Addison — So, you hear the title A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, and you probably think, “OK, the highlight will be skimpily clad ladies bumping and grinding to the erotic tunes of one Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.”
Aaaaaaand…you would be wrong. The show, properly titled The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents … A Bur-Less-Q Nutcrackerand written by/starring/co-choreographed by the ebullient Mark-Brian Sonna of MBS Productions, has been a smash hit since 2007 in Addison. As lovely as the burlesque ladies are, led by lissome and witty dancer/co-choreographer Jana Edele, the element that has no doubt made this show a holiday favorite for adults is Sonna himself.
After meeting Sonna (in costume and character as the bumbling but adorable Dickey, sole male member of the above-mentioned book club) before the show as he greeted patrons, I was somewhat taken aback to read in his bio that his background includes a goodly amount of ballet.
Why? Well, as a woman of some, er, fluffiness, myself, I try not to judge. But let’s just say that Sonna’s adorable belly makes one think he might be better suited to the role of Santa Claus rather than the pirouetting, jete-ing, grace-personified role of the Nutcracker Prince. Aaaaaaand…you would be wrong.
Photo: Brian Holm
Photo: Brian Holm
As a Bur-Less-Q virgin, I had no idea what to expect, and frankly, it took at least a couple of days for my mouth to completely recover its regular position from the hanging-open-in-surprise-and-delight look it had, I’m quite sure, throughout the performance. The man can dance, people, and quite beautifully. I’m not giving anything away here, because you won’t believe it till you see it. People had told me about his talent in this arena; I inwardly scoffed. No more, Mr. Sonna, no more. I bow to your ballet slippers—but don't do anything naughty to my head while I'm doing that, OK?
As for the actual story, the title pretty much says it all. When an unfortunate case of food poisoning prevents the Beaumont Ballet from performing Nutcracker as a fundraiser for the financially ailing book club, the club recruits the Velvet Kittens burlesque troupe, in town on their way to New Orleans and suffering from car troubles. The Kittens reluctantly agree to take on Tchaikovsky, but only one of the book club members—the one with a grudge and an interest in seeing the group’s founder humiliated—realizes exactly what kind of dance the audience will get a look at. A very good look, indeed.
All turns out fine, of course, in the Christmas spirit and all that. The dancers are both limber and hilarious, particularly Edele and the one whose, er, bosom, continually threatens to explode out of her garments (sorry, ladies, I didn’t catch each one of your names). Dylan Peck, in drag as one of the burlesque dancers, mostly purses his lips and speaks in a bad Russian accent. With absolutely no “t” and even less “a,” and a surly attitude to boot, he’s the exact opposite of sexy. Methinks it would have been funnier if he actually had some fun with it. But it’s a minor quibble for a show that had me quite literally gasping with laughter.
Of the book club ladies, Margaret Herrington stands out as the alternately addled/sharp-as-a-whip Wilma. Charles Ballinger’s direction is crisp, and he makes sure the actors land each and every one of the truly horrible (Sonna warned us, and it's true) dirty jokes. The set by Kevin Brown is gloriously VFW-hall-style tacky.
You’d do well to get your tickets early. The show, a winner of the Goldstar National Nutcracker Award for most-beloved Nutcracker in the U.S.A., brings the faithful out in droves each season. This year it had to move from the tiny Stone Cottage at WaterTower Theatre to the more spacious, but still intimate, Studio Theatre, to make way for the throngs.
Finally, let’s repeat this for grins and just to make sure I don’t accidentally send any families with darling curly-haired toddlers to this one: A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker is FOR ADULTS. There's dancing, and fairies to be sure, and plenty of nuts, but ... well, you get the idea. There’s merely a glimpse of actual nudity, but the innuendo would make a drunken reindeer blush.
