Saturday, December 19, 2009

Xmas on the pole

The big, uh, climax of The Slutcracker. Photos by Adrianne Lacy.

What am I doing here?

That's all I could think as I sank my big fat gay ass into a seat at The Slutcracker (whose final, sold-out shows are this weekend). Still, I noted that I wasn't all that out of place in the festive audience that was filing into the tattily gaudy Somerville Theatre (the perfect venue!). Indeed, if a Doonesbury comic took place in a strip club, these are the people Garry Trudeau probably would have drawn there. Late-twenty-something women with an air of a master's degree about them were much in evidence, many with posses of like-minded power grrls (and the occasional gay man), others with a sheepish (but eager) husband or boyfriend in tow. In fact, I don't think I saw a single unattached male in the crowd; this was not your father's rain-coated burlesque audience - this was a New Age, empowered burlesque crowd (ready to be literally pussy-whipped, it turned out!). But I think as pussy-whipped gigs go, this one pretty much rocked.

Because yes, before you ask, I wound up having a grand old time, even though I haven't gone near a lady's garden in a queen's age. Not that I don't remember those furtive, youthful forays affectionately, and I'll always be an admirer of the female form - although to be honest, New Age burlesque isn't always bursting with the most ideal of female forms; in fact, that's the whole idea. The stars of The Slutcracker, like the show's sole begetter, "Sugar Dish" (a.k.a. Vanessa White), are certainly ship-shape, and have serious exotic-dancing experience; Ms. Dish has even "toured to Worcester, Providence and Albany," and was honored "to perform for both the Air Force and the Army in Honduras." But other résumés include such assignments as "multi-media artist and bartender" and "student of library science," which may give you some idea of the less-sugary, but still proudly tasty, dishes on display here. Big or small, saggy or baggy, the many boobs of The Slutcracker speak of the wide berth, and girth, of humanity in something like the universal mode of Shakespeare, if not in quite his manner.

Fanning the flames of desire in the "Chinese" dance (photo by Caleb Cole).

And the script, surprisingly enough, follows the arc of its classic source pretty closely (the whole score, with its many tender climaxes, is of course there too). In fact, I'm not so sure this is a send-up of The Nutcracker as it is a kind of sequel. Hot singles Clara ("Malice in Wonderland") and Fritz ("Paolomania") are about to tie the knot, but at their annual Christmas party, grandma Drosselmeyer (the eighty-something Mary Dolan, God bless her) , sensing that something's missing from Clara's sex life, presents her with a hot pink, battery-powered vibrator. Which the horn-dog Fritz takes as a different kind of nut-cracker - before throwing a hissy-fit and storming out. But later that night, in Clara's dreams, her present is transformed into a six-foot hot-pink Dildo Prince (Erik Liddell - no nom de plume, Erik?), who leads her to a land of giant, candy-cane dildos that (if you lick them the right way) spew enough of the white stuff to make a wintry sexual wonderland (at top, in last year's version).

This is certainly the piece's hysterical high point, but the second half is generally diverting too, with its series of burlesque entertainments aping the divertissements of Tchaikovsky's over-ripe original. My favorites were probably the whip-wielding kittens who romped through the "Russian" dance, the switch-hitters of the "Spanish" dance, and the the petal-shedding rear-enders of "Waltz of the Flowers" (featuring the truly majestic Honey Suckle Duvet). Alas, the structure of every routine - a slow peel down to bare breasts with pasties - got a little repetitive, and while Sugar Dish is one smart cookie, and has a funny concept for every number, she could still work on her beat-by-beat choreography a bit. For in the end, the splits and bikini-clad spread eagles couldn't hold me over the long haul, faggot that I am - I longed for a bit more dance.

The "Polchinelle" dance, believe it or not.

Still, the show's energy never flagged (as you can guess from the photo above), despite the gaps between numbers when chorines ran around raking up all the discarded bras and veils ("Shake it while you rake it!" one wag called from the balcony). And romantics will be glad to know that Fritz realizes the error of his ways, and learns to accept, and perhaps even enjoy, his battery-assisted competition. I certainly hope all those husbands and boyfriends in the audience got the message, and went home to do their duty post-haste (after all, what else is theatre for?). And judging from the audience's vocal approval of each and every number, something tells me those of you who couldn't get tickets this year will have another chance next season - The Slutcracker is going to become this benighted burg's next Christmas tradition. Indeed, Ms. White has a franchise on her hands, perhaps even a multi-city franchise. So roll over for the real thing, Diane Paulus - and merry XXXmas, Boston!

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