Episode 5 - Nutcracker Rouge

Steven Trumon Gray and Laura Careless

Steven Trumon Gray and Laura Careless

Robyne: Hi, I’m Robyne,

Wesley: and I’m Wesley,

Robyne: and this is, Obstructed View.

Wesley: Today we will be discussing Company XIV’s production of Nutcracker Rouge.  It is a loose adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s classical ballet, The Nutcracker.

Robyne: We will link to a plot synopsis of The Nutcracker in our show notes.

Wesley: So let’s begin with design.

With set and costume design we have Zane Pihlstrom.  With lighting design we have Jeanette Oi-Suko Yew.  And with makeup design we have Sarah Cimino.

Robyne: As with Cinderella the design elements of this show were beautiful.  The production reused the set from Cinderella. So the false proscenium that is set at an angle halfway upstage was used as a curtain system for the show.  There was a traveling carousel piece, that has a mounted pole dancers pole on top of it, that is used in the production.  As well as various dressing table backstage, that are seen through the curtain at certain points of the production, and various onstage lighting elements including a chandelier. 

Wesley: There is very little variation in set construction from Cinderella to this production, which is to be expected.  The main set pieces remain the same.  I found though to be a bit underused in comparison to Cinderella where it felt like an essential player in the performance.

Robyne: Agreed

Wesley: One of the things that you will notice in this production, as compared to Cinderella, or my previous experience with Nutcracker Rouge, is that there was a lot more illusion happening in terms of use of curtain blocking scenic shifts, and blocking your access to backstage action.  Maybe it’s just a difference from where we were seated, but I found there to be a lot more reveals happening of the special effects, rather than the effects just walking onto stage. 

Robyne:  It felt like the curtain separated us from the world they were creating, as opposed to Cinderella, where the world was outside of this proscenium that they had created on stage.  There was a lot less of an interaction with it, with the dancers, in that ethereal sense.  To be fair, this piece was much more frantic and fast paced so it was a lot less of a lounge feel for that.

Wesley: The points at which aspects of lighting and set were allowed to take center stage were great.  Certain aspects have been enlarged for this production, given the Minetta Lane Theatre allows for that, but it was so fast paced.  Whereas in Cinderella I could find certain aspects of it and really let them sit with me for a moment.  I could become just as enthralled with the way the light touches a chandelier as I could with a person’s body.  Here, if I wanted those moments of stillness, those moments of quiet, I had to scrape for them. 

Robyne: Right.

Wesley: They were there! They were there in design.  But we weren’t given much access to them as audience members.

Robyne: The costume design was the only aspect of this production that I enjoyed more than I did in Cinderella.  It was absolutely exquisite and completely in my mind justifies the lack of additions to the set because that is not where their energy and financial resources went clearly.  The costumes were gorgeous.  The dresses, the various candy pieces were all beautiful.

Wesley: I totally agree.  I think this was better than the previous Nutcracker Rouge I saw. Better than Cinderella.  The costumes were divine. They found that edge between baroque operatic, and drag, and they ran across it and it was beautiful.  The narrator, her various looks, I don’t know how she got into dress after dress after dress but she did and it looked like it was done with such ease.

Robyne: The only benefit I give them to the speed of the production and the franticness is how impressive Mrs. Drosselmayer’s costume changes were.  Because at a number of times her stripping down in the burlesque style to bareness and coming back fully dressed in a completely new gown was astounding. 

Wesley: And the masks.  The mask work I think they were pieces of artwork.  They were absolute, unqualified, pieces of art.

Robyne: And while I don’t necessarily agree with moment, which we will discuss later, of being in the woods with the wolf, the creation of the wolf masks with glowing eyes was really cool.  It was just a really cool moment of theatre magic. 

Laura Careless (on floor) and cast members of Nutcracker Rouge

Laura Careless (on floor) and cast members of Nutcracker Rouge

Wesley: I just would have really liked more time to really ogle.  That’s all.


Robyne: Agreed.  One of the things we’re going to talk about a lot is the amount of time we as the audience were given to indulge.  Something I absolutely loved about Cinderella was how much it felt like I was drinking champagne throughout the production.  It was leisurely, it was gorgeous, it bubbled, it gave you this warm sense and you were allowed to lose yourself in this production.  A fault I found in Nutcracker Rouge, was how frantic and frenetic all of the energy on stage was.  The story telling was completely different in this piece than it was in Cinderella. 

