THE BEULAVILLE BAPTIST BOOK CLUB PRESENTS: A BUR-LESS-Q NUTCRACKER!Written by Mark-Brian Sonna
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Herb Alpert and
the Tijuana Brass
Directed by Charles Ballinger
Choreography by Mark-Brian Sonna and Jana Edele
Scenic Design and Props by Alejandro de la Costa
Lighting and Sound Design by Mark-Brian Sonna
Lighting and Sound Board Operations by Chandler Jones
Costume and Wig Design by Larry E. Groselcose
Box Office Management by Kim Wickware
Mark-Brian Sonna - Dickey
Kristen Blevins James - Sylvia
Linda Much - Wilma
Michelle L. Mays - Ramona
Susan Davis - Madge
THE VELVET KITTENS
Jaye-Jenny Smith - Jana
Rose Marie Rupley - Jessica
Lauren Marks - Jenny
Abi Abel* - Jojo
Jennifer Leigh - Jojo
Maria Perez-Hernandez - Jocelyn
Kristene Littlefield - Jill
*Ms. Abel performed the role of "Jojo" in this production.
Reviewed Performance: 12/8/2011
Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The women of the Beulaville Baptist Book Club are in dire straits financially, and as a last ditch attempt to save their book club they decide to do a fundraiser and hire the Beaumont Ballet to perform Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker". Madge's Pi?a Colada Casserole unfortunately sickens the entire cast with food poisoning and they are unable to perform. Luckily there is another dance troop in town.
It seems the Velvet Kittens Burlesque Dancers are stuck in Beulaville because their van broke down on their way to New Orleans. Madge has never heard of Burlesque, or as she pronounces it "Bur-less-Q", and in an act of necessity hires the dance troupe to do "The Nutcracker".
The end result... the most original, unusual, and comical Nutcracker you have ever seen!
I had the pleasure of seeing BUR-LESS-Q for the first time and it was truly a night I will remember. For five years running MBS has been offering up it's version of "The Nutcracker" to the metroplex, and there is a reason people come back year after year to see it... well, many reasons actually! Mark-Brian Sonna has created, with an amazing partnership in Jana Edele, the most over the top, side-splitting musical comedy with dance I have ever seen. There is nothing else like it in every aspect of the production.
Charles Ballinger's direction is excellent. By pulling every innuendo, joke, insult and comedic drop out of the performers, Mr. Ballinger takes you along on a wild ride you should get off of but just can't bring yourself to! There is nothing better than a director willing to "take the show where it needs to be" and not staying in the lines or coloring the script lightly. His use of the small space is wonderful, even incorporating the audience into almost everything in the show, including putting the cast in the audience to watch the show with them. Staging is perfect and the scenes flow wonderfully.
Now to the "Velvet Kittens"... Wow, Wow, Wow! They are an amazing group of dancers with such professionalism, and acting ability to match, it is an absolute pleasure to watch them. Never once is there the feeling of " just putting on a show", but a desire to truly entertain and make it enjoyable, funny and sometimes outright raunchy... in a good way! As stated in the program and when "Dickey" announces at the curtain speech, "This show is a Burlesque show, not a strip show...", and a burlesque show with amazingly talented women is what you get from the "Velvet Kittens"!!
An example of that expertise and professionalism was the announcement at the beginning of the performance that one of the "Kittens" had fallen ill and a fill-in (Abi Abel) would be performing in her absence, learning all the dance and dialogue in less than two hours! I would have never known as Ms. Abel was "on the mark" and did a wonderful job... Bravo!!
The ensemble cast is a well-oiled machine and a side-splitting comedic troupe! The chemistry is tight, on cue and precise. You definitely know you're watching highly talented and seasoned performers when they take the stage.
Mark-Brian Sonna as "Dickey" is just too much to take in! The character which Mr. Sonna originated is simply remarkable, funny; he even dances!! I am just amazed at his ability to go from slapstick comedy with pickles (I won't give it away, but come hungry to the show) to ballet sequences. Mr. Sonna states in the program that he doesn't know how much longer he can portray "Dickey", as after five years it's more and more difficult, but I hope to see him for many more years to come, sporting that hilarious Nutcracker!!
Kristen Blevins James as the prudish Sylvia is perfectly wonderful. She struts around the stage with her nose so high in the air you are honestly shocked when the story line comes to a conclusion. Ms. Blevins James shows at every moment she is a consummate professional and you will love to hate her!
Linda Much portrays the half-deaf, off her meds Wilma in the first act so well you can't take your eyes off her. You never know what to expect her to say, or do, and her character bonds with the audience well. In the second act Ms. Much comes alive in a way you'd never expect and you're taken on another wonderful roller coaster ride of laughter with her every line.
Michelle L. Mays plays Ramona, the "accepted" member of the book club, with hilarious voices, facial expressions and "You tell `em gurl..." attitude. Ms. Mays takes her place in the book club and shows her twisted view of life and the "holy spirit" so well you just want to give her an "Amen" all the time. Every moment she is on stage is enjoyable!
Susan Davis as Madge is a true delight to watch. Her complete lack of understanding and "no clue" attitude is so funny you actually start to believe it's real. Ms. Davis shows amazing acting and comedic timing throughout the entire show and never falters.
There is a reason a theatre brings back a production year after year... it is good! The patrons love it, the actors love it, I love it and you will definitely love it! It's also the reason the show and MBS have been nominated for the National "Nutty" award, and share amazing company in the nominations.
The Goldstar National Nutcracker Award, which made its debut in 2007, is awarded to the Nutcracker with the best member reviews and event rating.
Goldstar has selected 50 Nutcrackers throughout the United States worthy of nomination. Some of the other nominees include Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker in Chicago, Moscow Classical Ballet's Nutcracker in Los Angeles, San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker, Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra's The Swinging Nutcracker in Washington DC, and Pacific Northwestern Ballet's The Nutcracker in Seattle.
On the night I reviewed the production, the news program "Nightline" was there taping and taking interviews for its national broadcast of a "Nutty" Award nominees special. I mention this not only because it is an amazing accolade for MBS but I witnessed absolute unity in a theatre production team that night. There were many "issues" to resolve, i.e. extra seating for camera/tech crews and producers, a performer replaced at the last minute, all at the same time making sure everyone was well accommodated and not too affected by the "extra" excitement and problems.
The entire production team deserved amazing rounds of applause, from the Box Office Manager to the House Manager, and to Mr. Sonna himself, for not falling apart under such pressure. Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is professional theatre and MBS Productions is an amazing example of it!!
Take the time to see THE BEULAVILLE BAPTIST BOOK CLUB PRESENTS: A BUR-LESS-Q NUTCRACKER! While it's still our local theatre gem and before we lose it to the bright lights of New York City!!
The Stone Cottage Theatre
Addison Conference and Theatre Center
15650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas 75001
Runs through December 27th, 2011
The show has an "R" rating for language.
Evening shows at 8:00pm: Dec. 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27
Matinees at 2:00pm: Dec.17 & 18
Tickets are $20 - $25 for adults, with a 2 for 1 ticket special for KERA members.