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Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Triple Door's Burlesque Nutcracker Review

Burlesque Nutcracker
"I bet you-all don't have an ornament like that on the tree at your house, do you?"

With those words, Jasper McCann taunted his audience at the third annual "Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker."

The "ornament" in question was Vivian Tam. And McCann was right: I have nothing resembling Ms. Tam performing her silken, midair acrobatics anywhere in the vicinity of my Christmas tree.

Tam and her fellow "Aerialistas," Lara Paxton and Thea Railey, provide the sublime ingredients of "Sweets." That leaves the rest of the cast to cover Clever, Camp, Ridiculous and Genially Cheesy.

Helmed by McCann and Lily Verlaine, the show cashes in on the ever-growing popularity of burlesque in our town with great humor and a fair amount of grace. Performed to recorded big-band versions of "The Nutcracker Suite," it serves up dance, comedy and striptease.

And then there are the costumes. They may not stay on the performers for long, but they're eye-popping while they last. Highlights include a hoop-skirt plum tree, pastel gangster suits and a giant crinoline Christmas tree inhabited by more than one body.

Still, it's "ecdysiastic pageantry" that's the aim here (this is a troupe that takes the art of disrobing seriously). Pasties sparkle, tassels swing and G-strings do the next-to-nothing that G-strings do, while McCann supplies the sleazeball-cornball patter linking the acts.

Much is familiar from last year, but anyone who's seen Verlaine's showpiece, "Dream of the Coffee Casbah," won't mind watching her ungarb her way toward that giant steaming latte cup again. The same goes for Waxie Moon's biting-scratching Rat King routine and Babette La Fave's "Clockwork Doll" act.

Newcomer Osiris Bombay offers some classy tap and swing-dance moves (and looks good in Egyptian drag). Ginger! — always with an exclamation point — makes a scary Snow Queen and a stern finishing-school mistress.

The three "Snowflakes" who serve as a silent chorus — Inga Ingenue, Lou Henry Hoover and Polly Wood — are a wonderful tonic to the show. All their commentary is done with sidelong glances, oopsy smirks and some rather vigorous mime.

McCann could sharpen his delivery and loosen up a bit more, but he has his moments — especially when singing the "Rat King Theme." Muddy, overloud sound in the second act created problems for him.

Still, he got it right when he signed off for the evening: "Thank you for making this your new Seattle holiday tradition."

His audience seemed as thankful as he was.

by Michael Upchurch

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