REVIEW | 'Burlesque Nutcracker' is playful, irreverent, funny production

Tchaikovsky is spinning in his grave.  Pyotr Ilyich may also be taking off his clothes.

He’s channeling “Land of the Sweets, The Burlesque Nutcracker,” now playing at the Triple Door. 

The show takes outrageous liberties with the Russian composer’s sublime “Nutcracker” ballet and music. Although the stories have been shuffled and given a campy ambience, true-blue Tchaikovsky fans will recognize the routines, which are based on the legendary ballet’s Act II, set in the Land of the Sweets.  

If you’re lucky enough to get a front-row table, you might be tempted to call it “Buttcracker.”  It’s a hairless ensemble — thank goodness for body waxing.  Because the wardrobe malfunctions are deliberate. Naughty and nice. Swings and splits. Bosoms and Butts. Tinsel and titties. Pasties and G-strings. Spangles and dangles.

This is the 11th season for Jasper McCann and Lily Verlaine’s festive holiday frolic and “corps du burlesque.” Although the production may not be Broadway-bound, it is indeed silly, irreverent, playful, funny, and sexy. The costumes by Stephanie Seymour are glittery and glamorous, but they don’t stay on for long. “Land of Sweets” gives a whole new meaning to “Here’s looking at you kid.”  

You’ll see burlesque take-offs, no pun intended,’ on the Snow Queen Fairy and her Snowflakes, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Peacock, and the Waltz of the Flowers.  Versions of the coffee, tea, and chocolate vignettes from the original “Nutcracker,” are interpreted by Arabian, Chinese and Spanish-clad dancers. Of course, they all have one thing in coming. They strip. 

And what would a holiday show be without an angel? “Land of the Sweets” has one. Tova Da Luna the shepherdess flies high and low on a harp-shaped trapeze. And then there’s the Rat King. Davione Gordo’s sleek, muscular, gleaming physique had this critic fervently fanning herself — wait till you see his tail! I wanted to run out and buy him a wheel of cheese.

I also want raise a glass to Tory Peil, as Hot Chocolate, and Trojan Original for his matador turn as Coco. And the first-act snow fairy sports a blonde, beehive-doo that looks as if she were wearing a luscious upside-down ice cream sundae on her head. 

Watch for the phallic Christmas tree slowing growing, and the titillating, silhouette striper who juggles balls of light behind a lit screen.

Producer/choreographer/performer Verlaine shows off her classical ballet chops in her characterizations. I especially loved her show-stoppers, the Countess of Coffee and the Sugar Plum Fairy, 

The Countess of Coffee, in her Casbah, has trained two fabulous peacocks to help her undress before her “secret” bath in a giant latte cup. Their antics turn into a ménage à trois. And Verlaine does the splits in midair, her legs stretched across her peacock’s shoulders. 

Running late, the lazy Sugar Plum Fairy (Verlaine again) languishes in her big brass bed, enjoying a surprise guest hidden under a pile of plush feathers. Not to worry, she still has enough energy to strut her stuff. 

Emcee/host McCann keeps moving apace. With his melodic, radio-smooth baritone, he describes the production as “a spectacle of ecdysiastic pageantry.” Highbrow alert: The Journalist H.L. Mencken took the Greek “ekdysis” and created a new word for striptease — “Ecdysiast.” 

A trio of snowflakes with their red, glittery lips adds a delightful, kitschy charm, especially Moscato Extatique as Rosette with his flirtatious smile and Lady Gaga vibes.

In all, an ensemble of 16 — five guys and 11 gals with diverse dance backgrounds — cavort across the stage, bouncing bosoms and butts of all sizes and shapes. Their names have been changed (Maybe to protect their friends and families?). Dances vary from ballet and swing to cha-cha and tap--there’s even a snatch of Paso doble. And all the time, G-strings and pasties sparkle. Technical effects are delightful — colored lights, twinkling stars and a snow blizzard. Be sure to cover your drinks during the storm.

“Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker” embellishes the likes of Minsky’s, Vaudeville, and the Ziegfeld Follies. It also reminds us of the infamous burlesque queen Sally Rand and her feather fan shtick.  

Seattle has a rich stable of annual holiday events, including Seattle Men’s Chorus holiday concert, “Nutcracker” (the real one), “The Messiah,” “A Christmas Carol,” to mention just a few. But sadly, one of my all-time favorites, “Black Nativity,” is no longer plays its annual gig at the Intiman. 

That said, Seattle is the perfect city for this neo-burlesque extravaganza. After all, the late, great Gypsy Rose Lee was born here. 

She just wanted to “entertain you.” 

As does “Land of the Sweets” and its bawdy butt-crackers. 

“Land of Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker” runs Tuesday-Saturday through Dec. 29. General Seating - $40-$55; VIP Seating, $50-$65; tickets (206) 838-4333, or online at; for 2, 5, 7, and 8 p.m. shows you must be 17 or over; for 10 and 10:30 p.m. shows, you must be 21 or older.