There are plenty of different Nutcrackers for local audiences to take in over the holidays, from the traditional to the irreverent, but there's only one that cards you at the door. Clara is of legal age in the ExperTeasers' Nutcracker Noir, and you'll need to be too if you want to see her get spanked.
Subtitled "a sensual burlesque ballet," Nutcracker Noir isn't quite Eyes Wide Shut, but there are so many winks that they might as well be. Presented at Minnsky Theatre, the Northeast Minneapolis hub of hubba-hubba, the show presents a Land of the Sweets peopled by entertainers who've honed their skills at ExperTease Fitness, an alternative gym off Washington and Broadway.
That means belly dance, that means circus work on hoops and trapeze, that means hip-hop and modern dance. That even means an impressively athletic pas de deux with kisses of literal fire. If you didn't already know the ExperTeasers meant business, you know when a commandingly sized fire extinguisher makes its appearance at stage right — just in case.
There's no program to identify individual performers, but a couple dozen artists fill the Minnsky stage, aptly set in a thrust configuration with cabaret tables spilling around the sides. Despite the show's naughty nature, Nutcracker Noir is suffused with just as much warmth and community as you'd find at a more family-oriented production.
Soundtracked by Tchaikovsky's score, Nutcracker remixes, and other selections ranging from R&B to industrial to EDM, the Nutcracker Noir follows the standard story, such as it is. There's a raucous party scene, with the entrance of an Uncle Drosselmeyer who looks like Michael McDonald in an eyepatch. There's a tap-dancing Christmas present, and the boy who breaks the Nutcracker scampers through the living room with a bottle stuck provocatively into his pants.
When the toy soldier does break, it's up to Drosselmeyer to make some repairs — which he accomplishes with a lot of glitter and a wardrobe that falls away until we see what he's wearing under all those mysterious cloaks. It's just as kinky as you've always expected. The new Nutcracker emerges in blue leather pants and a Chris Gaines haircut, to do saucy battle with a rodent dominatrix.
Ultimately the villainess is dragged off, tits out. Then, fan-dancing snowflakes escort Clara to the "Kinky Kourt" of, that's right, the Sugar Cum Fairy. There's an intermission for the installation of poles and the results of a raffle (this is Northeast, after all), and then the divertissements begin.
A giant onstage menu provides a guide to the acts: a hip-hop "spice drop," a lyra-twirling "dew drop," some belly-dancing "coffee," trapeze "peanut butter," and several more. Clara joins in with a few of the entertainments, including the tap-dancing "peppermint" — with the Nutcracker drumming along on a barrel. Mother Ginger becomes a sort of Mother Nature, with a troupe of cheeky Polichinelles wearing little more than some strategically placed vines.
It's all impressive, but the aim is to inspire and empower rather than intimidate. By the end of the show, Clara's seen a whole new world. If you haven't visited the realm of "burly ballet," the Nutcracker Noir makes for a festive introduction.
IF YOU GO:
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1:30 p.m. Saturday