Bodacious ballet: Nutcracker burlesque returns to Bushwick

Hot nuts: The extravagant burlesque adaptation of The Nutcracker returns to Bushwick's Théâtre XIV this holiday season.
Mark Shelby Perry

The holiday classic has gone rouge!

A Bushwick burlesque company has bounced into the holiday season early, opening its annual titillating holiday extravaganza last weekend. Company XIV’s eighth iteration of “Nutcracker Rouge,” which will run through Jan. 26, features a baroque array of often scantily-clad performers enacting an adult-only version of the beloved 19th-century ballet about a girl, her toy nutcracker, and an indulgent land of sweets. This time around, the show’s creator has added a new character: a magician called “Al Cadabra,” who emcees the action in the role of Uncle Drosselmeyer and adds an extra dose of pizzazz.

“It’s a new, very magical element in the show,” said Austin McCormick. “There are illusions, and close up magic.”

The three-act, sensual spectacle will also feature a brand new trapeze artist, along with returning audience favorites, such as a spinning Cyr wheel acrobat, an opera singer who performs while suspended upside-down from the ceiling, and a drag performer playing the large-skirted Mother Ginger character in the Land of Sweets. It all adds up to a extravagant spectacle that is more than a simple strip-tease.

“Burlesque is an element of what we do, but it’s not a traditional show, it’s a fusion of ballet, opera, and an over-the-top design,” McCormick said. “It’s a mashup of a lot of elements.”

While the audience feasts its eyes on the dazzling display, they can indulge their palate with a menu of holiday cocktails, including a peppermint twist cognac, hot apple cider spiked with absinthe, and champagne with brandy and bourbon-soaked cherry.

The show loosely follows the famous Russian ballet’s structure and features music from its traditional score by Tchaikovsky, but with jazzy and contemporary remixes, according to McCormick.

The dance aficionado said that he returns to the piece every year to help fulfill a childhood dream. 

“Every dancer grows up doing the Nutcracker, it always sparked my interest and I always wanted to make my own version,” he said.

“Nutcracker Rouge” at Théâtre XIV [383 Troutman St. between Irving and Wyckoff avenues in Bushwick, www.companyxiv.com, (866) 811–4111]. Running through Jan. 26 at various times. $50–$195.

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