A New Nutcracker! Burlesque-Themed Holiday Production Wins This Year's Nutty Award
By Michael Gioia
29 Dec 2014 MBS Productions' The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents … A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker was announced as the winner of the 8th Annual Goldstar National Nutcracker Award. A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker beat out more than 70 other Nutcracker-themed productions to take home The Nutty statuette and a cash prize for its education programs. The company joins the ranks of past winners that include Debbie Allen Dance Academy, the Joffrey Ballet, Boston Ballet, the Kirov Ballet and The House Theater of Chicago. "For our small company to be nominated amongst some world class dance companies has been thrilling," said artistic director/producer Mark-Brian Sonna, who wrote, choreographed and starred in A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, in a statement. "Who would have thought eight years ago when (over several margaritas) we came up with the concept of the show that it would entertain thousands of people, become the most performed Nutcracker every year in Texas, and become a cult hit that has now earned a national award? Words cannot adequately express my excitement to receive such a momentous honor." A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, according to press notes, "finds the ladies of the Beulaville Baptist Book Club hosting a fundraiser production of Tchaikovsky's famous ballet. But when the entire cast of ballet dancers falls ill from a bad batch of piña colada casserole, it's up to burlesque stars The Velvet Kittens to save the day." The Goldstar National Nutcracker Award, the only nationwide award for live Nutcracker-themed performances, showcases the "astounding quality and variety of Nutcracker productions each year – from classic ballet to hip-hop, burlesque and more." -
Barb at banning hits mark at ‘Beulaville Baptist Book Club’
Nancy Churning, Dallas Morning News, 11/29/14
ADDISON — You don’t expect a show that will do anything for a laugh, including dirty jokes, profanity and suggestively jiggling body parts inches from the front row, to have something of social significance to say. Yet, a sly attack on those who ban books lends spice to the R-rated Beulaville Baptist Book Club presents...A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker.
MBS Productions’ original show, now in its 8th year at the intimate Stone Cottage at the Addison Conference and Theatre Centre, tells the story of a book club in dire straits.
Most of its dues-paying members have bailed because its strident leader (Laura Lutz Jones), banned a range of books including the Harry Potter series, Huckleberry Finn, the Twilight series, Fifty Shades of Grey and Heather Has Two Mommies.
They brainstorm the idea of presenting The Nutcracker as a fundraiser. When their ballet dancers get sick after eating Madge’s Piña Colada Casserole, they talk the Velvet Kittens Burlesque Dancers into taking their place.
The clueless book club ladies refer to burlesque as Bur-Less-Q, thinking it’s a Texas form of ballet crossed with barbecue.
Mark-Brian Sonna, the MBS behind MBS Productions, pours on goofy charm as dim Dickey, the lone male member of the book club and of the entire show, — if you don’t count Joni, the tall, muscular Velvet Kitten (actor Heath Billups in drag) batting his long, artificial eyelashes.
Dickey volunteers to dance with the ensemble, which leads to multiple sexually suggestive sight gags, choreographed by Sonna, a former professional ballet dancer, and Jana Edele, the founder and artistic director of the real-life Velvet Kittens in Dallas that inspired this part of the story.
It’s small wonder that this bawdy show, with a dash of Rocky Horror stirred into the world of Greater Tuna, has become a holiday favorite.
Under Charles Ballinger’s direction, it’s unpolished, raw, raucous and a lot of fun, with Friday’s opening crowd laughing at everything from a spacey, bubble gum-popping burlesque dancer (Kaci Franssen) to Dickey offering complimentary pickles on sticks to the patrons.
The jab at censorship gives the show a welcome punch, particularly with Highland Park High School attracting national criticism this fall for suspending seven acclaimed books. The last of the books was reinstated in November.
In contrast, the only things banned here are kids and your inhibitions.
_______ THE BEULAVILLE BAPTIST...A BUR-LESS-Q NUTCRACKER! _______
Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Theater Critic For John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The most hilarious production I have ever seen! MBS Productions scores another huge hit with this holiday show that is an over-the-top, must see, "nut cracking" romp!!
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 Pińa 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!!
Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Theater Critic For John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Put this hilarious play on your holidayfun list and help out the Beulaville Baptist Book Club. Their holiday got off to a shaky start when the Nutcracker wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. First Madge’s Pina Colada Casserole poisoned the Beaumont Ballet troupe hired to perform in their holiday fundraising event. To make matters worse their book club is in the red. Fortunately there was divine intervention when the Velvet Kittens Burlesque Dancers’s van broke down on the way to New Orleans. Delighted to so quickly right the wrong, clueless Madge hired the “Bur-less-Q” company to perform.
The conservative book club members sitting on the front row fully expected to see a graceful Sugar Plum Fairy, an evil Dr. Drosselmeyer, handsome nutcracker and an elegant Snow Queen. To their surprise it became an original interpretation of a classic story full of bumps and grinds. The drama built with each scene as the folks in Beulaville experienced an unforgettable and stimulating ballet.
This delightful comedy by Mark-Brian Sonna will brighten your holidays. Be warned: sometimes the audience can be as much fun as the production. One member was wearing torn fishnet hose, a low cut dress and a short shirt. She confessed she was from California and thought it was a dress up occasion similar to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Note: This show is rated R due to language and some bump and grinds. It is burlesque dancing, not stripping! The audience is allowed to tip the dancers...but no touching!
Marilee Vergati - Examiner.com
`Tis the season. KVIL is playing non-stop Christmas music. People fight each other over a $2.99 slow cooker at Target at 3 a.m. on Black Friday. The theatres are full of sweet, sentimental, treacle-filled, feel-good, family-safe Christmas fare.
Not at Stone Cottage Theatre at Addison Theatre Center! There, for the fourth year, MBS Productions is presenting The Beauville Baptist Book Club Presents ... A Bur-Les-Q Nutcracker!, their rollickingly irreverent version of Tchaikovsky's famous Nutcracker ballet that has now fairly achieved cult status. The audience is a mixture of loyal, repeat customers and curious newcomers, all of whom are not disappointed in their expectations of a very entertaining evening. Since its inception in 2007, the show has garnered such popularity that this Nutcracker is performed more times (from the day after Thanksgiving through the day after Christmas) than is the traditional version by all professional ballet companies in North Texas combined.
The first act sets up the preposterous premise of how a book-banning Southern Baptist book club in a small Texas town ends up hiring burlesque dancers to perform The Nutcracker ballet for their fundraiser. The four women and one man who make up this club are hilarious Southern stereotypes that, in the author's own words, deliver "silly, groan-inducing puns" in the best tradition of baggy-pants burlesque comics from a past era.
Director Charles Ballinger keeps the first act tight and flowing so that the "ridicularity" (just made that up, but feel free to use it; I won't demand royalties) is worth sitting through in order to see the amazing dancing in the second act.
Mark-Brian Sonna Productions
Cast of The Beauville Baptist Book Club Presents ... A Bur-Les-Q Nutcracker!
You have to be talented to make something funny also be believable and all five Velvet Kittens and Mark-Brian Sonna (the author and co-choreographer of the show) are experienced and admirable professional dancers. Their Burlesque (spelled Bur-Les-Q, like they spell Bar-B-Q here in Texas) Nutcracker is danced to Tchaikovsky's actual score, which they seamlessly transverse via tap, en pointe, can-can, and bump and grind, with impressive and uproarious results. Dance Captain Abi Abel beautifully guides the troupe to excel under Sonna's and Jana Edele's choreography.
Alejandro de la Costa's set is minimalist, keeping the attention strictly on the dancers and Larry E. Groselcose's costumes help the "eye candy" move freely and the book club ladies remain glamorously tacky.
Let's get something straight – these dancers are not strippers. They keep their clothes on, but their dancing – and the language used throughout the show – is definitely R-rated. So if you're looking to gather up the young ones and enjoy a family evening of live theatre together, well ... don't do it here. Instead, hire a babysitter to drive them to Artisan Center Theater's production of Annie in Hurst while you go indulge in a fun, appealing evening laughing at adult jokes and seriously funny dancing in Addison.
Look, folks, there are many enjoyable activities that only adults should take pleasure in – driving, voting, and marrying amongst them – and this show is another of those things. You will laugh yourself goofy with the shenanigans in this show, and it'll save you the cost of an insulin shot to counteract the sugar plum overload we're drowning in already this Christmas season. Once you've seen it, it will become a new (grown-up) tradition for your family every Christmas.
