THEATER | Ballet of the Dolls’s “Nutcracker (Not So) Suite” is eye-opening, but uneven


Ballet of the Dolls is offering a strange and somewhat kinky twist on a holiday favorite, The Nutcracker, featuring Barbie, Ken, and a whole lot of sparkle and sequins. 

Although the production drags a bit, it’s worth considering if the premise appeals to you.

Ballet of the Dolls has been putting on The Nutcracker (Not So) Suite since 1993. This year, the production is dedicated to Barbie’s 50th birthday.

The Nutcracker (Not So) Suite is nothing like the original Nutcracker. For example, Marie (Stephanie Karr-Smith),  the main character, is a little girl played by an adult. Her doll is not a nutcracker, but a Barbie (Zhauna Franks), and she dreams of being with Ken (Michael deLeon). Her alcoholic, narcissistic mother, Flo (Binky Woods), has flaming pink hair and a deep resentment against Marie’s now-gone father.

nutcracker (not so) suite, playing through december 31 at the ritz theater. for tickets ($22-$27) and information, see

The story centers around Flo’s annual Christmas Party, which is ruined by her embarrassing behavior after going into a long, slurred song essentially about how she is all alone without anyone to love her.

Feeling embarrassed and angry at her mother’s behavior, Marie runs away only to get harassed by cross-dressing hookers and hit by a car. Marie then falls into dreamy fantasies of rats in bondage dancing to endless club music and a rat queen’s very seductive dance with Ken, which drives both Barbie and Marie crazy with jealousy.

It isn’t until Barbie does an intimate dance solo with Ken that Marie gives up her girlish fantasies and literally pushes the two out of her life. Just as Marie grows up into a young woman, she reconciles with her mother and the play ends.

Aside from the outrageous sparkling costumes and humorously mechanical dance appearances by Franks, by the second act there’s not a whole lot to hold the audience’s attention after the third or fourth group dance sequence in a row by party guests or by the rats.

The show slowly starts to unravel at these points, until cell phones start to come out and you wonder, “Has it been two hours yet?” After awhile, the sparkly costumes and repetitive dancing causes you to feel like you’re having a bad trip.

Even the humor of the play gets a little stale. Woods’ over-the-top ego produced some laughs, but after a while, Karr-Smith’s adult-baby act gets a little old.

However annoying some aspects of the play are, the acting is superb and most of the dancing is right on, even that done by a very pregnant rat and especially by a sultry rat queen. Those elements make the show worth checking out—if you’re prepared to see a rat king who actually enjoys it when he’s put in bondage.

This event 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 know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.