Berlin’s A Russian Lullaby.  Clara is an active dreamer - alternating between watching from the sidelines, picking up costume bits and being pulled into the dances as the various types of sweets are presented.


To get a flavor of the flow I’ll describe one sequence: A solo male dancer (Jacoby Pruitt) ascends to the stage from the audience to perform to Tchaikovsky’s Arabian Dance as Clara watches from the side. He then moves upstage to don a banana tutu for a homage to Josephine Baker (Ma Petite Tonkinoise) before pulling the watching Clara center stage for an athletic jitterbug duet.


Clara is on the cusp of a change. As her dream progresses things heat up, a bit of cross-dressing here, a bit of kink there, building to an energetic Can Can followed by an explosive climax before settling down for the denouement: Clara’s solo as the Sugar Plum Fairy (to a Duke Ellington tune) and a pas de deux with the Nutcracker Prince (Nicholas Katen) as the dream ends and A Russian Lullaby is reprised.


Nutcracker Rouge is a truly enjoyable ensemble production.  Plaudits are due to the director/choreographer, designers and costumers as well as the cast & crew for continuing to retouch the mix each year to keep the production fresh and vibrant.


- Ed Barnas, 29 December 2019r


Performances for the current season run through January 26, 2020 at Theatre XIV, 383 Troutman St, Brooklyn, NY.  Runtime is 2:25 with two intermissions.


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