Wesley: The lighting played such an important part of Cinderella.

Robyne: -Yes

Wesley: In Cinderella so much of the magic they were creating wasn’t through smoke and mirrors as much as it was the tangibility of the light of where you see it.  It wasn’t so much about hiding the thing, it’s about what it’s showing what it’s revealing and the way it dances off the people.  Here, nothing was able to sit long enough for the lighting to have the effect it deserves. 

Robyne: Agreed, the art of lighting design is re-sculpting the space on stage and I loved how in Cinderella how they created stillness and small spaces and confinement through lighting alone and that was completely lost in this production. 

Wesley: I don’t think it’s that we know what we’re looking for now.  It’s not just this element of surprise we got from Cinderella, (where) we had random bursts of neon, and oh light would come from a weird angle and hit a chandelier.  When I saw the light hit a chandelier in this performance I had a very similar experience. It wasn’t just that it’s new, it’s that this world should be new and still invite these things to create a new texture.  I wasn’t brought into this world to really experience them.  In Cinderella, in the previous Nutcracker Rouge I saw, there was always enough room on the stage for both myself and the light to take up space.  There just wasn’t any of that in this. 

Robyne: Except, I would argue, the one moment where the performers were all backlit.  I can’t remember what number it was exactly.

 Wesley: There is one moment when the lighting design is very much allowed to take a tangible force in the design elements.  And that was a great moment, because it was done with subtlety. 

Robyne: Really the piece was just so frantic that Austin never gave the designers enough time to be recognized.  When the carousel was brought out in this number it was very impressive, but it was not the breathtaking moment it was in Cinderella, because it happens so fast and so soon.  It felt a lot more stunty this time.  And without that space to breath, without that light touch, it was overwhelming. 

Wesley: And not only that, let’s look at when they brought that in.  Because that was prologue right?

Robyne: I believe so-

Wesley: Yeah, so they had the two marionettes, which is a part of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, but they were done before we were introduced to anything in this world.  These were parts of a prologue, and this cold open, it does more to baffle than intrigue I think.  And that’s a consistent aspect to this production.  Is its adaptation was was more convoluted than it was delicate. 

Robyne: The real issue I found with this production was that Austin Mccormick’s concept really got in the way of his storytelling.  Rather than approaching The Nutcracker through a narrative, they approached The Nutcracker through a vaudeville/cabaret by means of burlesque/baroque ballet.

Wesley: Which, to be fair, a lot of the original Nutcracker does commit to.  But the issue here is also that he didn’t adapt it in a way that showed a unification of thought.  His adaptation of The Nutcracker I found to be very convoluted. 

Robyne: There was a moment where I turned to Wesley and said “I really need to refamiliarize myself with The Nutcracker because clearly I don’t remember the story.” There was shoehorned into The Nutcracker a version of The Little Red Riding Hood.

Wesley: And not only that but we begin with this cold open with two marionettes and Clara just walks in from the house which was lovely, it was a lovely moment because we had the Tchaikovsky ballet music happening behind it.  She is handed the nutcracker doll that we all know and then she gets lost in the woods.  And...


Robyne: And that number on its own is beautiful.  I personally loved the use of Vivaldi’s Winter underscoring the march of the animals.  The confusion in the woods.  This almost 1950’s Disney Snow White version of a girl in the woods lost and seeing eyes everywhere through this use of wolf masks.  I absolutely loved all of that it just did not sit in this productionbecause it was not a part of The Nutcracker

Wesley: It might have just been tainted for me as an audience member because I was sitting there searching for The Nutcracker.  I just thought that the use of Vivaldi’s Winter was obvious.  I had seen this previously in a different space that was much too small for this ensemble piece, so it was nice to see these performers get enough room, but I was just too confused as to why what was happening in front of me was happening to actually appreciate it on an aesthetic level.  Of course the masks, and the wigs, and the headdresses were all fantastic, but I was just too baffled as to why is Clara was running through the woods with a nutcracker doll and why is Mdm. Drossellmayer watching her do this?

