For holiday fare with a delightfully irreverent spin, a double bill at the Boston Center for the Arts was just the ticket. The program’s two works — “Funny Uncle Cabaret” and “Nut/Cracked” — range from thoughtfully poignant to rip-roaring hilarious.
Excerpts from David Parker and the Bang Group’s popular “Nut/Cracked” take a dive off the deep end in a warped, very loose parody of “The Nutcracker.” Tchaikovsky’s beloved music is the anchor, though it comes in a wild variety of arrangements, including handbell choir. But forget little Clara and the genteel niceties of Victorian England. The New York-based company’s take unfolds as a boisterous romp by a rowdy cast of unruly “kids” in white tees and tanks and black athletic wear. With flourishes of his Herr Drosselmeyer-like cape, Peter DiMuro unleashes a kind of free-for-all with presents, hats, and other holiday props, and the company’s talented, charismatic dancers show they can pirouette and pratfall with equal aplomb. In fact, part of the work’s charm is its eclectic fusion of ballet and Broadway, tap and jazz, modern dance and vaudeville hijinks.
Highlights are many — a trio in which a long-stemmed rose is passed from mouth to mouth, a barefoot hoofing number that devolves into a frisky grabfest over a top hat, a “Waltz of the Flowers” with bouquets that set off sneezing fits, and Amber Sloan’s and Nic Petry’s full-out assaults on sheets of bubble wrap. Largely in the dark, Dylan Baker performs a fabulous rhythmic tap dance on the tips of his pointe shoes, his wavering hand-held flashlight casting flickers of illumination on his dancing feet. Embrace the magic.
When dancers pair up in another tap routine on pointe, the odd man out fetches shoes for his hands to clomp along. The Snowflake scene casts the dancers as skaters whose substantive ballet sequences — lofty jetés, brisk fouettés, and tight, fleet footwork — segue into a flurry of comedic slips and tumbles. By the end, they’re all on the floor making snow angels with the sparse fake snow littering the stage, rambunctiously sticking out tongues to catch errant flakes. Students from Center Stage Performing Arts Studio and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School guest in a couple of ensemble pieces, including a spirited “Russian,” and the final large ensemble features some intricately partnered thumb-sucking and one very impressive upside down lift that lands Jeffrey Kazin atop Petry’s shoulder.
While “Nut/Cracked” is tightly choreographed and polished over years of performances, Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion has a decidedly looser aesthetic with “Funny Uncle Cabaret.” It combines excerpts of “Gumdrops & The Funny Uncle” with “Everyday Cabaret,” threaded through with two different narratives. Ann Fonte’s deadpan monologue as Santa’s rather embittered ex-wife alternates with DiMuro’s autobiographical memories of his surprise casting — he’s a modern dancer — as Drosselmeyer in Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” decades ago. It’s heartfelt, but overall a little rumpled and messy, with DiMuro disappointingly reading from a binder. However, the dancing is excellent. The professional company beautifully moves through DiMuro’s lush choreography of sweeping turns and long-lined extensions punctuated by sharply-etched gestures. Though much of the humor feels a little forced, at its best, DiMuro’s narrative pulls at the heartstrings as he recounts moments of love and loss as “time beat on.”
Funny Uncle Cabaret
Presented by Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion and the Bang Group. At Plaza Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, Thursday nightKaren Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.