If you are looking for a holiday themed show to see this season that is polically correct, in keeping with honored traditions as well as being inspiring and wholesome for the entire family, I strongly advise you to stay away from the Cleveland Public Theatre production of “The Loush Sisters Do the Nutcracker”. If however you want a refuge from the sugar plum infused “other fare” of ghosts of Christmas past and classical ballet and feel the need to see a bawdy and hilarious send-up of all things Christmas, then this is the show for you.
In keeping with the cult following tradition of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” this is definitely not a show for everyone’s tastes. It is crude, rude and obtuse but in a ridiculously funny way.
“The Loush Sisters Do the Nutcracker” (pronounced “loosh” which is a combination of the words loose and lush only fancy) began life as a holiday show benefit for Cleveland Public Theatre in 2003. It is the brainchild (or perhaps brain dead is more apt) of Liz Conway, Michael Seevers, Jr. and Beth Wood. It stars Beth as Holly, Liz as Jolly and Sheffia Randall Dooley as Butter Rum.
The Loush girls are coming off their highly touted “I-80 Pennsylvania to Indiana Tour of Destiny” that was followed by a series of one night gigs at various area traffic circles (sometimes less depending on the sharpness of the local constabulary). Residents of Northeast Ohio may recognize them by their hand held sign “will do ‘anything’ for food…and we mean ‘anything’!
The twerpy trio then went off the radar as they settled in for a long winter’s nap while homesteading in the outdoor section of the local WalMart. This arrangement had all the markings of permanence until Black Friday hit and they found themselves in the middle of a “BrawlMart” (the episode was filmed and posted on YouTube). Quick as a flash their luxury tent “home” (on sale for 40% off) was snatched up by eager shoppers and the two girls , Holly and Jolly, found themselves on stage at Cleveland Public Theatre (Butter Rum stayed behind and found work as “the voice of WalMart” and as a “customer comfort specialist”).
As in all Christmas miracles and/or catastrophes Holly and Jolly are joined on stage by the rest of their family (Folly, Dolly, Wolly, Lolly, Polly, Olly and Bob. A mysterious package arrives for Holly and Jolly and inside is the family nutcracker which legend states will come to life if it finds “true love”. The family attempts to bring the nutcracker to life with obviously skewed ideas on what “true love” is.
They are joined by Butter Rum all decked out in her princess gown (30% off all items in the WalMart princess collection through December) as the troupe dances, sings, acts and clowns their way to a triumphant climax (something that most of them have been in need of for years). The high point of the show is the “ballet” spoof that had people falling out of their chairs (but that could have been the alcohol since it was later in the show).
The set is pretty remarkable. It consists of a three tiered stage set-up with ground level cabaret tables and chairs in front and bleacher type seating farther out. There is a glittering curtain of floor to top tinsel with large gold holiday themed squares surrounding the tinsel gateway. Lighted and decorated Christmas trees flank both edges of the stage with gifts under them. Tinsel rope is used to accent the various levels of stairs that make up the stage. The keyboard is perched on the left and is decorated as well. The lighting is bright and cheerful giving everything a festive quality. There is even a mirror ball that lights up and spins cascading the room in patterns of light. As you enter the theater the sound system is playing some of the most obscure Christmas songs that even I have ever heard setting the mode for the play.
As in all good productions there are small things that I saw as problems. While everyone did a smashing job in their roles there were times that the dialog got lost. Passing a hand microphone around helped some but miking each actor would have helped more. The piano playing started out a little ragged but was soon up to speed. Most glaring of all was the under use of Sheffia Randall Dooley who is kept off stage until nearly the end of the first act. In the second act she literally carries the show with her voice, facial expressions and stage presence. I would suggest having her on stage from the get go.
Prude Alert: This is not your grandmother’s nutcracker (unless your grandmother runs a bordello in Reno). There is a little language but a lot (and I mean A LOT) of sexual references and innuendos) that will have you either blushing or laughing your head off. Those easily offended need not apply.
Shooting From The Lip (My Last Words): The Loush Sisters Do the Nutcracker is a irreverent romp that combines holiday songs with pop music to highlight the history of the highly dysfunctional Loush family. For those with an open mind and a warped sense of humor you will find it entertaining and ridiculous. It is a nice alternative for the holidays.
The Loush Sisters DO the Nutcracker cast includes Dionne Atchison, Liz Conway, Melissa Therese Crum, Sheffia Randall Dooley, Ryan Edlinger, Vincent Ester (accompanist), Dan Kilbane, Val Kozlenko, Amy Schwabauer and Beth Wood.
Creative team includes Lauren Calevich (Stage Manager), Jenniver Sparano (Costume Designer), Richard Ingraham (Sound Designer) and Beth Wood (Set Designer). The production is directed by Beth Wood, with musical direction by Michael Seevers, Jr.
The Loush Sisters DO the Nutcracker at CPT runs through Saturday, December 21 at CPT’s historic Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District.
Performances are 7:30 pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Mondays.
Tickets are $18 – 36. Group discount of $5 off each ticket plus a free drink per person for parties of 8+.
Premium tickets are $26 (Thur/Mon/Sun) and $36 (Fri/Sat), includes cabaret seating and table service.
General admission is $18 (Thur/Mon/Sun) and $28 (Fri/Sat).
Every Friday is FREE BEER (and wine, too!) FRIDAY at CPT. Audience members are invited to mingle with the artists after the show and enjoy a drink or two on CPT.
Tickets are available for purchase online at www.cptonline.org or by phone at (216) 631-2727 x 501.
CPT develops new, adventurous work; and nurtures Northeastern Ohio artists – particularly those whose work is inventive, intelligent, and socially conscious.
For more information about The Loush Sisters DO the Nutcracker or other upcoming productions at CPT, please visit www.cptonline.org or contact Cathleen O’Malley, Director of Audience Engagement & Media Relations at 216.631.2727 x 212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.