The Omnivore: December: Somerville Theatre: The Slutcracker

Last December the Somerville Theatre welcomed the heathen hordes with The Slutcracker, a risqué sendup of a certain cherished Yuletide ballet that saw dancers stripping down to their skivvies. Wowing its rowdy audiences, the production had to add extra shows and was lauded in the local press as the latest, greatest holiday tradition. And indeed, this year The Slutcracker returns starting 12/10.

However crowd-pleasing the show may be, though, how many people will really want to see it twice? Billed as "a sexy freaky holiday zeitgeist spectacular," The Slutcracker is still typical new burlesque—in short, a pseudo-subversive blend of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a Tuesday matinee at Centerfolds. With each revealed set of pasties, you may well find yourself yearning for what Boston’s really lacking: a thriving culture of fringe theater.

We’re still a safe city, still emerging from our "Banned in Boston" days, and so a sexpot "Sugar Dish Fairy" may seem shocking. Yet we need more than titillation: We need theater that makes us think, that dares to anger or even bewilder us. In her inaugural season at the American Repertory Theatre, artistic director Diane Paulus has excelled with surreal interactive extravaganzas like Sleep No More, an update of Macbeth set in an abandoned school, but thus far these kinds of shows have been imported from other cities. Generating such productions here may be a riskier proposition—and can’t be sold in a six-word tag line—but it’s how a city learns to lead culturally, instead of follow. Now that’s a tradition worth starting.

  • Roxanne

    What is “pseudo-subversive”? Something either is, or it isn’t subversive, no?

  • G.

    The cast of Slutcracker did very much enjoy Sleep No More, and I am sure the reverse will also be true this holiday season. It seems that the author is trying to spark rivalries where none exist. Don’t build walls where you should be placing throw pillows and convenient bottles of lubrication.

  • Maria

    If you have actually SEEN The Slutcracker, it is without question why this is a tradition worth starting. This show does indeed provoke bewilderment and thought, and even angers those unable to steer away from their cherished Nutcracker story. The Slutcracker is an amazing cast and crew of some of the finest Boston Talent around!

  • Mary

    As a cast member, I appreciate you acknowledging the crowd pleasing and soon to be legendary status of Slutcracker. I know many people who saw it last year and are eagerly anticipating the show, in fact I know of people buying plane tickets to come see it this year. But, Im bothered by what seems to be the outright dismissal that follows it. I’ve been in the burlesque and “legitimate” theatre scenes for years and I’ve never been involved with ANY show that was as exciting, creative or community building as Slutcracker. It brought together troupes from all over the city to create something new, this is a prime example of fringe beginning to thrive again. To write off Neo-Burlesque the way you did makes me question how much you’ve really seen and if you attended Slutcracker at all. When it comes to leading culturally, we should note the difference between professional theatres (no disrespect to the A.R.T, whom we sluts are all big fans of) and people who do these shows on their own,

  • Mary

    As I was saying..When it comes to leading culturally, we should note the difference between professional theatres (no disrespect to the A.R.T, whom we sluts are all big fans of) and people who do these shows on their own, out of their free time and their own pocket money. I find the grassroots effort and huge success of Slutcracker to be quite inspiring.

  • niki

    The author states “We need more than titillation: We need theater that makes us think, that dares to anger or even bewilder us”

    Really, Matthew? It sounds like you yourself are pretty angry over the success of the Slutcracker, and are in fact bewildered over why people like it. You make a jab, questioning why anyone would see it twice, then go on to talk about what people should want to see, an updated version of Macbeth taking place in an empty school?? Who on earth would want to see THAT twice? People go to see the normal Nutcracker year after year after year. Are they being mentally challenged? Is the Nutcracker even considered “Theatre”?? Last
    I checked, it was a ballet.

    Lighten up, Matt. It’s the holidays. People want to see dancing and hear Christmas music.
    Why dost thou hate upon them? Theater is ultimately supposed to be entertaining! So, if this holiday season you would rather go see Waiting for Godot set in modern day Yugoslavia, or No Exit set in post-apocolypti

  • niki

    apocolyptic Alaska, then this may not be for you, but if you want to see an amazing spectacle of dancing, gorgeous women, and old-fashioned sassy, tarty, holiday entertainment, get your tickets now, because it’s selling out fast!

  • Leyna

    If you think Boston’s neo-burlesque movement isn’t all that subversive, you’re definitely not looking closely enough. It’s a thriving community that is absolutely making people think – and talk. The entire purpose of burlesque is to parody high culture, which is exactly what The Slutcracker does (and does expertly, I might add). With all due respect, comparing it to traditional theater (or even A.R.T.’s non-traditional theater) is completely ridiculous – they’re nothing alike. Yes, Sleep No More is incredible – I’ve been twice, and I’ll probably go again. But The Slutcracker is an exercise in community building – bringing together amazing performers from all over the Boston area and putting on a raucous, hilarious, bawdy, and yes, political, show.

  • Katrina

    Mr. Baker seems intent on flaunting his prudery, his hypocrisy, and his utter ignorance of burlesque, satire, and theater itself. He yawns, claiming The Slutcracker is intent on shocking its audience; clearly, he has never attended a single performance. I did attend, and that audience catcalled, laughed uproariously, and gave it a standing ovation. I did not observe a single attendee gasp, My word! and clutch his/her pearls. Only people uncomfortable with sex accuse artists who used sexuality in their art of being shockingit never occurs to those at ease with erotic content that there is anything shocking about it.

