FORT WORTH -- If your impression of ballet dancers is that they're stiff and rigid, you'll have to check out Texas Ballet Theater's The Nutty Nutcracker -- next year. The once-a-year pop culture sendup of the traditional Nutcracker comes but once a year, and Friday night at Bass Hall was it.
Nutty proved that ballet dancers not only are naturals for aping dance styles from pop culture, but they have a knack for physical comedy, too. Their pratfalls are funny; the facial expressions even more so.
Nowhere is this more apparent that in final Sugar Plum Fairy/Cavalier pas de deux, which here becomes an awkward pas de trois because the Sugar Plum Fairy is conjoined twins, with two dancers wearing one tutu (with no printed programs and lots of wigs and outrageous costumes, it's hard to tell who some of the dancers are).
Lucas Priolo, as the Cavalier, has some priceless reactions. In the opening party scene, the house is inhabited by the Peanuts gang (Thomas Kilps is an adorable Charlie Brown), and the guests include Batman and Robin, the Blue Man Group, Dolly Parton, the Marx Brothers, a preggers Snooki (played by dancer Leticia Oliviera, who's really pregnant) and Big Bird.
A bike-riding, Spandex-wearing Lance Armstrong is promptly stripped of his medals, which are given to the American women's gymnastics team.
Drosselmeyer is Abe Lincoln (Paul Adams), the first toy who comes to life is Carly Rae Jepsen, breaking out into Call Me Maybe, and the second toys are John Travolta and Olivia Newton John as Danny and Sandy from Grease (Alexander and Heather Kotelenets).
The show uses the same sets and this year's new special flying effects (Mary Poppins and Queen Elizabeth, spoofing on the Summer Olympics James Bond helicopter skydive, soar above the stage). But the dancers help come up with the characters, bits and dance routines, with little rehearsal. It's silly, but with style.