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If you are looking for the hottest show in New York, look no further than Austin Mccormick’s Company XIV’s production of Nutcracker Rouge. If you have seen this naughty, but nice show before, think again because this is a new version. XIV blends dance in all formats, opera, pop, cirque de Soleil and burlesque into one tantalizing evening. Seduction is the teaser to a bawdy entertainment refined by talent, beauty and exceptional dancers whose bodies are works of art. Mccormick is the genius behind this glorious choreographed pleasure.

The action is breathtakingly close and thrillingly desirable.

The plot follows Marie Claire (The stunningly expressive Laura Careless), who is gifted a magical nutcracker to be sexually indoctrinated into choosing to fulfill her destiny as a ruling Sugar Plum Fairy. If you ever saw the porn musical versions of Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella, you will understand the journey. Shelly Watson, a Sharon McKnight doppelganger leads this tale of debauchery with a tongue and check approach. Her “Material Girl” blends with the classic Tchaikovsky making this a jukebox extravaganza in styles. This year we enter a sweet shop with all the sugary delights of season.

Along her way Marie is tempted and aroused by the Turkish Delights (Nicholas and Ross Katen and Brett Umlaif) who dance salaciously. Marcy Richardson bubbles upside down as she does a aerial routine over our heads, while singing opera. The Licorice Boys, the Candied Violets and the Candy Canes are all temptations not to be missed.

Until a new poodle number and the Can Can orgy with a giant stuffed phallus the show stays sensual and carnal and less lascivious and vulgar. At times it borders on the S&M, or the 50 Shades of Grey side, where anything goes.

The final pas de deux with Marie and her prince (Steven Trumon Gray) was a physical beauty of athleticism, where wanton passion is set free.

Zane Pihlstrom’s costume and set design are lustful and decedent. Jeanette Yew’s lighting keeps things in a dreamy, titillating haze.

XIV takes burlesque and showcase it as one hell or heavenly sexual entertainment where talent is exhibited with a flourish.

Nutcracker Rouge: Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane between MacDougal Street and 6th Avenue until Jan. 13th.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Dance

A Sign of the Times Off-Broadway Dreams of the Dawn of a New Day

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It’s the dawn of a new day, says A Sign of the Times, the latest jukebox musical that opens itself up to a sweet nostalgia of American postwar at the New World Stages off-Broadway. It’s overflowing with well-known songs from the 1960s, beautifully performed and glowing, with melodies made popular and iconic by Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, and Lesley Gore. With such a strong playlist at its core, the new musical, created by producer Richard J. Robin (Memphis) with a somewhat contrived book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman (MacGyver the Musical), tries valiantly to stitch together the tale of a young woman, Cindy, played with wide-eyed determination by Chilina Kennedy (Broadway’s Paradise Square) who is trying with all her might to find a different way of living outside the heteronormative Ohio small town community she rings in the new year with. It’s a well-formulated beginning, possibly because of the fine crew surrounding her, especially her two gal pals, portrayed wonderfully by the very talented and funny Alyssa Carol (Broadway’s Bad Cinderella) and Maggie McDowell (Broadway’s Kinky Boots) giving it their all. The two are conflicted, wanting her both to stay and marry her handsome, epic raspy-voiced boyfriend, Matt, played deliciously croon-worthy by Justin Matthew Sargent (Broadway’s Spider-Man…) giving off a dreamy Luke Perry/Dylan vibe in abundance, but they also would love for her to get out of Ohio and follow her photographic dreams in the big city of New York. Like any good friend would.

