Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker

Last year I saw Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker at the Triple Door and instantly feel in love. When I took a group of friends to see it this year, it was just as magical. The work produced by Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann represents some of the best the Seattle Burlesque Community has to offer. A jazzy, sexy, unconventional take on a Christmas classic, Land of the Sweets has become my new holiday tradition.

The son of a ballet dancer and choreographer, I grew up watching The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker on VHS. I would sit enraptured as beautiful dancers in gorgeous costumes moved across the stage with grace and finesse. I loved the Columbine Doll, and Harlequin is still one of my dream roles. I usually skipped through the middle part, where the Nutcracker is taking Clara to the court of the Sugar Plum Fairy; while beautiful, the regal and repetitive dance of the angels was a little too formal for my tastes.

When the Nutcracker and Clara arrived in the Land of Sweets, I would once again be enthralled. I would watch Tea, Chocolate, the Russian Sweets and Coffee (my favorite!) dance for the entertainment of Sugar Plum and her guests; and I cheered when Drosselmeir’s nephew would awaken from his cursed state, while an oblivious Clara would fall fast asleep.

When I came to Seattle some eight years ago, and I saw PNB’s version of the Nutcracker, I found my childhood memories disappointed. While beautiful in parts, PNB’s exotic voyage seemed less magical to me then the visions of sugar plums that I grew up with. Between you and me, I HATE the Peacock. The Arabian number is my favorite piece… I mean come on, three (hot) muscular guys dancing with a very sensual Arabian princess. What’s not to love?

Land of the Sweets does not disappoint. Though not what I grew up with, the Burlesque Nutcracker captures the energy and the fantasy that I loved as a child. High energy, fun, graceful, and at times a hair uncomfortable (Waxie Moon is just too good at what he does!) this has become one of my favorite shows.

Featuring a stellar cast of burlesque artistes and dancers, there is not a weak link in the show. From Jasper’s witty banter and excellent lounge singer vocals, to the expert tassel spinning of Miss Indigo Blue, to the grace and strength of The Aerialistas, and sheer beauty of Lily Verlaine, every act delights.

I want to give special accolades to my favorite performers.

Miss Polly Wood, Inga Ingenue, and Lou Henry Hoover are absolutely hysterical as The Snowflakes. Their comedic timing and presence made each ‘bit’ a thoroughly enjoyable number as memorable as any other act in the show.

Lydia Mclane as the hard working Tulips is an equal delight. Though her role is more limited, her performance truly deserves being called pick-up ART.

Lily Verlaine as the Countess of Coffee stole my heart once again with her sensuality and graceful application of her ballet training. Her choreography pays subtle homage to classical choreo and that gentle attention to ‘tradition’ is part of why this show will keep returning to the stage. That being said Lily does Coffee right. Aided by Misster Waxie Moon, a talented dancer/choreographer, and Osiris Bombay, a relative newcomer to the burlesque scene whose solo performance in Coffee made my mouth water (HOT!), Lily reminds me why Coffee is my favorite number.

A change from last year that I have to mention, Ben Delacreme’s performance as Madame Ginger was brilliant! This role was previously played by Paula the Swedish Housewife whose reputation as a talented performer is well deserved. But the addition of Ben to this year’s Nutcracker added an element that rang true to me. Though not always used, the role of Mother Ginger is a class drag role: comedic, over the top, and thoroughly enjoyable. Paula’s Madame Ginger was sophisticated and sexy. Ben’s is hilarious, and her act made me jealous of the people in the front row.

I could go on and on about this amazing piece of ecdysiastic pageantry, but better still I will encourage you to go see it yourself. Performing at the Triple Door, Downtown Seattle, through the 2oth. Tickets can be purchased online at or call 206-838-4333. Make this show your new holiday tradition!

~ Fosse Jack