Robyne: Yeah

Wesley: And then she goes to the world of sweets.  Which is when we finally get to The Nutcracker we all know.  The story of her basically going from Alice in Wonderland style one vignette to one vignette to one vignette, until she wakes up.

 Robyne: The issue here was that became the sole focus of the production.  This production lacked any Rat King that I saw and the nutcracker hero, the Nutcracker Cavalier, doesn’t show up until the very last dance number. 

Wesley: Were they to not have used Tchaikovsky’s score, include the word "Nutcracker" in its title, or not show that doll at the very beginning, nobody would have probably known that it was The Nutcracker. 

Robyne: If this production would have been taken out of the framework of “The Nutcracker,” it would have been great.  But because I went in with the understanding that I will be seeing Austin McCormick’s version of The Nutcracker, and I did not see what I consider to be the story of The Nutcracker, it lost me.

Wesley: It was a bit of what I was saying about our previous review of Dracula, there has to be something about this that you like.  Something about this story that engages you.  Now something we didn’t get from this Nutcracker Rouge that I had gotten from the previous Nutcracker Rouge, was throughout the performance Marie Claire was getting more and more enticed by this world of sweets until by the end she had taken off all her of clothes and is ready to be with the Nutcracker Cavalier in their final pas de deux.  The problem here is she remains mostly clothed throughout the piece with probably only once or twice taking off a garment of clothing and she doesn’t really give us a sense of her willingness, or unwillingness, or her joy in being in this world because we don’t see her.  Because we’re so focused on the incredible performances happening on the stage.  

Robyne: In previous conversations you have explained the Nutcracker Rouge you saw last year as Marie Claire’s coming of age as shown through the art of burlesque.  The unwrapping of her stuffy values and the joy she finds in her sexuality and sensuality and beauty.  Whereas this felt so much more like Gulliver’s Travels, discussing how strange the natives of this land were but very much so that idea of foreignness and alienation. 

Shelly Watson and Laura Careless

Shelly Watson and Laura Careless

Wesley: I don’t think that she ever really enjoys the place that she’s visiting.  Or when she does it’s despite herself.  There’s not a sense of a gradual progression that I got from the previous Nutcracker Rouge which was also aided by the fact that the presence of the Cavalier was more tangible, in this previous iteration I saw.  Or at least in my mind it was.  Whereas in this production we kind of got a half hearted mention towards it in the first act and then at very end he comes in and dances with her.  And I was thinking to myself “Who are you?” “What are you doing” “How did we reach this point?” and “What do you mean to her?” and then she wakes up with the nutcracker doll.  Now this is a very obvious statement, a very great allegory for sexual awakening that could be put through this vaudeville of burlesque in the sweets but it was done so manically and its foundation wasn’t strong enough to really give it a sense of sustainability. 

Robyne: It just felt more like a Shelly Watson cabaret with burlesque background dancers that was flavored with Nutcracker. Rather than a fully formed world and a single idea of a production.


Wesley: The thing about Cinderella was that it had all of the look and aesthetic of frivolity but it was founded on something so beautiful that it had that sort of substantiality to it. 

Robyne: And this feels like a giant step backwards.  This feels like everything I promised Cinderella wasn’t.  That this is.  It does have that “fun as aesthetic,” as you like to say.  And the key moment for me that completely turned me off from this production, I will parallel with the godmother coming to Cinderella, where you see this beautiful transformation and you see her feeling whole.  You see her feeling beautiful.  She is dressed and she has this power.  Whereas in this production, while it was partnered with my favorite moment of this production, which was Marcy Richardson on a hoop singing Chandelier in French with the mirrorpulled upstage and framed so that light is reflecting off of it and it gives the world a very otherworldly beauty.  Marie Claire is undressing behind it in what feels like shame, and comes out in this skimpier version of what she was wearing that was gold, and it feels like the opposite of what champagne is supposed to do.  And the approach that Mdm. Drosselmayer has in it just comes off as very rapey.  It just feels like an older family friend offering alcohol to the young just starting to come into her own pubescent daughter of a friend in a very smarmy very uncomfortable feel.  It just lacks that heart that Cinderella had.  That lacked that fun exploration.

