Local Traditions

Land of the Sweets Remains December's Best Date Night

'The Burlesque Nutcracker' at the Triple Door is still fun, flirty, and inclusive.

By Darren Davis December 18, 2017

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Paris Original, Lily Verlaine and Marissa Quimby in Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker.

Just half a mile downtown from McCaw Hall and Pacific Northwest Ballet's esteemed annual rendition of the holiday classic, it's curtains up on another production of The Nutcracker. In this one, the Sugar Plum Fairy emerges from a large, rumpled bed wearing next to nothing. She's with a man! and they are late for the festivities, so she curls and twirls her way through a sleepy reverse strip tease to a live nine-piece jazz orchestra.
Needless to say, Verlaine and McCann's Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker is not the annual family outing offered by PNB. But the burlesque version is quite the Seattle institution in its own right, widely known but not always a December priority among adults looking for some holiday pageantry. And that's a shame, because Land of the Sweets is some real fun in a refreshingly un-Seattle way. And it's one hell of a date night.
The underground dinner theater setup of the Triple Door automatically makes you feel like you're in the tracking shot of a Scorcese movie. Maybe that's why the Tuesday night audience was the best dressed I'd seen in a long time, and that includes opening nights at the ballet and opera. The booths give the impression of VIP box seats whether you're front and center or tucked in the back. Order food or don't. But do drink.
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Lily Verlaine as The Snow Queen.

The show itself follows the pacing of The Nutcracker in the loosest possible way. There is a snowflake dance in a wintry forest, complete with snowflake pasties. The understated sexiness of the peacock in George Balanchine's ballet is, well, stated in the burlesque version. And we've discussed the Sugar Plum fairy's preoccupation.
Pacific Northwest Ballet's production contains astounding athleticism and grace, yes. But the Land of the Sweets performers are pros too. And Verlaine and McCann remains delightfully diverse in its casting: men, women, nonbinary dancers, bodies of all shapes in sizes—everyone across-the-board talented, charming, irreverent, and so adept in balancing the high/low of the performance.
Seattle should welcome more art like this: both technically impressive and unfussy, flirty, fun and inclusive. There's still just over a week left of performances. Find a date.
Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker
Dec 12–29, 2019, The Triple Door, $38–$70
This article was written in 2017, but dates and prices have been updated for the 2019 production. 
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