Malcolm Beckett ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Now in its sixth season, The Slutcracker: A Burlesque is fast becoming a tradition of the Boston stage. Created and directed by Vanessa White and playing at the Somerville Theatre from November 30 – December 31, the production certainly has the element of novelty on its side. A modern re-imagining of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet, The Nutcracker, The Slutcracker incorporates ballet, modern, jazz dance, and, of course, stripteases.
The plot, which serves mainly as a vehicle to justify the various burlesque performances in the second act, revolves loosely around the recently engaged Clara (Ginger Slap)’s sexual awakening. When, Auntie Drosselmeyer (Femme Bones), a hedonistic trickster rather than the kindly godfather of the original ballet, shows up to Clara and her fiancé Fritz’s (Paolo Mania) Christmas party uninvited, she brings trouble with her. Trouble in the form of an adult toy, the Christmas present Clara never knew she wanted. Feeling emasculated, Fritz demands that Clara choose between him and the adult toy. Clara chooses the adult toy, who, personified in the Slutcracker Prince (Davide Vittorino), leads Clara on a series of surreal sexual adventures.
That director and choreographer Vanessa White is able to bring the fantasies (pun intended) of The Slutcracker to the Somerville Theatre’s small stage is a minor miracle, and speaks to her ability and economy as a director. Underneath the intentional campiness, there is a definite attention to detail, methodical use of space, and ingenuity at play in this production. The set is both minimal and multi-functional; allowing the audience to focus on the most important part of any classical ballet turned burlesque show – the dancing.
While the choreography shines in the more ballet-centric pieces (Vanessa White is herself a trained ballerina), the modern pieces that open the show seem lackluster in comparison. The burlesque too is well choreographed, incorporating just enough humor without distracting from the performers or their talents. And for a show that runs slightly under two hours, both the styles of dance and the burlesque acts are remarkably varied.
Aside from their sheer athleticism, the cast of The Slutcracker has undeniable chemistry, with each other and with the audience, all the more impressive because the show has no dialogue. When Femme Bones as Drosselmeyer, in all her hammy eccentricity, steals the party scene her fellow actors do not seem to mind being overshadowed, instead they feed off her energy and the party scene’s conclusion (a drawn-out “adult toy”-centric argument) is all the better for it. Similarly, when the “adult toy” comes to life as the Slutcracker Prince, Davide Vittorino’s virtuosic ballet does not intimidate Ginger Slap, who lets it inform her inexperienced but enthusiastic Clara.
While there are some crowd-pleasing burlesque pieces, notably the belly dancing duo of Abby Normal and Kalidasi, and a pole dance performed by Sindy Katrotic, the real star of the show is comedian Mehran Khaghani, who serves as the MC. Khaghani’s fifteen-minute introduction to The Slutcracker, Khaghani is a riotous balancing act, juxtaposing genuine holiday cheer with bitterness over Christmas’s commercialism and a healthy dose of crudeness, all while remaining good-natured.
Even if burlesque isn’t your thing, you don’t enjoy Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and you’ve never wanted to see a professional European ballet dancer play an “adult toy,” The Slutcracker has both a charm and a novelty that make it worth seeing. Just do yourself a favor and don’t see it with your parents.