Moral whiplash

Nick Wardigo and dancer Lelu Lenore

Nick Wardigo and performer Lelu Lenore

I am pleased to report that I just enjoyed a Christmas-themed weekend of monumentally-juxtaposed experiences.  On Saturday night, Aurora and I caught the 10 pm show of a burlesque version of Nutcracker, and then on Sunday afternoon, we saw a performance of Handel’s Messiah.  Moral whiplash.

I haven’t seen a lot of burlesque, but the Cabaret Administration’s production of Nutcracker had a fascinating write-up in the City Paper a few weeks ago.  This show blew me away with its unorthodox blend of ballet and—how does one say it?—va-va-va-voom.  Now, I’ve been impressed with the writing (yes, the writing) of the few burlesque shows I’ve seen in the past (particularly at the Walking Fish Theatre), so I knew to expect something a little more than a peep show.  And, yes, I’ve been impressed by the physicality of the performers.  But the choreography on this thing opened my understanding of how broad burlesque can be.  One moment, Marie (played by Vita La Dolce) was sharing a curiously quiet, poignant moment, and the next, there was a bacchanal featuring performers in pig masks.  Yeah, I’ll be having nightmares about that second one for a while.

On the downside, the music was jarring.  There were weird shifts between Tchaikovsky and modern music that often didn’t work.  But I gotta give these guys points for trying something different.

Have to admit, Messiah left me cold.  I know only slightly more about classical music than I do about burlesque, but I do enjoy a little Beethoven or Mozart now and again.  Listening to Vivaldi over a cup of morning coffee can be divine.  But I was largely ignorant of Handel, and I can’t help but wonder, does anyone else think this guy was a hack?

It wasn’t the performance.  I thought the Brandywine Singers did a fantastic job, bringing in some soloists and an orchestra, complete with a harpsichord and something that looked liked an enormous lute.  I just didn’t like the music.  I understand the Hallelujah Chorus is a paragon of music genius, but even as I was listening to it, I kept wishing it was Ode to Joy.  Still, I’m glad I went.  The West Chester United Methodist Church is a gorgeous venue, and it’s always fun to wander the streets of West Chester, particularly this time of year, when the students have fled and the town is decked out in holiday cheer.

I hope everybody is having a lovely December-holiday-of-their-choice and, like myself, taking advantage of the wide variation of holiday entertainments.

The interior of the West Chester United Methodist Church

The interior of the West Chester United Methodist Church

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