Cabaret Red Light brings back revamped holiday classic

Cabaret Red Light brings back revamped holiday classic

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One of the hottest tickets of the last holiday season returns this year when Cabaret Red Light presents its version of “The Nutcracker” Dec. 8-11.

Cabaret Red Light debuted its interpretation of the holiday classic last year, infusing elements of ballet, puppetry, live music and burlesque. And by all accounts, people were lined up to see it.

“It was pretty ridiculous,” cast member and choreographer Christine Fisler said. “Last year, every night I felt overwhelmed. I think it sold out every night except for one. That was pretty good.”

Peter Gaffney, co-creator and cast member, attributed most of the turnout last year to people who wanted something more than the typical kid-friendly shows that saturate the holidays.

“I think that there’s something about the holidays that is sweet and a little bit too family-oriented for a lot of people, especially living in the city,” Gaffney said. “A lot of adults really miss this kind of programming that is serious entertainment and something that is not just for children. We had a huge turnout last year and a lot of people that came out were not regular fans [of Cabaret Red Light].”

“I think a lot of people are hearing about Cabaret Red Light and seeing our shows getting bigger and better,” Fisler added. “Also it’s Christmastime, so ‘The Nutcracker’ is a big seller. Most people have seen the Tchaikovsky version and they sort of want to be a little naughty.”

Both Gaffney and Fisler said that the burlesque elements to the show lend themselves to the original Nutcracker story, which is darker than the versions most people are accustomed to seeing.

“This is really something that has widespread appeal,” Gaffney said of Cabaret Red Light’s version of the show. “We went back to the original story by E.T.A. Hoffman and it’s not controversial. He described it as a fairytale for adults. More than being risqué, it’s much darker. Somehow the Drosselmeyer character’s relationship to Marie, it’s almost like he’s trying to teach her how to think independently outside of what her parents want for her. It has a lot to do with marriage and sexuality. There is a controversy at the heart of the original story but I don’t think anybody will come to the show and think it’s controversial.“

“Like all original stories — like Brothers Grimm — this is a little more macabre,” Fisler added. “It tells you how the Nutcracker came to be. It’s a story that Drosselmeyer is telling his niece before she goes to bed. She cuts her arm on a glass cabinet when she’s frightened by mice at night. She’s sick in bed and her uncle is telling her the story of the Nutcracker. So there’s a little bit of that mixed with cabaret and burlesque, and it’s an adult version. It’s sexy, dark and political.”

People who saw “The Nutcracker” last year have an incentive to see Cabaret Red Light’s production this year, as the company has made some changes.

“It is the same music and a lot of the same staging but we have a few new numbers,” Gaffney said. “When we originally made the show, we planned to have some parts of the show that are flexible in that way.”

“There are some new costumes and dance numbers,” Fisler added. “It was our first time doing it last year. We wanted to see if we could do it better by watching it and seeing what went wrong. We are trying to make it more professional, bigger and better.”

Cabaret Red Light’s “Nutcracker” runs Dec. 8-11 at Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St. For more information, visit or call 215-925-9914.

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