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Holiday Seduction

Nikki Knockout and the Aphrodisi-Acts give 'The Nutcracker' a campy burlesque spin.

Tim Burton Burlesque by The Aphrodisi-Acts | Photo by Channel Purple

Houston is in store for a merry queer Christmas treat this month. Local burlesque performer Nikki Knockout and her cast, the Aphrodisi-Acts, are bringing a tantalizing spin to The Nutcracker with their new show Nutcracker Burlesque: The Land of Sweets and Tease. Tickets are on sale now for the December 15 and 21 performances at RISE Rooftop. 

“I’ve always loved The Nutcracker. Growing up, I used to watch it every year,” Knockout recalls. “We were too poor to attend the ballet, but I found different ways to get my fix. I wanted to create a different take on it—a queer, drag burlesque version of the original story using comedy and humor to tell the story in our own way.” 

Knockout and her team aim to create a space where everyone can enjoy a fresh, fun, and very queer take on the holiday classic. “What I love most about the world of burlesque is that it’s all about inclusivity. I thought this classic Christmas tale needed a special twist with that as the focal point,” she says of her fully accessible event. “This show will have queer performers, drag queens, gender fuckery, and a lot of humor.”

While Houston offers a host of opportunities to enjoy drag performances, Nutcracker Burlesque will be leaning into the fusion of drag and burlesque. “In both drag performances and burlesque, the performers get to call their own shots. They are the goddesses and queens [as] they take the stage and create a space where they are worshiped,” the artist explains. “We may have been disenfranchised in the past, but the moment we hit the stage we are uplifted, confident, empowered beings that could do anything.” 

The burlesque aspect, according to Knockout, is specifically meant to stimulate the imagination. “Burlesque is all about the art of the tease—teasing your audience and making them want more of you.” The marriage of the two art forms will be crystal-clear, according to Knockout. “Drag queens will bring their own spice of burlesque into our show.”

Tim Burton Burlesque by The Aphrodisi-Acts | Photo by Channel Purple

Local performers Peter Pecker, Ms. Mykie, Cara Cherie, and several more will appear in the classic Nutcracker roles, according to Knockout. “The show will be led by a narrator, and there will be different burlesque acts representing different characters and parts of the story. We have a beautiful bearded drag queen that will be performing a unique burlesque act as Mother Ginger with the classic tent skirt that might have a few special things hiding underneath. We have the Sugar Plum Fairy doing a ballet burlesque act and the Ice King performing an aerial burlesque act.” 

Rest assured, depictions of Clara, Godfather Drosselmeyer, and the Rat Queen will all be featured. “Even the Christmas tree at the beginning of the story will be represented with its own burlesque version.”

Knockout promises an evening of showstopping entertainment, laughter, joy, and unexpected surprises that are sure to catch audiences off guard. “Expect magic!” she says excitedly. “I love to make these shows an entire experience from [the moment that audience arrive]. These are not just shows, but full-fledged events!” 

Tim Burton Burlesque by The Aphrodisi-Acts | Photo by Channel Purple

Holiday vendors selling unique items will be on hand, drinks available, and good times will be had at this seductive production sure to delight audiences. It’s a lot of hard work for the team, but it’s also their gift to audiences this holiday season. Knockout sums up the performance, and what to expect, saying, “There’s going to be a lot of unexpected things that will catch people off guard and I’m excited for it!”

What: Nutcracker Burlesque
When: December 15 and 21 
Where: RISE Rooftop, 2600 Travis St.
For ticket info go here.

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Zachary McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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