J Savage, Alyssa Carol, Justin Matthew Sargent, Chilina Kennedy, and Cassie Austin in A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

But the well-strummed “I Only Want to Be with You” proposal, delivered smoothly by Sargent’s Matt, is not enough to hold down the “Who Am I?” questioning for Cindy, and off she goes on an awkwardly tight bus ride to the Big Apple in hope that “Round Every Corner” there might be some morsel of career success. It’s an empowering first chapter to Cindy’s adventure, even with the all too true and too funny apartment hunting shenanigans. Packed in with it all also comes about every culturally significant political movement that existed in those formative years, passively aggressively shoved into this tale of a time and a place in our cultural history. None of which have gone away. It’s a grand attempt, overflowing with issues and meaning, as this musical tries its best to give us another shiny and splashy Hairspray. That comparison, I know is an ‘apples to oranges jukebox’ one, but that show, back in its day, magically and deftly found its way to encapsulate segregation and racism in 1962 Baltimore with originality and musical gold, but unfortunately, with this show’s heavy-handed book, A Sign of the Times doesn’t hold its shape as strongly as that aerosol can of Ultra Clutch was made to do for those dos. Even with all of these stellar songs and performances brought to life at New World Stages.

But the cast of pros can not be held back by this book, as each and everyone delivers those iconic songs with charm, vitality, and style on a slick stage design by Evan Adamson (Le Petit Theatre’s A Christmas Carol) with expert lighting design by Ken Billington (Broadway’s New York, New York), determined and fun costuming by Johanna Pan (Barrington’s James and the Giant Peach), and a solid sound design by Shannon Slaton (Broadway’s Melissa Etheridge: My Window). Their voices ring out infectiously strong, leading us through the chance encounters and “Count Me In” moments that basically “Rescue Me” and everyone around them, particularly Crystal Lucas-Perry (Broadway’s Ain’t No Mo’) as the aspiring singer/quick-change artist Tanya, who even though she was under-mic’d in the first act, still managed to captivate, even when given dialogue that was as corny as Corny Collins. “Something [does] Got a Hold on Me” when she starts to sing, so “why am I dreaming about something else?“.


Crystal Lucas-Perry and Chilina Kennedy in Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

There is also the political activist/protestor and Tanya’s handsome man, Cody, played solidly by the well-voiced Akron Lanier Watson (Broadway’s The Color Purple revival) who tries to engage us and her with the cause. On the other end of that police baton, there is a slimy advertising executive Brian, played true to form by Ryan Silverman (Broadway’s Side Show), who uses his power and privilege to woo the determined Cindy. Yet, even with all those red flags flying, she continues to hold on to her dream of being a photographer, even as we watch her fall for this creepy businessman who charms her into not seeing the ugly blending of professional and personal that is rampant in their workplace and in his demeanor. It’s a stretch of the “Gimme Some Lovin’” imagination to believe Cindy, let alone the more worldly Tanya, can not see clearly through his harassment schtick from that first walk home, but I guess we can relax through this two-and-a-half-hour show knowing that it has to come eventually in this “Five O’clock World” gone wild.

Not even when the old Ohio boyfriend, Matt, whom we are all starting to warm up to a bit more with each Brian/Cindy “Call Me” moment, calls himself asking her to take the “Last Train to Clarksville” before he heads off to Vietnam after getting drafted, does Cindy falter in her dream of photography career success. But it’s hard to quibble about too many hot topics for one show when the cast is having so much fun kicking up their heels to the strong choreography of JoAnn M. Hunter (Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and her “The Shoop Shoop Song” energy. The playfulness shines when used in the right moments, exemplified in the “The ‘In’ Crowd” party, hosted by the wildly fun, pop artist, cheekily named Randy Forthwall, played joyfully by Edward Staudenmayer (Broadway’s Girl from the North Country) who also adds that same flair to a dozen other minor roles. It is exactly the formula this show needs a whole lot more of and is the bus ride that could bring it success.

Edward Staudenmayer, Melessie Clark, Lena Teresa Matthews, Alyssa Carol, Erica Simone Barnett, Kuppi Alec Jessop, and Crystal Lucas-Perry in Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Director Gabriel Barre (Broadway’s Amazing Grace) does his best to keep the engine running, but sometimes he stalls it with a few heavy-handed approaches to some bigger issue moments, like Tanya’s “Society’s Child“. It’s touching but somehow too light and in need of a stronger punch, but I also have a feeling that Lucas-Perry could have handled that one all on her own without the dramatization playing out awkwardly over to the side. Yet, once again, the music is what delivers the energy and charm of this piece “Downtown” for our pleasure under the direction of music director Britt Bonney (Broadway’s Camelot) with music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Joseph Church (Broadway’s The Lion King). But as with many jukebox musicals, the songs are the gold here, even when the lyrics only fit marginally into the storyline. The belting and the wildly colorful embodiment of the period are exactly what the piece needs to take it to the finishing line. Not the clumsy overwrought storyline and dialogue, checking as many boxes as one could hope for, that stops it in its soundtracks.