Wesley: I totally agree.  I think she was very much not in control.  And her undressing was very much something that wasn’t the goal, it felt like it was a side effect to the things that were happening. 

Robyne: It didn’t feel like you could see her fingerprints on the world as she went through it.  As you can in something like Alice in Wonderland.  You can see the world reflecting her presence, just as it reflects in her.  This was much more sort of a feeling of contamination. 

Wesley: As you were saying earlier, a lot of performers seem to look at her with some disdain in the performance.  I know that might have been a part of the schtick, but she wasn’t really welcomed by anyone into the world of the sweets besides Mdm. drosselmeyer.  Everyone else kind of looked down on her.  Shunned her.  Or she was just supposed to look at in awe.  Rather than actually let her play around with them.  And all of this just goes back to pacing.  We weren’t able to sit in this world at all.  It was a whirlwind.

Robyne: The production only had one intermission.   Which seems silly to say, but something about the structure of Cinderella worked very well.  It breathed.  There were entr’actes.  There was room to play, and have fun, and indulge.  And this just felt frantic.  This felt like a poorly managed drag show in its pacing. 

Wesley: And that goes right to the execution of a lot of the dance.  I’m going to say that if I had seen this performed with a different company I wouldn’t be giving benefit of the doubt, cause a lot of the performances were not synchronized in the places they were supposed to be synchronized and a lot of it felt very haphazard in delivery.

Robyne: We were spoiled for expectation because of Cinderella.  The refinement and the restraint that Austin McCormick showed.  This production just felt so rushed and unprepared

Wesley: And what makes it all the odder for me is that I have seen this done before. I’ve seen this production before.  I’ve seen it in a different space, and it worked beautifully.  I keep on thinking of reasons something might have been lost in translation between the two spaces.  But at the end of the day, this was not of the same quality that I’ve come to expect from Company XIV and the work of Austin McCormick.

Robyne: My fear is that because of the new space, and because of the new space’s location it feels as Austin’s aiming the productions more towards a very specific type of audience.  Which is fine, but it feels as if he is going down the channel that Bravo did when Bravo stopped showing Cirque du Soleil and stopped showing opera and went full reality television and campy and trashy in my opinion.  Which is just to say how gorgeous Cinderella was, and this piece fell short.  But that’s not to say that the choreography was in any way shape or form bad.  It was all beautiful still.

Lea Helle, Marcy Richardson (on hoop) and Laura Careless

Lea Helle, Marcy Richardson (on hoop) and Laura Careless


Wesley: Absolutely, so many of the acts were drop dead gorgeous.  So many of the performers, beautiful incredibly talented people.  The choreography, especially in, I believe they were Candied Violets, I remember they took my breath away.  The ensemble work, especially with the candied violets, which was just a baroque ensemble piece with masks was so beautiful and so lovingly created and it took my breath away much more than any antic or any stunt work did.

Robyne: There were times as an audience member you could feel the entire audience turn in anger towards a single person who had started to applaud because we were not done sitting in awe of what we had just seen.  And that is so intensely powerful. And to be a part of that. And to witness such artistry is incredible.  To feel that an artist deserves silence to indulge in what they are doing, as opposed to stand and applaud, is an achievement in itself.

Wesley: And it’s very rare, especially for a New York audience that’s paying top dollar and they want to make very verbal what they’ve paid for.  And when you’re able to actually just indulge, those rare moments in this production where we’re actually able to indulge rather than just stuff our faces, was fantastic.  But rather than a jewelry box, rather than a little chocolate box full of nice sweets, this felt gluttonous.  This felt nauseating by the end.  Too many flavors.  Too many notes.  And all at the expense of what could have been a very simple, and very beautiful heart. 

Robyne: Absolutely, and before we go on any more we have to introduce the cast: Hilly Bodin as the ballerina doll, as cherry, and as part of the corps de ballet, Lea Helle as cherry and corps de ballet, Jacob Karr as the marionette doll, cake, and corps, Nicholas Katen and Ross Katen as the turkish delights, candy cane, and corps, Malik Shebazz Kitchen and Mark Osmundson, both corps members, Devon Rainey as chocolate, candy cane and corps, Marcy Richardson as the poll doll, and champagne, Nichole von Arks as Cherry and corps, Stephen Trumon Grey as the Nutcracker Cavalier, Laura Careless as Marie Claire, and Shelly Watson as Mdm. Drosselmeyer. All incredible.

