That rumbling under your feet is the sound of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Marius Petipa and Peter Tchaikovsky rolling in their graves.
Of course, the 19th-century writer, choreographer and composer might not be altogether surprised that Ballet of the Dolls has once again tampered with their traditional holiday confection "The Nutcracker." The first time around, choreographer Myron Johnson put Barbie and Ken in the story. Now it's the burlesque divas of Le Cirque Rouge, led by Amy Buchanan. Suffice to say, that the goody-two-shoes Sugar Plum Fairy is nowhere to be found in this totally twisted endeavor.
The premise for "Nutcracker: The Lost Act!" is that there's more to the original show than originally thought. After waking up from her dream journey into the Land of Sweets, Clara (Valerie Torres-Comvalius) runs away from home. She stumbles around the big bad city, gets hit by a car, is serenaded with torch songs and then is pulled into a junkyard carnivale, all while trying to woo a surprisingly bland Mister Wonderful (Garron Haubner). Next thing you know she's in "Club Clara" watching tassels spin on the likes of Queenie von Curves.
Johnson and Buchanan are simpatico collaborators. Nothing's sacred to either of them, least of all sugary-sweet stories. The classic elements are tossed out but some aspects remain, now ripe for parody. Torres-Comvalius, for example, does a wonderful job with her ballerina pantomime, using quivering mannerisms to hilarious ballet-insider effect as she conveys near-constant shock in response to her new barely dressed "friends."
In its second half, the original "Nutcracker" tours world cultures, at times using cringeworthy characterizations. "The Last Act!" picks up on this tricky theme. Only when the ridiculousness is taken to extremes by the women of Le Cirque Rouge does the full satirical impact kick in, but there still remains a delicate balance between dissecting and perpetuating stereotypes -- within both ballet and burlesque. This could be the stuff of a dissertation topic.
Aside from provoking unexpected deep thoughts, the evening also delivers marvelous singing from the wisecracking Buchanan (her take on "Is That All There Is?" has perfect comic timing) as well as Buster Poindexter-like howler Eight Ball Jones. The killer live music ensemble of Eric Edwalds, John Etzell, Tom Lyseng and Robert Russell fuels the rowdy energy.