Trying hard to be a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people, Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times does find its way to be filled up with a ton of 1960s musical delights, performed wonderfully, all lined up in a row. Unfortunately, it is also a show with a storyline spit out by a computer program to cover all the issues of the time and place (and beyond, maybe “ten years ahead of wherever“) shoved in between and inside the cracks awkwardly. It never really finds its way into the well-balanced heights of its counterpart Hairspray, but it does entertain you well when it embraces the music it wants to share with us. Brad Peterson’s projection design (Off-Broadway’s Broadway Bounty Hunter) tries his best to add dimension and the weight of the decade with his projected photographs of activists and social movement moments, but the energy of the music presented here is really what drives this musical to its destination.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Art

Events for March

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St. Patrick’s Day, Women’s History Month, a Harlem Renaissance exhibit at the Met with160 works by Black artists. Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature,at The Morgan Library & Museum through 6/9. The Orchid show continues until 4/21 at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Florals in Fashion highlights the work of designers Hilary Taymour (Collina Strada), Olivia Cheng (Dauphinette) and Kristen Alpaugh, aka FLWR PSTL Also Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz’s “Giants,”is at the Brooklyn Museum until 7/7. The exhibition features artists who have made and continue to make a significant impact on the art world and contemporary culture. The show features 98 artworks by Black American, African, and African artists including Gordon Parks, Kehinde Wiley, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mickalene Thomas, Hassan Hajjaj, Barkley L. Hendricks, Lorna Simpson, and Amy Sherald.

3/1 -3: The Vienna Philharmonic one of the world’s most celebrated orchestras, takes center stage at Carnegie Hall.

3/3 -5: Coffee Fest NY Javits.

3/3 -5: International Beauty Show Javits.

3/6 – 10: The New Colossus Festival provides a platform for new artists, including international bands making their NYC debuts. The festival will take place across multiple venues mostly spread throughout the Lower East Side and the East Village, including Bowery Electric, Mercury Lounge, Berlin, Heaven Can Wait, and others. This year’s artists include Cucamaras (UK), Ducks LTD (Canada), Heffner (US), Holiday Ghosts (UK), Hotel Lux (UK), Housewife (Canada), and more. You can check out the full lineup and schedule of events here.

3/8: International Women’s Day 

Steven Reineke by Michael Tammaro, Bryan Terrell Clark by Asher Angeles, Valisia LeKae by Antonio Navas

3/15: The New York Pops Hitsville: Celebrating Motown

3/1 -17: The Annual Flamenco Festival with 22 performances across 13 different venues all over the city.

3/1 -17: The New York International Children’s Film FestivalHappy St. Patricks Day
3/17: Join in on the 263rd celebration of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC. The parade kicks off at 11am, moving along Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 82nd Street. This year’s grand marshal, Maggie Timoney, president and CEO of Heineken USA, is only the fifth woman to lead the parade since its inception.

3/20 -24: Affordable Art Fair with over 400 living artists to discover you are sure to find your next perfect artwork.

3/23 – 11/: JAPAN Fes, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. This is the largest Japanese food festival in the world, with over 1,000 vendors.

The Macy Flower Show

3/24 – 4/7: The Annual Macy’s Flower Show created in partnership with Dior.

3/26 – 10/2: Apollo: When We Went to the Moon at The Intrepid Museum. The exhibit is included with museum admission.

3/29 – 4/7: The International Auto Show at the Javitts.

