Naughty and nude, this Nutcracker isn’t for the kiddies.


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By Joel Benjamin


What do you get when you combine burlesque, Cirque du Soleil and The Nutcracker ballet? You get Nutcracker Rouge which has become an annual tradition in the Village. With its naughty sexuality, super-stretchy acrobatics, good singing and dancing and a cast of nubile young extroverts, it’s easy to see why.

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Austin McCormick’s Nutcracker Rouge takes the original tale of Clara and her discovery of the land of candy canes, waltzing flowers, Mother Ginger and her prince charming and has given it an adult twist. As in the versions of Mark Morris and Rudolf Nureyev, Clara, here called Marie-Claire, finds her romantic awakening, except that here, the climax—literally and figuratively—is a semi-nude, erotic pas de deux that makes it quite clear that the young virgin is not a virgin anymore!


Getting to this sexual self-realization, Marie-Claire, portrayed with wide-eyed enthusiasm by the delicate Laura Careless, is put through an alternate life style ringer, overseen by Madame Drosselmeyer (a voluptuously robust, big-voiced Shelly Watson) who guides her from one gentle debauchery to another.   These anthropomorphic confections included Turkish Delight (Nicholas Katen, Ross Katen and Brett Umlauf), Cherries (Lea Helle, Nicole von Arx) and Chocolate (Davon Rainey). Marcy Richardson, as Champagne, dangled suggestively from a circular trapeze while singing an Italian aria.Nutcracker 2-p


The climactic pas de deux, between Marie-Claire and her Nutcracker Cavalier (a hunky, yet soft-edged Todd Hanebrink) is actually a lovely romantic duet, despite the semi-nudity and combines many classical ballet movements with eroticism.


The music, some sung live, is a mad mix of pop songs (“If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake”) and classical (Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”) and is used wittily, although some of Mr. McCormick’s choreography might have been more sophisticated.


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The costumes and sets by Zane Pihistrom were extravagant by off-Broadway standards. The multi-layered costumes, in particular, were a show in themselves and lots of fun to watch as they came off!


Company XIV, which produced Nutcracker Rouge, has other sensually interpreted shows coming up, including a Snow White, the title alone conjures the possibility of sexually-charged adventures.






Nutcracker Rouge (through January 17, 2016)

Minetta Lane Theatre

18 Minetta Lane, between 6th Avenue and McDougall St. in Greenwich Village New York, NY

For tickets, call 800-982-2787 or visit

For more information, visit

Running time: two hours, including one intermission