Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.
CP: Pray tell me what has sent you through icy streets at night, year in and year out, to see Ballet of the Dolls’ “Nutcracker (not so) Suite”? I know that “Balanchine” is not the answer.
RN: Because it’s hilarious — something no one ever says about any “Nutcracker,” ever — and ingenious, full of ballet in-jokes, great music and killer performances. I’m thrilled that James Sewell Ballet is presenting it, with Dolls founder/choreographer Myron Johnson at the helm and in the cast. The show looked good on the big Cowles Center stage, didn’t it?
CP: Yep. It’s the local version of an off-off-Broadway show taking a No. 1 train uptown. I missed the hooting and cheering of the old Ritz Theater crowd, though. I think wine sales were bigger there.
RN: What a treat to see Kevin McCormick back — after, what, a decade? — poured into form-fitting Ginger Grant-wear and wisecracking up a storm as Momma. He still has the best legs — and the best timing — in the business.
CP: No one brandishes a foot-long cigarette holder like he-she can. I thought Momma was gonna go all Joan Crawford on Marie when she caught her trying on one of her Balenciaga gowns.
RN: That’s when I missed the voiced-over narration of old. Right around that point, when the dramaturgy goes totally Kooksville — you know, Myron as the Funny Uncle, tied up by the evil Rat Queen but still able to blithely toss off the Watusi — you’d hear, “Is this still ‘The Nutcracker’?” It always got a big laugh, trust me.
CP: I liked how the Sewell version ramped up the dance and scaled back the boring, repetitive presentational stuff that weakened it in recent years. Then, of course, there is La Fellner.
RN: All bow down to the ageless, ridiculously pliant, can’t-pry-your-eyes-off-her Miss Stephanie Fellner. Dolled up in her best “Get Christie Love!” mode, slinking to the strains of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and backed by most of the swell Sewell corps, she did what comes naturally, which was stop the show, cold. I’m getting the chills, just talking about it.
CP: I loved that beatnik number, which was very Bob Fosse. But then you started whining about how they pulled one of your fave songs, “Christmas Kisses.”
RN: Is nothing sacred? But Myron’s unfailing ear — seriously, he could be a world-famous DJ — always finds worthy replacements. And he resurrected two Babs and Whitney oldies-but-goodies and used them to laugh-out-loud effect.
CP: One thing the show showed to great effect was a collaboration between two quite different companies. Kudos to James Sewell for throwing himself into this thing with energy and commitment: new costumes, sets that I’m sure we’ll see again in future years, even his own onstage magic acts.
RN: Sewell and his company looked great. Kelly Vittetoe and Jordan Lefton were wonderfully go-for-broke as Barbie and Ken. Lefton was particularly hilarious as Ken’s alter ego, the nerdily bespectacled Nephew, recalling Gene Kelly’s hoofer in the “Broadway Melody” segment of “Singin’ in the Rain.” Is that getting too musical inside baseball for you?
CP: Yeah, but don’t worry. I’m used to it.
Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib