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Originally published December 9, 2009 at 7:00 PM | Page modified December 10, 2009 at 5:55 PM

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How sweet it is: A burlesque run at 'The Nutcracker'

"Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker" is Lily Verlaine and company's take on a holiday favorite — an after-hours take, that is.

Special to The Seattle Times

Performance preview

'Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker'

7 and 10 p.m. Monday, 7 and 10 p.m. Dec. 15-17 and 21-23; 7 and 10:30 p.m. Dec. 18-19; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 20. (Early shows are 17+, late 21+). Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle, $28-$32 (206-838-4333 or www.thetripledoor.net).

In burlesque, everything can be bastardized. As producer-performers Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann will reveal in their fourth annual "Land of the Sweets," that includes "The Nutcracker." Jazzed-up versions of the iconic ballet's original songs will soundtrack a trip — via swing dance, striptease, aerial acrobatics, and yes, ballet — to an adult-oriented, fantastical winter wonderland.

Hot on the high heels of the duo's hallucinatory adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland" earlier this year, choreographer Verlaine and presenter McCann — along with a star-studded cast — reprise their 1930s-cabaret-style take on the Tchaikovsky classic. Here, the Nutcracker characters play in their off time, trimming the tree and sharing "sweets" that are bolder than Turkish delight.

For instance, Kitten La Rue's "Hot Chocolate" is a treasure wrapped in gold foil ... but for how long? Boylesque superstar Waxie Moon is a scandalous Rat King. And Verlaine's "Countess of Coffee," who famously steams up the stage, is a far cry from her childhood role in the Nutcracker. Here, the vivacious Verlaine gives us the scoop.

Q: What changes can the audience expect in this year's run?

A: Ben de La Crème is taking over the role of Ginger! from "The Swedish Housewife." Miss Indigo Blue is the Snow Queen: Her comedy is so good that she'll really command it, as she does everything. And we have three adorable young ladies — Inga Ingenue, Lou Henry Hoover and Polly Wood — who are the comic foil as the Snowflakes. People were asking for more of them, and they'll have their own vignettes in front of the curtain.

Q: How did your ballet training, including at the San Francisco Ballet School, prepare you for the world of burlesque?

A: My mother started stretching my feet when I was 2 days old, because she wanted me to be a ballet dancer. I love ballet, but I don't like being yelled at by directors. It's so much a part of ballet, how it becomes this tight, precise, technical, beautiful thing.

I really like what we're doing now, because I don't have to wait for anyone to tell me it's OK to do something. I can do whatever I want, which is fun — within certain guidelines that I impose on myself. [The humor of burlesque] is so attractive. The unexpected can happen.

Q: Tell us your Nutcracker story.

A: [This story is] how I met [my troupe] the Atomic Bombshells. They made me really nervous ... I didn't know what burlesque was. They were totally polished, with wigs and makeup, and I was like 'what is that?' So I talked to Fanny N'Flames after a show. I told her this stupid story about being in my first 'Nutcracker,' how I took this big arabesque toward the audience and my whole costume fell down. It was the only thing I could think to say to this woman. [Then] she asked me to audition, and I had so much fun. I'd never danced that way before. It was so freeing to learn how to shimmy, and learn that it was OK to feel your flesh move.

Rachel Shimp: rachel.e.shimp@gmail.com

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