Fort Worth — In describing the premise behind Texas Ballet Theater’s Nutty Nutcracker to various people, I usually hear, “So, it’s like Nutcracker meets Saturday Night Live.” Yes, only on steroids.
Pop culture and news headlines from the past year get the full spoof treatment for TBT’s annual one-night-only butchering of the beloved ballet. Dancing for a sold-out house at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Ben Stevenson and crew present a silly, hilarious, yet surprisingly well-knit production.
Hosting the Christmas party are the nine folk of the Brady Bunch, including Carl Coomer as the maid, Alice. Prince William and Princess Kate arrive with their new baby in tow, but it’s not long before they’re upstaged by the other celebrity parents, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West with their little tyke. The two infants quickly get in trouble as the former Toronto mayor Rob Ford arrives to share his illegal substances with the babes.
The rest of the Kardashian clan shows up, as well as Walt and Jesse from Breaking Bad. John and Jackie Kennedy join the party and it’s not long before Marilyn Monroe shows up and sings her birthday song to the President. Grumpy Cat sits around holding up signs with typical cantankerous comments.
Drosselmeyer has been replaced by Dr. Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Show, played by Lucas Priolo in the full Tim Curry drag get-up. Jesse opens the next song and dance, “Time Warp”, then it hits me. Brady Bunch, Rocky Horror, JFK, Marilyn—all things of a time gone by. The rest of the performance remains a beautiful blend of the past and present.
The most magical surprise, though, is when Frank-N-Furter conjures Lyle Lovett. The real Lyle Lovett, who emerges from a cabbage and sings his song “The Girl With the Holiday Smile.” It just proves that you just never know what’s going to happen when TBT gets “nutty.” The song was over all too soon, and the audience had to pull their jaws off the floor, put their hearts back into their chests, and wipe the tears from their eyes. What was going to come next?
The battle scene still has the rats, but this time they’re led by Hitler. Rocky Balboa pops up to fight for Cindy Brady, with his Billy Elliott-esque group of helpers.
The snow scene starts out with the traditional pas de deux, but gets “wrecked” by Miley Cyrus swinging from the ceiling on a fake wrecking ball, singing the familiar song. From then on, it’s a war between the pristine quality of ballet and the crudeness of twerking. The snowflakes arrive to perform their choreography (complete with a few male TBT members attempting to do it, Trocks-style), but Cyrus had her band of twerkers, complete with The Foam Finger. Coomer as the Snow King later dresses as Robin Thicke from the VMAs and whisks Miley away to…somewhere.
After the Harlem Shake and a forced “shutdown” of the Nutcracker for intermission, Effie Trinket of The Hunger Games emcees Act II, as the tributes from various districts display their talents.
Instead of the Spanish, we get “What Does the Fox Say”, and the Mario Brothers stand in for the Chinese men, wielding a wrench and plunger for the variation choreography. The Arabian duet has been ingeniously replaced by Sandra Bullock in her astronaut’s uniform and dark-clad dancers who manipulate her to make it appear that she’s floating through space. Michael Jackson does not appear this year, but as Sandra moonwalks offstage (heh, get it?), she remarks, “Eat your heart out, Michael Jackson.”
Childhood nursery rhyme favorites Three Blind Mice replace the Mirliton pas de trois, and Mother Ginger reveals not children, but a skirt full of well-muscled men playfully removing their clothes. Whether they were imitating the Chippendales or the Kmart boxer holiday ad is anyone’s guess, but who cares?
Charlie Chaplin, another nostalgic favorite, dances the Russian variation, and instead of a beautifully sweeping flower corps, we get zombies. Frankenstein and his bride stiffly dance the principal role for the segment.
The grand pas de deux still consists of mainly the same choreography and roles, only they’ve been switched up a bit. The tallest male dancer of the company (Paul Adams) graces the stage as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the most petite female member is his (her?) cavalier. Choreographic roles switch back and forth, as well.
To top it all off, they close the show with another throwback—Thriller.
Oy. My cheeks hurt from laughing and smiling so much. Next year, get your tickets early. Who knows what’ll happen on the nuttiest night of the year?