Tchaikovsky must be spinning in his grave. Pyotr Ilyich may be taking off his clothes as well. He’s channeling Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker playing at The Triple Door December 7-28th.
This is the twelfth season for Jasper McCann and Lily Verlaine’s festive holiday frolic and “corps du burlesque.” Hmm twelve seasons of this exquisite burlesque holiday show and twelve day of Christmas… Think there might be some magic there? Better check it out and see for yourself.
This year’s production features all-new musical arrangements by Jasper McCann, Kate Olson, and Michael Owcharuk, based on Tchaikovsky’s original ballet score. And for the first time, the music is played LIVE by a nine-piece orchestra, featuring some of the best-known jazz musicians of the Northwest.
As always, the melodic-baritone McCann hosts, calling himself Charles Drosselmingus, while Lily Verlaine shows off her dancing and acting chops. [Surely the name Lily Verlaine plays playful homage to one of Marlene Dietrich’s big hits, “Lily Merleen”]
When asked about what audiences should expect, McCann was excited. “The energy that will be created by the interaction between nine musicians and our exquisite cast will make this the most exciting “Land Of The Sweets” yet. Fans who have been visiting “Land Of The Sweets” as a tradition better hold onto their hats… this year will be nothing short of electric!”
All your favorite characters will be back, including Lily Verlaine’s Sugar Plum Fairy, Tory Peil’s “toreadora” Hot Chocolate, Trojan Original and his matador turn as Coco, the light-juggling magic of Babette La Fave, and the ever-loveable Snowflakes.
Joining the cast this year are Alice Cao (Clara in PNB’s Syndak/Stowell “Nutcracker,” 2003), musical theatre actor Patrick Jeffrey as the new Rat King, and Alvin Ailey-trained Molly Levy as Crystallina the Snowflake.
Although the production may not be Broadway-Bound perfect, it is delightfully silly, irreverent, playful, funny, and sexy. The performers take outrageous liberties with the Russian composer’s sublime “Nutcracker” ballet and music. The various acts bear—or should we say bare?– a campy ambience. But true-blue Tchaikovsky fans will recognize the routines, many of which are based on the legendary ballet’s Act II, set in the Land of the Sweets.
If you sit at a front-row table, you might be tempted to rename the show the “The Buttcracker.” The costumes are glittery and glamorous, but they don’t stay on for long. “Land of Sweets” gives a whole new meaning to “In your face.”
You’ll see burlesque take-offs—no pun intended–on the Snow Queen Fairy and her Snowflakes, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the Waltz of the Flowers. Versions of the coffee, tea, and chocolate vignettes from the original “Nutcracker,” are interpreted by Arabian, Chinese and Spanish-clad dancers. Of course, they all have one thing in coming. They strip.
And what would a holiday show be without an angel? Of course, “Land of the Sweets” has one. Tova Da Luna is back. And there’s a new shepherdess, Alice Cato, but she doesn’t have a baaing entourage—at least we don’t think so.
It’s a hairless ensemble—thank goodness for body waxing. Because the wardrobe malfunctions are deliberate. Naughty and nice. Swings and splits. Bosoms and Butts. Tinsel and titties. Pasties and G-strings. Spangles and dangles.
Costume Designer Stephanie Seymour (formerly of Teatro ZinZanni) adds even more flourishes to update and embellish this year’s costumes, including an all-new bouquet of costumes for “Waltz of Flowers.”
And hopefully, we’ll see the phallic Christmas tree slowing growing, while the titillating, silhouette striper juggles balls of light behind a lit screen.
Producer/choreographer/performer Verlaine shows off her classical ballet chops in her characterizations of the Countess of Coffee—she does the spits midair, her legs stretched across the shoulder of two scantily-clad hunks. Verlaine also portrays Prima Calla Lily Verlaine, the Snow Queen, and, crowd-favorite, the lazy Sugar Plum Fairy.
A trio of snowflakes with their red, glittery lips adds a delightful, kitschy charm. Be on the watch for Moscato Extatique as Rosette with his flirtatious smile and Lady Gaga vibes.
In all, an ensemble with diverse dance backgrounds—cavort across the stage, bouncing bosoms and butts of all sizes and shapes. Their names have been changed (Maybe to protect their friends and families?). Dances vary from ballet and swing to cha-cha and tap–there’s even a snatch of Paso doble. And all the time, G-strings and pasties sparkle. Technical effects are delightful—colored lights, twinkling stars and a snow blizzard. FYI: Be sure to cover your drinks during the storm.
“Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker” embellishes the likes of Minsky’s, Vaudeville, and the Ziegfeld Follies. It also reminds us of the infamous burlesque queen Sally Rand and her feather fan shtick.
We must admit that Seattle is the perfect city for this neo-burlesque extravaganza. After all, the late, great Gypsy Rose Lee was born here. She just wanted to “entertain you.” As does “Land of the Sweets” and its bawdy butt-crackers.
Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker runs Monday-Saturday through Dec. 28th. General Seating – $40-$55; VIP Seating, $50-$70; tickets (206) 838-4333, online at www.VerlaineAndMcCann.com or thetripledoor.net; for 2pm, 5pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, and 8pm shows, you must be 17 or over; for 10pm and 10:30pm shows, you must be 21 or older; on Sunday, Dec. 24th.(Christmas Eve) there is only one performance at 5pm; there are no shows on Christmas Day.
Kate Olson, band leader, woodwinds
Michael Owcharuk, piano
Dave Pascal, double bass
Dexter Stevens, woodwinds
Robert Beasley, trumpet
Josiah Boothby, French horn
The Cast & Characters
Paris Original, Tea Twin, Arabian Bodyguard
Babette la Fave, The Sleepytime Reveler, Snowflake
Moscato Extatique, Rosette-a Snowflake
Dreamy Tangerine, Janet Snowflake
Janeé Enchanteé, Snowflake
Lily Verlaine, The Countess of Coffee, The Snow Queen, Sugar Plum Fairy, Prima Calla Lily
Tory Peil, Hot Chocolate, Volga-Gal, Snowflake
Red Delicious, The Maid
Alice Cao, Marzi the Shepherdess, Tea Twin
Tova da Luna, The Angel, Snowflake
Jasper McCann, Charles Drosselmingus
Trojan Original, Coco the Toreador, Arabian Bodyguard, Volga-Guy
Dreamy Tangerine, Janet-a Snowflake
Elektra Luxe, Crystalina-a Snowflake
Marissa Quimby, Volga Gal, Snowflake
Patrick Jeffrey, King of The Rats, Volga Guy, Snowflake
The Creative Team
Lily Verlaine & Jasper McCann, Creators, Directors and Producers
Lily Verlaine, Artistic Direction & Principal Choreography
Jasper McCann, Musical Direction, Songs, Book & Lyrics
Stephanie Seymour, Costume Design
Jen Hill, Wardrobe Mistress
Maria Manness, Production Manager
Shelby Adelle Richardson, Wig/Headpiece Design & Styling