The Butt-Cracker Suite
Project Runway's Chris March puts a campy spin on The Nutcracker.
Project Runway season four finalist Chris March, best known for his over-the-top constructions and use of unique accents, like human hair, brings his own brand of camp humor to The Nutcracker with off-Broadway's The Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet, now at HERE. And while this send-up is rough in some patches, it's a welcome change of pace for those on the lookout for something different than the traditional Christmastime fare.
In March's version of this holiday classic, a plus-sized Clara (played by March himself, in drag) sits on an outdoor toilet so that her parents (Sara Brophy, Joshua Dean, who occasionally speak) can have some alone time in the family trailer. As she drifts off to sleep, the Nutcracker (Michael Dauer) arrives with a trash can lid affixed to his hat.
The show contains a few parallels to the classic Nutcracker ballet, including a fight with a Rat King where Clara saves the day (armed with a handy toilet plunger). And when The Nutcracker opens the lid of a large bin marked "Trailer Trash Only," numerous dancers emerge to signal the classic journey to the Land of Sweets, this time trading marzipan and other antiquated goodies for Jolly Ranchers, Milk Duds, Twizzlers, and more. Towards the end of the program, the Nutcracker – now a prince – shares a dance with Clara, again just as in the original. But March can't really execute the balletic moves required, so he drags in a "Dream Clara" (Dean, who impresses throughout with his athletic ability) to serve as his substitute.
As might be expected, March's costumes are the highlight of the show. At various points throughout the production, the dancers (who include Vassiliki Ellwood, Ashley Munzek, Andrea Palesh, Kristen Schoen-Rene, and Dana Winkle) come out as a six pack of Old Milwaukee beer, bowling ball pins, and even as pink flamingos in one cleverly done black light sequence.
The flamingo bit is choreographer Ben Franklin's best work, tricking the eye by illuminating only portions of the dancers' bodies to give a refreshing variation on the movement patterns created. Unfortunately, his other dances are not as inspired, and tend to go on for too long.
The show features an eclectic array of music, ranging from excerpts from the classic Nutcracker score by Tchaikovsky to more modern tunes like Bow Wow Wow's 1980s hit "I Want Candy," the Christmas classic "Suzy Snowflake," and Mistletoe Conspiracy's satirical ditty "Ugly Sweater," all of which give March an excuse to outfit his cast in colorful costumes cued to the various lyrics.
Cleverly, the trailer that serves as the centerpiece of Andrea Purcigliotti's haphazardly eclectic set is also used so that clips from holiday films like A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Christmas Story can be occasionally projected onto its side. Indeed, a projection of the animated video for the Saturday Night Live tune "Christmas Time for the Jews" (featuring Darlene Love on vocals) leads into Butt-Cracker's most politically incorrect segment as dancers emerge as black-clad Hasidic Jews carrying menorahs.
While the show's unashamedly sophomoric brand of humor can get wearying, if you're willing to go with the flow, you'll likely to have a good time!