A Nutcracker in Paradise
It’s Bunheads summer finale! The Nutcracker performance is about to go on but with Michelle’s luck something is going to go down. A great finale can wipe away the sour taste of an otherwise lacking season and give a show the type of momentum needed to make a creative jump on a more permanent basis. Unfortunately, in the case of Bunheads, its finale was more than a bit underwhelming.
On its own, “A Nutcracker in Paradise” was pretty terrific. There have been times when the show’s attempts at comedy have felt strained, but nearly every joke and device landed perfectly here, whether it was the non-stop motion of The Ringer, Boo nearly going too far in mortifying herself for Carl, Fanny forcing the one pair of African-American dancers(*) to try one style after another or, in a hilarious (and well-foreshadowed) setpiece, Michelle accidentally macing all the dancers with the pretty mace from her Zombie Apocalypse Vegas Slut Bag, then trying to douse them all with water.
From the strangely S&M brilliance of Michelle’s “Rat Dance” to Boo’s public announcement that Carl is her Fred Astaire, the bits that moved characters forward hit all the right notes. Melanie and Ginny have what can only be described as a lovers’ quarrel, even though it has to do with a boy. Michelle brings Sasha back into the fold in a way that allowed Fanny to accept her return without compromise. And Sasha seems to have grown up some in the process — even attracting the interest of a boy who seems to be searching for his identity as haphazardly as she is.
What does feel right, though, is the relationships she’s forged with the other characters. Sasha pulls out a literal Dead Poets Society “O Captain My Captain” routine as Michelle contemplates disappearing, and Hubbell’s kindest ghost-advice involves pointing out that Fanny always wanted a daughter. As loathsome as the dated ’90s references tend to be — especially with straight rip-off, copy-of-a-copy stuff like this — there’s still a bit of an emotional payoff when you see how the characters find new ways to fit together.
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