Cracked any nuts lately? Ho ho, ho-hum. It’s that time of year again. Every live theatre company hoping to rake in a pile of safe bucks subjects us to another dose of incarnations of Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchitt, wise-cracking elves, small saccharine women, not so wonderful lives, and wooden kitchen tools that come to life to dance romantically to fin de siecle classical music written by a depressed Russian “sensitive.” How to avoid diabetic overdose? Visions of decapitated sugarplums… Wait! There’s a remedy! Out at Addison’s Stone Cottage Theatre, Mark-Brian Sonna Productions offers the perfect antidote. The (fictitious) Beulaville Baptist Book Club presents A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker serves up a holiday trifle that oozes enough succulent sensuality to make nightie-clad Isadora Duncan blush. It’s a wafer-thin plot where respectable best intentions go way, way awry; but you won’t notice because you’ll be laughing so hard. Mark-Brian Sonna’s many talents tend to put him in the comic league with Steve Martin and the best of Benny Hill. Who knew he could dance ballet, too?
Act I is the setup and played a bit slow on opening night. The Book Club matrons have inadvertently poisoned the legitimate ballet troupe engaged to perform a benefit Nutcracker Ballet for their flagging book club. To save the day, a traveling bevy of burlesque dancers (look, don’t touch) steps in and bumps and grinds an irreverently refreshing version of the danced-to-death Tchaikovsky. Use your imagination. The Russian folk-based musical score worked like a charm. It was hard to hear actors’ lines delivered in Act II for the roars, howls and guffaws emanating from opening night’s full house audience. MBS Productions offers the unusual, the risqué, the thought-provoking as a standard fare. Their new holiday show is no exception!
Mark-Brian Sonna portrays a somewhat mentally-challenged hick dude named Dickey, with a penchant for eating bananas and dancing the two-step while watching his brother’s porno flicks. Finding himself cast in the role of the Nutcracker, surrounded by gyrating, half-clad, leggy beauties, opens his personal horizons in amazing ways. He steals the show. Aside from his impeccable comic timing and ability to deliver the tightest double entendre lines in N. Dallas, Mark-Brian actually keeps pace with the talented, well-schooled dancers creating the burlesque bevy. And can they dance!!! The playing space is narrow; but the gals twirl, soar, leap, and boogie down in perfect cadence and rhythm without the slightest hesitancy. It’s an unforgettable send-up, as are Mark-Brian’s cheeky buns clad in snug lilac tights. Kudos to choreographer Jana Edele and first-time director Jared Culpepper. Dancing provocatively as the Velvet Kittens are: Tiffany Hillert, Lisa Streiff, Corin S. Reyes, Abby Adkins, Tami Christensen and Monica Dollar.
Versatile comic actresses Sherri Small Truitt, Bethany Hubbard, Susan Davis and Caryn Spaniel, whose hair gets huger in every scene (a la Young Frankenstein), round out the cast. They make a sweet ensemble, playing off each other believably and realistically, functioning as a catalyst for the raunchy fun and source of conflict. The show needs them to connect the plot to the over-the-top Velvet Kittens’ routines.
MBS Productions’ A Bur-Les-Q Nutcracker transcends the conventional with gleeful tawdry delight and sends its audience out into the night with ho ho ho holiday hubba-hubba. Boogie on down for some XXX-mas seasonal cheer.
Purchase tickets online or by calling 214-477-4942.
Alexandra Bonifield is an independent arts critic & advocate for performance art.
The Beulaville Baptist Book Club presents: a Bur-less-Q Nutcracker! by Christopher Soden EDGE Dallas Sunday Dec 2, 2007
As much as anything, The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents : A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker! is a spoof on the myopic "family values" of ultra-conservative protestant religions and their desire to tell us what’s acceptable and what we must reject outright. In its clever, circumspect way it addresses intolerance and narrow-mindedness, never forgetting comedy or wit. Even the dance performances in the second act express the same clash of ideals, between the lofty cultural entertainment of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet and the perhaps earthier pleasure of exotic dancers.
