Where do ugly Christmas sweaters, lightsaber fights, giant codpieces, keytars, paper snow, and 80s rock anthems come together? At Buttcracker of course! This most ingeniously named holiday dance show opened its doors at the Erickson Theatre this past Friday, December 18. Loosely based on the holiday ballet classic, this raucous interpretation featured the music of Queen, Styx, and Def Leppard alongside Tchaikovsky, brought to life with a big-haired, leather-clad, eyelined cast.
The best numbers combined delightful choreography and clever wit, such as The Dance of the Drunkels, choreographed by Jana Hill and Matt Mulkerin. It told the tale of three old fogeys dancing around a keg, twirling their canes like Astaire, only to be trumped by an older geezer (played by Wade Madsen) pulling out all the tricks on his walker. Madsen made another unforgettable appearance as a BDSM Santa on a hoverboard gliding across the stage in pursuit of his reindeer, played by the ever-animated Eric Pitsenbarger.
A few other fantastic acts included an aerial tribute to the famed Peacock variation from Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Stowell and Sendak Nutcracker, performed by Cathy Sutherland; it was as stunning as it was seductive. Sara Jink’s Hells Bells had the audience in stitches over three naughty alter boys with hand bells, including Annie McGhee, whose unibrow and manic pelvic thrusting perfectly captured humanity’s most awkward demographic.
Some of the more amateurish dance numbers could have benefitted from greater rhythmic dynamism and punchier execution, but the audience hooted and hollered just the same. Lighting design is another element that could have made this show pop—faces were often shadowed, and visually the dancers were minimized within the vacuous black space. The abundance of inexplicable and undeniably pungent sage smoke didn’t help visibility either.
While in places Buttcracker may have been a little rough around the edges, the audience wasn’t seeking technical perfection. They were there to have fun, to sing along, and to celebrate the merriment of the season. The spirit of the rock concert was alive and well—with friendly yelling at the performers, chatty strangers passing out Rainiers at intermission, and a fun game developing during the long transitions where the whole audience jokingly “shushed” one another. This show may have been a tribute to sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, but it also successfully captured the communal spirit of the holiday season. Buttcracker, as it turns out, isn’t just butts, but a lot of heart too.