Giant heads, dancing cupcakes and Richard Strauss

Now there’s a shopping list you don’t see every day.  But these are some of the key ingredients in Whipped Cream, a new production by the American Ballet Theatre which recently played at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC.  Originally whipped up in 1924 as Schlagobers, the work is best enjoyed on a fairly empty stomach and probably not while under the influence of mind-altering substances.

whipped-cream-candy-shop-chef (Gene Schiavone)( (
Most of the action centers around the main character, known as the Boy, and takes place against a Candyland board-game backdrop in a confectioner’s shop (run by a large-headed Chef) and a sinister, dimly-lit hospital room (run by a large-headed Doctor and his army of syringe-wielding Nurses). Along the way, behold Princess Tea Flower, Prince Coffee, Prince Cocoa, and Don Zucchero the sugar guy.

After a landscape of grayish, whipped-creamy hills and sixteen women in meringue-like white outfits representing, uh, Whipped Cream, the real fun begins as the Doctor gets drunk, invoking the appearance of three dancing booze bottles named – get ready – Mademoiselle Marianne Chartreuse, Ladislav Slivovitz, and Boris Wutki.  I think President Trump may know that last guy. Meanwhile the Boy – confined to an oversized hospital bed after ODing on whipped cream and contracting the world’s worst bellyache – is whisked away by Princess Praline and some Cupcake Children.  Had enough of these whimsical characters yet?  Well, hang on…

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In a scene out of some deranged comic book mishmash of Star Wars, Willy Wonka, and the Japanese art of just plain silliness, say hello to the Snow Yak, the Cake Ladies, the Gumball Lady, the Chocolate Chip Man, the Parfait Man, the Chef Head Man (yikes), the Long Neck Piggy (double yikes), the Cherry Head (okay), the Pink Yak (come on now), and – my favorite – the Worm Candy Man (omg).  The Boy and the various Princesses and Princes meet Nicolo, the towering, candy-encrusted emcee and – fantasy is now reality!  Or something.

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Yes, this is a music blog… The music driving all this madness was composed in 1921-22 by Richard Strauss, and the work was premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 1924.  Not sure if the crazy sets and costumes in the current incarnation (courtesy of pop surrealist Mark Ryden) are anything like what audiences saw back in the roaring twenties, but the whole thing is a delightful distraction from the rest of 2017.

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images courtesy Schiavone, J. Schaben,,,


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