How a burlesque ballet became a venerated Boston tradition
Now entering its sex—ahem, sixth year, it’s hard to remember a time when The Slutcracker wasn’t one of Boston’s most anticipated holiday destinations. Every year, this surprisingly faithful rendition of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet (give or take a few dancing dildo orgies) entertains and titillates sold out crowd after sold out crowd. Maybe you appreciate the detailed choreography, the tremendous commitment of the ensemble cast, or the exclusive recording of the “Slutcracker Sweet” by the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra. Or maybe wieners and boobs is more your thing. The Slutcracker loves you either way.
But this is a success story beyond ticket sales. As the wave of neo-burlesque sweeps the country, ripping female sexuality away from the male gaze and putting it back in its rightful place—in the control of women themselves—The Slutcracker has played a vital role in uniting the once-fragmented world of Boston burlesque.
“One of the things that happens when something becomes successful in Boston—especially something artistic—it gets the fuck out,” observed Slutcracker creator/director/choreographer Vanessa White, aka Sugar Dish. “It rapidly moves to New York or LA, or wherever else has a bigger scene. And we haven’t done that.”
Though the evening is full of piss-takes and snappy rimshots (…) at the expense of mainstream ballet—applause and hollering are encouraged, filthy sets by comedians Mehran Khaghani and Liz Fang open the show, and sex toys are given away as part of the 12 Days of Slutmas—keen observers will appreciate the hard work and discipline that goes into such a high quality production. But even if you don’t, it’s still the best sextravaganza you’ll be a part of this winter.
Though other single-story burlesque shows and parodies exist, The Slutcracker stands apart for its commitment to its classical roots. For example, Seattle’s burlesque Nutcracker parody, Land of the Sweets—while also terrific and very well-received—is based on a swing rendition; meanwhile, the whip-cracking dominatrices in The Slutcracker do pointe to Tchaikovsky’s original suite. As White’s partner in crime, John Wentworth, told us: “Most people are like, ‘Really? Was that ballet? Like, there was titties in there!’”
Boston’s own unique approach to burlesque features heavily in the show as well. “It seems like Boston’s scene definitely leans alternative, a more neo presentation of burlesque,” said White. “Whereas a lot of other places are into more 1940s through ‘60s, high-glam, solo, dancer, bump-and-grind, classic stuff—which is awesome, and it’s gorgeous, and when it’s done well, it’s stunning—for the most part, most burlesquers in Boston don’t gravitate towards that. And The Slutcracker is a different thing altogether.”
By the way, when we said “The Slutcracker loves you,” we weren’t just being cute. They really do. The performance on Monday, December 16 is Service Industry Night (S.I.N.), arranged especially for service workers who are too often deprived of fun for having weekend work hours. On top of that, everyone showing sluttydarity on XXXMas Eve will be treated to a performance by merry musical pranksters Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.
Featuring two rotating casts packed to the pasties with Boston’s best and baddest (Cast A-wesome and Cast B-odacious), if you only see one sexed-up ballet about a dildo who comes to life that features a giant snow-shooting cotton candy penis this holiday season, see The Slutcracker. If you see two, catch the other cast.
[The Slutcracker. Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville. Playing through Tue 12.31. $25]