Wesley: Undoubtedly some of the best performers in the city.

Robyne: I threw away a comment earlier that it felt like a Shelly Watson cabaret.  I would love to see a Shelly Watson cabaret.

Wesley: Yeah, that wasn’t derogatory in any way.  That is totally fine most of the time.

Robyne: She feels like a missing sister between Molly Pope, and Bridgette Everett.

Wesley: Absolutely, her talents, her vocal prowess, matched so beautifully with her ability to go one on one with the audience members.  Which was something that I thought was very much missing from Cinderella, was that sort of audience interaction which she really made very important in this piece and I could have used more of it honestly. 

Robyne: Absolutely.

Wesley: Also, her costumes, her quick changes, her commenting on what was happening, were rare moments of self awareness as to what was going on in the performance, that were very much needed by us as audience members.

Robyne: I just didn’t understand who she was in this world other than the narrator, until after we left, and I read the playbill and saw that she was replacing the magician. 

Wesley: Right, and in the previous production of Nutcracker Rouge I saw the Drosselmeyers were actually a couple.  There were two of them performing as Madame and Monsieur Drosselmeyer.  In this production it was very clear that she was the only Drosselmeyer of importance, and that too, seeped too into the manipulativeness of Marie Claire. 

Robyne: Agreed.

Wesley: Though once again, that was not her.  For what she had to work with, this is one of the highlights of the evening. 

Robyne: Her voice is exquisite.

Wesley: Yeah.

Robyne: Her persona was incredible, was fun, sexy, ridiculous.  She was somebody I wanted to run back stage and get a drink with. 

Wesley: Absolutely.


Robyne: Stephen Trumon Grey, is a phenomenal dancer.  I am actually upset that I only saw him perform in the final number.  When he was the prince in Cinderella he was a joy to watch on stage.  Every moment.

Wesley: While he is a great dancer, in this performance I was left utterly cold by him.

Robyne: Agreed, that final number between Laura Careless and Stephen Trumon Gray, between Marie Claire and the Nutcracker, felt like- felt as if it did not belong in this cabaret world.  It felt like a piece that was from an earlier rendition of this production that had a lot more heart and it, while being impressive, lacked beauty because it was so frantic and rough. 

Wesley: So in this previous production of Nutcracker Rouge I saw this whole piece kind of ramped up to that.  You know.  It wasn’t just the cherry on top, it was the whole piece was arching towards her finally getting with the prince.  Here, we already had the whole sundae and we have an empty bowl in front of us and they just plop this cherry in the middle.  And it really didn’t- it didn’t fill us any more.  And that was compared to the- frantic, yes- but warmth of the rest of the piece.  It was out of this world, and I got no sense of personality from either of them.

Robyne: She was suddenly there with a stranger on stage.  It wasn’t clear that he was the Nutcracker at all unless you know the story of The Nutcracker.  It wasn’t the culmination of this coming of age experience for her, it kind of felt like being college in your first semester and hooking up with the first person who shows interest in you after a three year relationship in high school.  It just felt empty. 

Wesley: And, while he is a very attractive man, there was the sense that that was all there was to this.  Whereas the prince in Cinderella has a personality.  You get the sense that there is chemistry between them.  I only got the sense of physical want rather than real sensual chemistry between these two performers.  Which isn’t the fault of these two performers, it’s the structure of the piece.

Steven Trumon Gray and Laura Careless

Steven Trumon Gray and Laura Careless

Robyne: Right.

Wesley: Now Marie Claire, as performed by Laura Careless, this is a stereotype character.  A damsel.  An ingenue.  And it is a very fun character to play with but only in so far as she is able to develop.  When you have this wandering swooning girl from beginning until she appears seminude at the end, it’s more baffling than anything.

Robyne: Yeah and the-

Wesley: And it just becomes redundant.  You know, there are only times you can see her not alternate before we finally get tired of her. 