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Celebrity

Everybody Shout Cuchi Cuchi! Charo Comes to Queens March 2nd

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WOW! When I heard Charo was coming to Queens to play at The Queens Theater all I could do was exclaim Cuchi Cuchi! No, I did not shake my booty like she has been doing for the last 6 decades; but, the thought of her brought back wonderful memories of her on The Johnny Carson Show and The Love Boat. Her infectious energy made her a TV favorite throughout the 70s and 80s and her popularity has reemerged with her frequent appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race (another single named icon.)

Born María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza it’s no wonder that she is best know by the single name Charo, much like Cher, Donny and Marie (who she worked with on their self-titled variety shows); and Elvis in whose documentary she appeared.

Her over the top personality belied the fact that she is an internationally acclaimed classical Flamenco guitarist, actress, singer and comedian. She was twice voted “Flamenco Guitarist of the Year” by Guitar Player magazine and her flamenco inspired platinum album “Guitar Passion” was named Female Pop Album of the Year at the Billboard International Latin Music Conference in 1995.

Beginning her career in her teens in Spain as a prodigy guitarist she was discovered by bandleader Xavier Cugat (do you remember he was Ricky Riccardo’s unseen nemesis on I Love Lucy?). He brought her to America and the two were the first couple to be married in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Her extensive musical resume includes six albums and a dozen singles. She has toured the country and headlined in Las Vegas, Mohegan Sun and at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and now she is in Queens for one night only.

“We have been looking forward to this performance all season! I love telling people that Charo will be at Queens Theatre – they light up.  She is a true entertainer, who has brought multiple generations joy, from her appearances with Johnny Carson to her Instagram feed today,” said Taryn Sacramone, Executive Director, Queens Theatre.It will truly be an honor to have Charo play guitar on our stage; she is an unbelievable musician. Everyone who loves music should see her perform live.”

This is an event for all ages and an exciting addition to anyone’s entertainment calendar.

Tickets for Charo’s performance at Queens Theatre start at $37. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: https://queenstheatre.org/event/charo/. For more details, visit www.queenstheatre.org or call the Box Office at (718) 760-0064.

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Broadway

Chita Rivera Will Dance No More Except In Our Hearts

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Caricature by Ken Fallin

Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero Anderson, known professionally as Chita Rivera, appeared in over 20 Broadway musicals. She was awarded two Tony Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, and a Drama League Award. She was the first Latina and the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor in 2002, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. She won the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018 and was a legend. Today we lost one of the greats.

She will be forever remembered as Anita in West Side Story, Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie, Velma Kelly in Chicago, and Aurora in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. At 91 she was still going. After making her Broadway debut as a dancer in Guys and Dolls (1950), she went on to originate roles in multiple Broadway musicals.

She was a ten-time Tony Award nominee, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical twice for her roles in The Rink (1984)


and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993). She was Tony-nominated for her roles in Bye Bye Birdie (1961), Chicago (1975), Merlin (1983), Jerry’s Girls (1986), Nine (2003), and The Visit (2015).


Rivera acted in the film Sweet Charity (1969) and appeared in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band(1978), and Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021). She played Connie Richardson in the CBS sitcom The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1973–1974).


She also appeared on television in The Judy Garland Show (1963), The Carol Burnett Show (1971), and Will & Grace (2005). 

In 2005 Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, a retrospective of her career, opened on Broadway. She received another Tony nomination for her self-portrayal.

Pat Addiss producer of A Dancer’s Life, Chita Rivera Photo by Magda Katz

In 2012, Rivera played “Princess Puffer” in the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54.


Rivera returned to Broadway in The Visit, the final musical written by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Terrence McNally. She received a Tony nod and a Drama Desk Award.

John Kander, Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell Photo by Magda Katz

John Kander, Chita Rivera Photo by Magda Katz

The Astaire Awards were rebranded The Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography in 2017.

Chita Rivera Photo by Magda Katz

Her autobiography, Chita: A Memoir, was published in 2023.

Rivera died in New York following a brief illness on January 30, 2024 and she will be forever remembered.

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Broadway

Events For December

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