Doff we now our gay apparelDan Jakeson December 7, 2022 at 5:19 pm

There are two Christmas pantomimes based upon 19th-century fables currently playing on Chicago stages, and unless Mary Zimmerman has been up to some dramatic retooling, it’s safe to assume this is the only one that features crotch sparks. Producer Jaq Seifert’s cheeky, irreverent holiday-themed burlesque revue returns for its sixth edition and first back from a two-year pandemic hiatus, this round in a nightclub-styled space upstairs at the Greenhouse Theater Center.

The Buttcracker: A Nutcracker Burlesque Through 12/31: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM; also Sat 12/31 9 PM, no performances Sat-Sun 12/24-12/25; Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln, 773-404-7336, or, $30-$50 general admission (industry and SRO $20, VIP $75-$100, which includes stageside table, private VIP bar, meet and greet with artists, and show merchandise); NYE $60-$100 general admission, $150-$200 VIP. 18+ (21+ to drink)

If a glitzy, rouged, politely horny retelling of Tchaikovsky’s ballet seems like an odd bird of a holiday theater offering, knowing its debut home—the defunct Uptown Underground space, operating today as The Baton Show Lounge—may help contextualize it as the high-energy, campy cabaret offering that it is. This year’s iteration, featuring set design by Gabrielle Strong and lighting by Samuel Stephen, does a remarkable job of transferring that essential lounge bar vibe to what is otherwise a traditional theater black box venue.

Director Miguel Long’s production, with choreography by Dylan Kerr, works hard to earn a spot on the naughty list, but there’s no denying it runs off a heart of gold, serving up pasties and feather fans and risquéness without raunch. Long’s Buttcracker is an inviting and joyfully queer experience that celebrates beards and heels and tits and bellies and butts in any and all combinations, then decks them in holly. Elena Avila (Clara), Olivia Lindsay (Buttcracker), and Claire Francescon (Drosselmeyer) make for charismatic guides, and the show’s lineup promises a rotating billing of magicians and circus acts and dancers.

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