Written and created by Mark-Brian Sonna and directed by Jared Culpepper, Beulaville takes wicked jibes at a book club in a small Texas town that plummets in popularity after an attempt to ban the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Led by long-suffering president, Sylvia (Sherri Small Truitt) the club must find some way to raise money, despite their never-ending battle to maintain morality and propriety in a fallen world. Sylvia is a bit high-strung and leans a bit towards hysteria, imposing her code of behavior on the other club members and (we gather) the rest of Beulaville, Texas.
In a moment of inspiration, the club members decide to enlist the help of a professional Ballet Troupe in staging a one-evening production of The Nutcracker to raise funds. Their bleak situation has just begun to improve when one of Madge’s culinary experiments (Pina Colada Casserole) makes the entire ballet company horribly ill. When a group of exotic dancers suffer van trouble en route to New Orleans, there is yet another solution on the horizon. The ladies (and Dickey, the one male member) figure dancing is dancing and all professional dancers know The Nutcracker, right? So after some wheedling and bartering, The Velvet Kittens agree to step up and help The Beulaville Baptist Book Club out of a jam. With embarrassing, raucous, and hilarious results.
In keeping with his habit of creating holiday theme shows (Theatre of Death, Theatre of Love) Mark-Brian Sonna decided to stage his own version of the Nutcracker, with a twist. Soliciting the help of Jana Edele (artistic director of The Red Light Burlesque and Comedy Review) and former collaborator Jared Culpepper, they set out to make a holiday show that would combine the pleasures of classical ballet with a jab to the funny bone.
Sonna’s background in ballet was of course a tremendous help. Auditions were especially difficult as they needed professionally trained dancers in addition to four "straight actors." Beulaville, of course, turns on the dance presentation in the second act. The choreography by Mark-Brian Sonna and Jana Edele, is ingenious, inspired and amusing. By turns graceful and bawdy, with just the right balance of edification and dance-hall shimmy.
There is lots of silly, madcap humor along the way, thanks to the chemistry of the ensemble cast : Wilma (Caryn Spaniel) Ramona (Bethany Hubbard) Madge (Susan Davis) and (Dickey) Mark-Brian Sonna. Director Jared Culpepper manages the timing nicely, whether working the shtick of Wilma’s faulty hearing aid or Dickey’s Texas spin on the enfant terrible’. Sherri Small Truitt carries quite a burden, as the humor is often predicated on her responses, and she does so with range and éclat. As any native Texan can tell you, the characters in Beulaville are recognizable and familiar, and the actors here make them comical and enjoyable.
The dancers here (aka The Velvet Kittens) Jana (Tiffany Hillert) Jenny (Abby Adkins) Jojo (Tami Christiansen) Jill (Monica Dollar) Jocelyn (Corin S. Reyes) Jessica (Lisa Streiff) also deserve special note, for their exquisite dancing abilities, their versatility and their comic gifts. It can’t be easy mixing dance expertise with physical comedy and allure. And I must say, Abby Adkins was positively smoking. I wonder if she has a brother?
Being and nothingness
By Arnold Wayne Jones - Stage Critic - Dallas Voice Dec 13, 2007, 17:25
‘Dog Sees God’ needs more comic buoyancy; ‘Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker’ is nothing but
For legal reasons, the author and producers of “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenaged Blockhead” cannot claim the play is based on Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip, but there’s nothing to stop me from saying it. It is. Absolutely. Definitely.
“Dog Sees God” is the theatrical equivalent of fan fiction, assuming the fan had a sick sense of humor. It’s about 10 years after the perpetual pre-adolescent age in which Schulz arrested his characters. They are now teens in a post-9/11 era, with all that accompanies life today.
