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  WINDY CITY TIMES

The Buttcracker, A Nutcracker Burlesque
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2018-12-04

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Playwright: Scripted by Jaq Seifert and choreographed by Darling Shear

At: ( Sub )version Productions at Reggie's Music Joint, 2105 S. State St. Tickets:. TheButtcrackerBurlesque.com; $20-$40. Runs through: Dec. 26 ( Wednesdays only )

When the Uptown Underground abruptly ceased operations earlier this year, Jaq Seifert's annual Yuletide revue found itself searching for a place to pitch its tent—not just any church basement or banquet hall, either, but a campground capable of hosting pyrotechnics, floor acrobatics and exotic acts of nebulous infrastructure. Furthermore, the location of this vaudeville also needed to promise a comfortable environment for audiences entering into the spirit of its gender-fluid body-positive manifesto.

Fortunately, the once-desolate district just south of Roosevelt Road is well on its way to becoming one of the city's trendiest neighborhoods, its former automobile showrooms now providing nightlife activities for a youth culture steeped in egalitarian diversity. To be sure, the play ( as Shakespeare noted ) may still be "the thing," but there's no discounting the advantages of a sophisticated light and sound system, a full-service bar and grill, nearby parking, public transportation and copious pedestrian traffic.

The show's improved morale was immediately apparent on its opening night. Based on the 18th-century fairy tale, the story recounts the adventures of meek office manager Clara, whose hired Holiday Party entertainment—a Father Christmas surrogate whose mischievous antics veer a little too far into Tim Curry territory—meets with her workplace supervisor's disapproval. The contrite Kriss Kringle comforts his humiliated sponsor with a nutcracker in the shape of a soldier, whose candy ration transports them both to the Land of Sweets, where Clara's royal reward for bravely helping her GI Joe defeat an army of rats—no helpless damsel, she—is a sumptuous confection-related entertainment, set to jazz arrangements ( chiefly those of Duke Ellington, Glen Miller and Billy Strayhorn ) of Tchaikovsky's classic melodies.

The emcee trio of Squeaky Bubbles, Fay LaVerte, and Stevie Kinks keep the action progressing at sprightly pace in a spectacle clocking in at a brisk 60 minutes. Returning are belly-dancer Kamrah Raqs, vodka-swilling sequin-scattering Emma Glitterbomb, Gaea Lady ( aka "Hot Chocolate" ) nibbling daintily on flaming torches, and Evelyn "Mother Ginger" Tension, clad in a layer-cake gown and inviting favored spectators to lick frosting from her hand. Newcomers include Claira Bell, a Calavera Catrina slight-of-hand artist fond of smashed crockery, and Pierre LaChance as a Drosselmeyer far younger and more seductive than his traditional geriatric white-ballet counterpart.


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