THEATER | Ballet of the Dolls’ “Nutcracker: The Lost Act!” is a mixed bag

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I was very disappointed in Ballet of the Dolls’ Nutcracker: The Lost Act!, but that’s because I went in with very high hopes. If you, on the other hand, go to the show looking for a collection of spirited song, dance, and burlesque performances that don’t have much connection to the holidays or to each other, you’ll be a lot less disappointed than I was.

The premise was just so scandalously tantalizing. Just think what the company known for producing some of the highest camp on the northern plains could have done with the Nutcracker ballet’s divertissements if they’d really created a show that engaged the material. With support from the talented and shameless ladies of Le Cirque Rouge, Ballet of the Dolls could have really dug into the murky symbolic stew that makes even a straightforward performance of The Nutcracker distractingly open to off-color interpretation.

Instead, they’ve used the Nutcracker story as a simple frame on which to hang entertaining but disconnected acts. The premise is that the Dolls are presenting the lost third and fourth acts of The Nutcracker, in which Clara (Valerie Torres-Comvalius) is spirited from the Kingdom of the Sweets directly into a postmodern vortex where a venue roughly resembling a 1920s speakeasy seduces her with its performers’ smoky rhythms.

When Clara’s chained to a massive weight and forcibly stripped down to her underwear in the middle of Act One, it looks like things are about to get interesting—but nope. She’s tossed a party dress that she wears for a cheerful African-dance hoedown, then (after a nearly half-hour intermission) seated at a cabaret table to watch Le Cirque Rouge perform a selection of burlesque routines that have nothing to do with each other or with the season—with the notable exception of the strip-dancing dreidel. In the end, she’s liberated in a partner dance with a bland “Mr. Wonderful” (Garron Haubner) who doesn’t even get to show off his codpiece.

The Lost Act! is charming and spirited, even if not holiday-spirited. Dolls and Cirque fans will enjoy the show, but if you’re looking for a provocative reimagining of The Nutcracker, I’d advise you to instead take a crack at John Munger’s Nutbuster!!

This production is featured in the Daily Planet’s complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you’ll know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.

This production can be seen using discount vouchers from the Daily Planet’s Theater All Year program—six vouchers for just $99.

(The Theater All Year program is run independently of the Daily Planet’s editorial coverage, and participation in the program does not affect the likelihood or content of any Daily Planet previews or reviews.)