Addison — So, you hear the title A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, and you probably think, “OK, the highlight will be skimpily clad ladies bumping and grinding to the erotic tunes of one Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.”
Aaaaaaand…you would be wrong. The show, properly titled The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents … A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker and written by/starring/co-choreographed by the ebullient Mark-Brian Sonna of MBS Productions, has been a smash hit since 2007 in Addison. As lovely as the burlesque ladies are, led by lissome and witty dancer/co-choreographer Jana Edele, the element that has no doubt made this show a holiday favorite for adults is Sonna himself.
After meeting Sonna (in costume and character as the bumbling but adorable Dickey, sole male member of the above-mentioned book club) before the show as he greeted patrons, I was somewhat taken aback to read in his bio that his background includes a goodly amount of ballet.
Why? Well, as a woman of some, er, fluffiness, myself, I try not to judge. But let’s just say that Sonna’s adorable belly makes one think he might be better suited to the role of Santa Claus rather than the pirouetting, jete-ing, grace-personified role of the Nutcracker Prince. Aaaaaaand…you would be wrong.
As a Bur-Less-Q virgin, I had no idea what to expect, and frankly, it took at least a couple of days for my mouth to completely recover its regular position from the hanging-open-in-surprise-and-delight look it had, I’m quite sure, throughout the performance. The man can dance, people, and quite beautifully. I’m not giving anything away here, because you won’t believe it till you see it. People had told me about his talent in this arena; I inwardly scoffed. No more, Mr. Sonna, no more. I bow to your ballet slippers—but don't do anything naughty to my head while I'm doing that, OK?
As for the actual story, the title pretty much says it all. When an unfortunate case of food poisoning prevents the Beaumont Ballet from performing Nutcracker as a fundraiser for the financially ailing book club, the club recruits the Velvet Kittens burlesque troupe, in town on their way to New Orleans and suffering from car troubles. The Kittens reluctantly agree to take on Tchaikovsky, but only one of the book club members—the one with a grudge and an interest in seeing the group’s founder humiliated—realizes exactly what kind of dance the audience will get a look at. A very good look, indeed.
All turns out fine, of course, in the Christmas spirit and all that. The dancers are both limber and hilarious, particularly Edele and the one whose, er, bosom, continually threatens to explode out of her garments (sorry, ladies, I didn’t catch each one of your names). Dylan Peck, in drag as one of the burlesque dancers, mostly purses his lips and speaks in a bad Russian accent. With absolutely no “t” and even less “a,” and a surly attitude to boot, he’s the exact opposite of sexy. Methinks it would have been funnier if he actually had some fun with it. But it’s a minor quibble for a show that had me quite literally gasping with laughter.
Of the book club ladies, Margaret Herrington stands out as the alternately addled/sharp-as-a-whip Wilma. Charles Ballinger’s direction is crisp, and he makes sure the actors land each and every one of the truly horrible (Sonna warned us, and it's true) dirty jokes. The set by Kevin Brown is gloriously VFW-hall-style tacky.
You’d do well to get your tickets early. The show, a winner of the Goldstar National Nutcracker Award for most-beloved Nutcracker in the U.S.A., brings the faithful out in droves each season. This year it had to move from the tiny Stone Cottage at WaterTower Theatre to the more spacious, but still intimate, Studio Theatre, to make way for the throngs.
Finally, let’s repeat this for grins and just to make sure I don’t accidentally send any families with darling curly-haired toddlers to this one: A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker is FOR ADULTS. There's dancing, and fairies to be sure, and plenty of nuts, but ... well, you get the idea. There’s merely a glimpse of actual nudity, but the innuendo would make a drunken reindeer blush.