Robyne: I found that a lot of the short comings of Marie Claire came in how she was treated by the rest of the world.  It wasn’t that her naiveté and interest and fascination in this world was welcomed and they showed her how they exist how their culture works.  It was so much more looked on as she was a silly little girl.  That there was a lot of as you said disdain in the sweets towards her.  So it was perplexing as to why she was suddenly undressing in champagne and mostly nude in the final number.  It, again, lent itself towards a cold, very uncomfortable, forced alcohol, sex with a stranger situation. 

Wesley: And the thing is a lot of what make great fantasy so effective is how much it makes its audience think to themselves “what I would give to go there.”   And how easy is it to make us want to go to a land of sweets.  A land of champagne, and cookies, full of beautiful people doing beautiful things.  But when they are just mean to her sometimes, or rude, or prudish to her, it doesn’t become enticing anymore.

Robyne: And we weren’t ever given a moment of longing after she had those interactions.  The next one just started and we weren’t allowed to see her mourn the ending of the encounter and desire for more.  We as the audience were never given that, we were simply given the next thing. 

Wesley: And she never really seemed in charge of where we were going.  In The Nutcracker you really get the sense that each person comes out and does their thing for her, much like a court.  Here, we’re not sure if she is walking through part of this Garden of Versailles where she’s meeting all these things like Dante’s Inferno, like you were saying, or if we’re maintaining this ball/court structure. 

Brett Umlauf (on left wearing black boots) and Laura Careless (on right) with cast members of Nutcracker Rouge.

Brett Umlauf (on left wearing black boots) and Laura Careless (on right) with cast members of Nutcracker Rouge.


Robyne: It did not feel as though we were one of the lucky children that stumbled into Narnia and found Aslan, and were shown all the wonders of this land.  It felt like we had met the White Witch and she was shoving Turkish delights down our throat

Wesley: Right-right.

Robyne: And Turkish delights are delicious, but sometimes you need to breathe.  Again, Brett Umlauf and Marcy Richardson did not disappoint. 

Wesley: They killed it.

Robyne: They were incredible and their pieces, their pieces themselves, did not necessarily fit into the world that was created.  It felt that a venue was necessary for those two powerhouses to demonstrate, and so it was, and it was incredible and it didn’t make sense. 

Wesley: And furthermore, one of the things that made the performances by Brett Umlauf and Marcy Richardson so impressive and so enthralling in Cinderella, is the structure of one-upmanship.  The reason that they’re getting more extravagant, more crazy is that they are trying to better the other.  And it’s not just how great the performances are, which they are, it’s that we have this enticing characterization pulling us towards it.  That actually did so much.  Which we didn’t realize maybe, but that did so much to help the level of enjoyment in these experiences.

Robyne: The idea that there is a woman on a pole on top of a piece of a deconstructed carousel pole-dancing and singing opera is incredible.  The fact that she has done that to upstage her sister to win the prince- is- just ups the ante that much more, and allows the performers to really indulge in their characters, and give us an amazing performance.  Because then you have all of that characterization.

Wesley: Now to be fair that’s not so much the fault of Austin McCormick here as much as it is just the structure of The Nutcracker.  Which is flawed there by any stretch of the imagination. 

Robyne: Absolutely.

Wesley: The Nutcracker- it’s basic use is to teach people how to watch ballet.  I think Nutcracker Rouge is a way to teach people how to watch burlesque. These things can go right back and forth with each other.  But, there should have been some sensuality, there should have been some framework in Marie Claire that allowed us to go even further into this world, and further into the experience of watching her, rather than just pure stunt and aesthetic creation.  Which they’re great at. 

Robyne: Absolutely.  Going off that it’s much easier to play a character with wants and desires than it is to play Chocolate, or Cherry.  Those then- those pieces then lent themselves much better to a choreographer being able to have a lot of fun on stage.  Which he did, at the expense of the narrative.

Devon Rainey’s Chocolate performance as a flamenco pasodoble piece with a lot of hard shoe work (which I personally love hard shoe work.) It had personality, it was a lot of fun, it was sexualized without being seductive, which was a lot of what I found in this piece.  The “Turkish Delight” piece was fun.  The “Cherry” piece was fun.  I for the life of me have no idea where the “Cake” number came from.  It rang false in this world for me.  It was fun but it wasn’t as tasty as the rest of the piece was.  “Candy Canes” were fun, there was a lot of fun.  There was a lot of beautiful performances.  There was a lot of great dance.  It just didn’t all fit together. 