Playwright Bert V. Royal has taken the psychologically complex “Peanuts” gang and extrapolated where they would be today, and the results are shocking for devotees of the cuddly comic: CB (Charlie Brown) might be gay for Beethoven (Schroeder); Van (Linus) is a pothead; Van’s Sister (Lucy) is in a mental institution for pyromania; Matt (Pigpen) has become a homophobic bully. They all drink too much and talk about sex (which they seem to practice unsafely). Child molestation, abortion and suicide figure into the story.
But the key to “Dog Sees God” that it is a comedy. A dark comedy? The darkest. But when it works best, it’s because it is laugh-out-loud funny for those who can get beyond the taboo of seeing Charlie Brown’s kid sis give head to Linus.
The problem with this production is that director Robert Neblett doesn’t seem to trust its comic chops. Scenes that could speed along with a “Seinfeld”-like rhythm are slowed by morose pacing. It’s as though Neblett allowed himself to forget that it works best as 90-minute comedic play with a sad thread, not a bittersweet 30-minute made-for-TV cartoon. Neblett seems to get it at first — the show begins in front of a graffiti-scarred brick wall, conjuring up 1980s standup — but slow, very noisy scene changes come when he strikes minor keys. The production needs more buoyancy.
James Chandler as CB seems hamstrung by the overt mawkishness squeezed out of him. Taylor Williams as Matt singlehandedly torpedoes any comic momentum. Williams is a kid (he just graduated high school) but that doesn’t make his performance less uncomfortable to watch.
It’s difficult to overcome the weaknesses owing to a badly done protagonist and antagonist, but “Dog Sees God” has something to recommend it. Royal’s script contains many great ideas — about Romanticism, about what leads teenagers to engage in Columbine-like behavior — and some of the actors are quite good. Drew Wall (Van), Chelsie Ashton (CB’s Sister) and Lindsay Neisast (Van’s Sister) are each charismatic and incredibly effective, and Stephanie Stuart and Natalie Young as the shallow “Mean Girls” that Peppermint Patty and Marcie became are fully of the energy of awfulness. The portrayal of familiar characters in such unexpected ways might be enough to get you to the Bath House.
It will probably take more spiked eggnog than is available in North Texas before I or any audience member will forget the image of Mark-Brian Sonna, clad in crotch-clinging lavender Capezios, hurtling toward us like a big gay asteroid to the strains of “The Nutcracker” suite.
But don’t think that escapes Sonna: He’s aiming for something indelibly comic, and he doesn’t seem to allow ego to stand in his way. If everyone at the Stone Cottage Theatre in Addison laughs at his expense, at least they are laughing.
The second half of Sonna’s original play, “The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker!,” is as ridiculously fun as its title suggests. A raunchy blasphemy of dance set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Christmastime masterpiece, it featuring surprisingly good ballet dancing staged in grossly inappropriate ways. Sonna, who danced professionally in his younger days, may have lost some of the leanness of his physique but that only serves to astonish the audience even more when he twinkles his toes while executing excellent entrechats and grandes jetes.
The silly titters enjoyed in Act 2 almost justify the clunkier moments of awkward exposition that plague Act 1. The premise is simple: The Jesus-loving, book-burning Baptists of Beulaville are in desperate need of a fundraiser and accidentally hire burlesque dancers to perform “The Nutcracker” for them.
It takes the better part of 40 minutes to posit that, during which we begin to suspect that Dickie (Sonna) is not only dumb but possibly gay, and that his nemesis in the club, Sylvia Sherri Small Truitt, channeling Dixie Carter from “Designing Women”) has something to hide. We also get lots of bawdy dialogue, such as a recounting of a lesbian porn film than one character finds so gross “I couldn’t lick a stamp for days.”
But if the jokes are hit-and-miss, it is always fun to watch bible-thumpers drop a few F-bombs, and by the time the sugar plum fairies begin their hoochie-koochie, you’ve almost totally forgotten the parts you didn’t like. This is a “Nutcracker” for anyone who always wanted to chuckle during the ballet but didn’t feel they could. Here, it’s encouraged.
“Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenaged Blockhead,” Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Through Dec. 22. Thursdays–Saturdays at 8 p.m. $15. 972-215-8059.
