Aw Nuts!

Jim Stork plays huge-hoofed Clara

Sitting around at a meeting some months back, the board members of Fort Lauderdale's Public Theatre were challenged by executive director Vince Rhomberg to come up with something beyond the typical raffle or dinner gala for the next fundraiser.

The theater relies on private donations and benefits to stay afloat, and a theater-themed event, suggested Rhomberg, might be nice. Sure, the board members agreed, why not get some actors to donate their time for a silly follies program or revue? "I said, 'What about if you guys did a show?'" Rhomberg recalls asking the board. "They all said no, one after another. But once they got past saying 'no way,' they jumped into it feet first and they are having a blast."

As they used to say in those Hollywood musicals, "Hey kids, it's just crazy enough to work!"


The Really Nutty Nutcracker Ballet.

Museum of Art Auditorium, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.

Presented by the Public Theatre. Sunday, December 12, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $50 and include preperformance cocktails, the show, and the Sugar Plum Reception to follow. Call 954-568-2243.

The good times have been rolling at rehearsals for The Really Nutty Nutcracker, a spoof of the famous holiday ballet in which male members of the board will perform in toe shoes and tutus à la the famous Trockadero troupe, the cross-dressing dancers from Monaco.

Among the Public Theatre's men in tights, though, only a couple have any dance experience, notably Carlos Colon, the board member chairing the event, who at one time danced with the Cleveland Ballet. But the show is a send-up, so dancing prowess isn't at a premium; outlandish costuming and screwy scripting are -- and Nutty Nutcracker promises plenty of both.

Tall, thin board member Harry Lupu makes a gangly Sugar Plum Fairy, and his bright pink costume goes totally over the top with a feather headdress and sequined bodice. Rhomberg says that most of the drag costuming is done in Las Vegas-showgirl mode. As heroine Clara, the little girl at the center of the real Nutcracker, Jim Stork wears a lacy white outfit and a blond wig with ridiculously long ponytails.

Stork also wears size-15 ballet slippers. In the Public Theatre adaptation of the ballet, poor Sara has been cursed with huge feet and a bad case of foot odor, but her foul feet come in handy when it's time to do battle with the Mouse King, played by Colon.

In order to keep the audience clued in to the lampooning, the "ballet" is set to a narrative poem, which combines the Nutcracker story line with the twisted imaginings of the theater board.

As for music, explains Rhomberg: "We use the [Tchaikovsky] score from the ballet, but it's been condensed a bit. We're only doing an hour's worth, because enough is enough."

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