Q: What do you get when you combine a batch of talentless dancers with mediocre choreography, then throw in forty yards of lace, a dash of tinsel, and enough high-heeled shoes to make Carrie Bradshaw weak in the knees?
A: No, not a Cher concert. You’ve got "Balletto Stiletto!"
Presented by La MaMa E.T.C, “Balletto Stiletto,” a yuletide-themed story about an overprotective father and his nine unruly daughters, is the East Village’s appalling attempt to bring Dickens and those long-legged Rockettes downtown. A loose interpretation on the Brothers Grimm fairytale “The 12 Dancing Princesses,” Stiletto is an uneasy hybrid—a quirky combination of theatre, dance, and music—and proof that this kind of integration is best left to Japanese car manufacturers.
Stiletto begins at the peak of the holiday shopping rush. Bruno, a successful entrepreneur and father to a harem of naughty offspring, is conflicted: every night he sentences the girls to their room where, under lock and key, they are barred from leaving the house until sunup, but, in the morning, when the King unlocks the deadbolt, he finds his daughters sweaty and exhausted and their shoes worn through to the soles. In response, Bruno, a dense man to say the least, declares whoever can resolve the mystery will marry one of his nine dance-crazed, over-sexed daughters. Many take the King’s challenge only to fail and have their throats slit, à la Quentin Tarantino-like gore, by the cantankerous old man. (What’s a little holiday cheer without some bloodshed, right?). Meanwhile, the girls continue shaking their groove thangs each night at an underground disco in Manhattan, unaware their suitors are being sliced-and-diced by dear old Papi.
As if Christmastime decapitation wasn’t the worst offering from Stiletto, the show goes on to make numerous other egregious errors including a piece choreographed to Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right (To Party),” in which Bruno’s daughters rhythmically thrust to the beat while dancing with bare-chested male dancers. Oh, and if I haven’t yet mentioned, this holiday show is not for the kiddies.
Poor sound mixing, a foray of indecipherable projections, and lousy lighting all contributed to what could have been a rather upbeat and comedic show. The only redeeming quality about Stiletto was the space it inhabited: La MaMa has been blessed with a spectacular theatre complete with a grand, vaulted ceiling, exposed catwalks, and a turn-of-the-century charm; it alone is worth the price of admission. However, come to think of it, towards the end of the show there was a nice bit involving a veil, four ninjas, and a refrigerator box.
Kudos to La MaMa for taking a chance, but they really should leave the holiday spectaculars to Radio City.
Theatre of the World, 74 east 4th Street, December 1st – 18th
For tickets call (212)352-3101 or visit www.TheatreMania.com
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.