“The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker!,” Stone Cottage Theatre, Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road. Through Dec. 22. Wednesdays–Saturdays at 8 p.m., select weekend matinees. $16–$21. 214-477-4942. Burlesquenutcracker.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 14, 2007
'Tis the season for the attack of "The Nutcracker," the holiday staple that never fails to dazzle. But if you're the type who runs screaming from the room when you hear the first strains of "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," Dallas playwright Mark-Brian Sonna shares your seasonal angst and offers up the perfect antidote with "The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents: A Bur-less-Q Nutcracker!" In this delightfully saucy production - opening Thursday night at the Stone Cottage in Addison - the ladies of the Beulaville Baptist Book Club hire their local ballet company to perform the perennial Tchaikovsky holiday fave, in a last-ditch effort to keep themselves financially afloat. But when one of the book club's member's casseroles sickens the entire cast, the Velvet Kittens Burlesque Dancers step in to save the day. Whoo-hoo!
And yes, definitely keep in mind that "A Bur-less-Q Nutcracker!" is about as far from family-friendly as you can get, but fear not - there are several other area companies offering up the more traditional approach to the holiday classic, and there's even a production with marionettes.
No theatrical type in town is busier than Mark-Brian Sonna, who writes and directs and sometimes acts in a whole season of shows for his MBS Productions. His new holiday show's title pretty much tells the story. In The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents ... A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker!, a small-town book club tries to import the Beaumont Ballet's holiday show, and when the dancers get sick, somebody hires a burlesque company to take its place. Expect bumps and grinds and a few naughty words.
Published in The Dallas Morning News: 11.23.07
TIS THE SEASON FOR HO-HO-HOMO Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice
Around Christmastime each year, local theater companies trot out their holiday shows, but increasingly, the selection tends toward the unusual and gay-friendly. Back at WaterTower Theatre this week is the campy “Rockin’ Christmas Party” with gay actor Cedric Neal as the featured male caroler, followed on Thursday by the return of Nye Cooper, above, as Crumpet the lascivious gay elf in David Sedaris’ “The Santaland Diaries.” Rounding out the selections at the Addison Theatre Centre is the new work with a Texas twang by playwright and star Mark-Brian Sonna, below, called “The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker!” in the Stone Cottage space.
New theater troupe Inevitable Theater Company takes on the dark side of the “Peanuts” gang in the hilarious “Dog Sees God,” a kind of gay adult parody of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” opening Dec. 6 at the Bah House Cultural Center. Finally, Marco Rodriguez brings back his award-winning play “Heaven For-bid(s)!” for a three-night-only run.
“The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker!” Mark-Brian Sonna’s latest original play, about an impromptu production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet with hilarious consequences. Stone Cottage Theatre, Addison Theatre Center, 15650 Addison Road. Through Dec. 22. Wednesdays–Saturdays at 8 p.m. $16–$21. 214-477-4942. Burlesquenutcracker.com.
Tinsel and Tassels By Jesse Hughey, Dallas Observer
Nothing enlivens family holiday gatherings quite like a burlesque routine. My favorite Thanksgiving ever was at the home of my mother-in-law two years ago, shortly after my wife's cousin, Kelly Ball, completed her latest straight-to-video acting endeavor. Still high on the excitement of a finished project, she gathered an audience of family members to watch her scenes in Naughty Pilates, which combines burlesque, Pilates and atrocious jokes with a neo-rockabilly soundtrack. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I relished the horrified face of an octogenarian woman of uncertain relation after Kelly appeared onscreen in a slick vinyl nurse-fetish outfit wielding a prop syringe. Local theatergoers can cherish burlesque holiday memories too, as writer Mark-Brian Sonna's The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents: A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker premieres this week. A fund-raising ballet is threatened when the troupe is stricken with food poisoning. Fortunately, the va-va-voom Velvet Kittens just happen to be stranded in town. Shows are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays through December 22 at the Stone Cottage Theatre at the Addison Conference and Theatre Center, 15650 Addison Road. Tickets are $16 to $21. Call 214-477-4942 or visit burlesquenutcracker.com