Wesley: I just felt so disconnected from so much of the performances and the joy I saw on stage felt synthetic. 

Robyne: Yeah.

Wesley: Because it wasn’t grounded in a statement.  It was grounded in fun.  It was grounded in synthetic entertainment.  And, as I told you before, I’ve never seen any piece whose sole goal was fun, that achieved that goal, because there has to be something more that we’re grasping at.  And while the mask, the big bull mask in “Chocolate” was fantastic.  And the exuberance of “Cake” was great fun.  But there was no substance to so much of it.  And so many of the music choices just lacked any structure.  Going from one “Sugar-Plum Fairy Suite” to the next “Sugar-Plum Fairy Suite,” with no-

Davon Rainey and Laura Careless

Davon Rainey and Laura Careless

Robyne: To a techno version of the “Sugar-Plum Fairy-


Wesley: Yeah! It was all of these different confusing choices that never really meshed.  One of the things that happened in the previous Nutcracker Rouge, as well as Cinderella, is you saw aesthetics of many worlds come together into a cohesive whole.  I never questioned why someone might be singing a contemporary pop song in an operatic fashion.  I never questioned why this person was dressed in Louis XIV garment, and that person in flapper garment, but here, every once in a while I thought to myself, “wait, why are they doing that?” “Why do they look like that?”  “That doesn’t-what is this doing here?” Instead of feeling sutured into this world, it felt thrown on. 

Robyne: It did not feel as though we were able to sample all of these delights.  It felt like we were shoving candy into our mouths after Halloween.  It just felt like endless gluttony, and we felt stuffed at the end, and bloated, and disgusting.

Wesley: It wasn’t flavor, it was saturation. 

Robyne: A lot of this harshness comes from our expectations being so high.

Wesley: I would have to say I have never been more disappointed. Simply because of where I knew this could be. I haven’t just seen Company XIV better, I’ve seen Nutcracker Rouge be better, and that’s all. I look forward- I am so looking forward to seeing Snow White.  

Robyne: Oh absolutely.

Wesley: I- There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of these issues have to do with “this is their blockbuster.  People are going to be coming to see this.  A lot of them this is their first burlesque work.  A lot of people are coming in not sure what to expect, not wanting The Nutcracker, but maybe not wanting Cirque du Soleil.

Robyne: But part of it I think might be the fear that people returning want something new from the Nutcracker Rouge, when, if anything, if there is something to be learned from The Nutcracker itself, it is that people will come every year to see the same exact production because of what it means to them. And I would see Cinderella next year. And I would see Cinderella every year, because it’s astounding. 

Wesley: Absolutely, I agree, I think this might have been their game of one upsmanship with themselves.  And I think they might have gone a little bit self conscious here trying to up the ante in their new space,

Robyne: - and trying to appease the audience base that they have built in this neighborhood. 

Wesley: Rather than attempting to really get to the core of what they have been about in previous productions.

Robyne: So I guess Wesley, the question is, is Nutcracker Rouge worth the $75-$100 ticket?

Wesley: I believe if you are looking to just see something zany, something of high quality in terms of construction with a nice bow on it, this could still be worth the cost of that admission.  But- but, if you are looking for the best of Company XIV, and the best work in New York City, it’s best to pass and just wait for Snow White.  

Robyne: I agree, if you are looking to see incredible performers perform some great dance, and have a lot of fun, totally worth the price of admission.  If you are looking to bring your mother on her first trip to New York to see the best dance in the city, this piece is not Cinderella.  The Nutcracker Rouge runs until January 17th at the Minetta Lane Theatre.  Tickets can be purchased at companyxiv.com.  As always you can find us at obstructed-view.com on facebook at facebook.com/obstructedviewpodcast, on twitter @obstructed_view, on soundcloud at soundcloud.com/obstructedview or email us at theobstructedviewpodcast@gmail.com .

Wesley: I’m Wesley

Robyne: and I’m Robyne

Wesley: And remember

Robyne: Curiosity is gluttony - To see is to devour.

*Photography by Mark Shelby Perry.