    Comparing Centerfold’s to Slutcracker is like comparing a workplace instructional video to a Marx Brothers movie–one is purely functional, the other works as art AND entertainment (the two are not mutually exclusive). One goes to Centerfold’s to look at near-naked ladies posing for the purpose of having something to masturbate about later; one goes to Slutcra

  • Katrina

    One goes to Centerfold’s to look at near-naked ladies posing for the purpose of having something to masturbate about later; one goes to Slutcracker to see an amusing, satirical twist on the Nutcracker and watch near-naked ladies AND gentlemen do some hilarious pantomime and fabulous dancing (and if someone masturbates about it later… well, isnt that a complement?).

    I have had the pleasure of attending both Sleep No More and The Donkey Show. Both are excellent productions that are lucky enough to be receiving generous outside funding and extensive advertizing; Slutcracker (as of this writing) has no such cushion, and has been a success purely based on good word-of-mouth. Mr. Baker seems to think sticking a couple of scantily-clad females in a production guarantees its financial success. No so, and many a badly-done burlesque night has failed to generate much interest (or profit).

  • Katrina

    Belittling Slutcracker for being mere titillation, while praising Sleep No More and The Donkey Show for being more artistically authentic, is truly high irony. Sleep No More is an earthy (sometimes literally so) production which features nudity and actors sensuously grappling with each other in bed. The Donkey Shows main poster shows a masked Faerie Queen Titania wearing nothing but thigh-high boots, hot pants and butterfly pasties (coincidently, some people thought the actress in the poster was Slutcrackers own Sugar Dish Fairy), and the show itself contains drug use, implied bestiality and (gasp!) suggestive disco music. Do these aspects cheapen the plays? Of course notone cannot divorce sex from art. All three productions are based enduring classics. Whats the matter, Mr. Baker, you enjoy Shakespeare but dont care for Tchaikovsky? To each his own, I suppose.

    The Slutcracker takes the familiar story of a girl transported into a magical world and turns its on its he

  • Katrina

    The Slutcracker takes the familiar story of a girl transported into a magical world and turns its on its head, making biting commentary on female liberation, body image, and pansexuality along the way. Mr. Baker might try attending a performance of Slutcracker before slagging in print againbut I would suggest he buy tickets soon, as all performances are quickly selling out.

  • Ann

    You are right about one thing, Boston still is a safe city. Sadly, you, Mr. Baker, and your pontificating are part of what makes it so. We do not need you to tell us what we need, culturally speaking, any more than we did the Watch and Ward Society, who brought us the term “Banned in Boston” in the first place. What we DO need is more theatre and performances and art of all kinds, funding for the creative risk-takers, places to exhibit and/or perform and support in the form of money and audiences. There is room for ART and Slutcracker and much, much more. Your column is called The Omnivore, try and act like one.

  • ProvSketchy

    Oh please – isn’t there room for both in Boston? Apples & oranges, baby, it’s all good.

  • Marshall

    Please go back to writing reviews about books about pizza and stop telling me what is “good” theatre. Thanks, dick.

  • suzanna

    I’ll be going again this year and bringing 10 of my friends with me.

  • lala

    Dear Mr. Reviewer,
    I totally agree with you. Saw the show tonight. Wish I hadn’t.

  • lala

    There was that one part where they took off their bras. Very evocative. And then they did it again a little later. Like three minutes later, you wouldn’t believe what they did — the bras were removed! I totally gasped. And then I gasped again because they took their bras off. I saw sparkley boobies. And then the scene changed again and in the next scene I saw flowery nipples. It really made me think.

  • Lala had a brain tumor for bre

    Lala, others wish you hadn’t attended, either–there were a lot of people clamoring to be in your place.

    The show is called “The Slutcracker – A Burlesque.” Like, did you NOT expect striptease & pasties? That’s like going to a Jerry Bruckheimer movie & being surprised to see explosions.

    It also sounds like thinking is hard for you. Maybe you should stick to watching reruns of Sex in the City, m’kay?

  • A Proud Slut

    Let it be known: No one or thing can MAKE you think. YOU have to think for yourself. The Slutcracker never claimed to be shocking. 3 very simple goals were set: that The Slucracker be “funny, sexy, and beautiful.” I think those goals were accomplished. Certainly a lot of THOUGHT went into creating the show. Need something to make you think? Try creating something of your own, instead of just projecting your frustrations on other people’s fun.

  • stanley

    Funny? Sure, there were definitely some chuckles in there. Beautiful? Some of the ladies count.

    But sexy? I found the whole thing about as sexy as sitting politely through a slumber party. Neo-burlesque is, as far as I can tell, not about being sexy. It’s about toying with the idea of being sexy while other ladies cheer you on. It’s a vibrator party, on stage. It’s pantomime. Coy, ironic burlesque without quality control might be great for the ladies’ self-esteem, but it is not particularly sexy.

  • A. Cups

    Dear Stanley,

    I am sad for you. What, pray tell, do you find sexy?

    Also for the record, I wish more people KNEW this, and would therefore UNDERSTAND it better:

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burlesque