Dec. 4-6 at Irving Theatre. NoExit Performance’s Nutcracker is director/choreographer Georgeanna Wade’s continually evolving expression of her long and complex relationship to the iconic holiday ballet. I've only seen two of the four (so far) annual iterations, but this year’s was much more focused, with a better mix of dancing and dialogue than the 2013 edition (which was heavy on talk).
The overall story arc this year was one of a nightmarish beauty/scholarship pageant. Each contestant had her own dance and/or story. I recognized some dances from last year — the Gypsy’s, the can-can, and the final marionette dance — but others seemed new. I laughed out loud at what seemed to be a spoof of that '80s aerobics championship video that makes the rounds of social media from time to time.
Within the new frame story, we find sexy control freak Herr Wolfgang Drosselmeyer (aka the emcee, played by Ryan Mullins) still scolding the toddler-esque Sparkle (Georgeanna Wade) for wanting to dance instead of stage manage — which once again prompts the audience to sympathetically “aww.” And Drosselmeyer is still brow-beating us into learning the proper way to bow when the wooden Nutcracker is brought in and placed on his throne. Drosselmeyer dazzled us with his costume changes as usual but alarmed us by tossing chandeliers.
There was still a bizarre love triangle between Drosselmeyer, Ginger (Michael Burke in poke-your-eye-out drag) and The Mustached Man (this year played by Bill Wilkison, who doubled as a pushy conductor for the Polar Express in the pre-show shenanigans while Zachariah Stonerock manned the Kissing Booth.) The dark, depressing ending still sort of came out of nowhere but also made sense as a feminist statement.
I missed the Nutcracker marionette and his professional puppet-master, but even though they were so good last year, they were also a bit hard to see in the big Irving Theatre space and the pacing of the show is probably better without them.
Ryan Mullins’ set design (the program calls him Designer of the World) included a tree ornamented with many naked Barbie dolls. Other large, mesh-wrapped trees and tiny tree-shaped air fresheners hung from the ceiling over the audience.