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REVEW: American Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” – Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa


“This Nutcracker is cracking good!” raved the New York Post when American Ballet Theatre premiered this delectable holiday favorite. It is Christmas Eve.


As the lights dim and Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score fills the air, young Clara enters a dreamlike fevered delirium that transports her to a land where she sees sparkling Christmas Forests amid magical toy soldiers, mischievous mice, a life-size nutcracker, dancing snowflakes and a glittering, growing Christmas tree!


The nutcracker is transformed into a handsome Prince and he leads Clara through the moonlit night to the beautiful Land of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy.


With an impressive cast of more than 100 performers, ABT’s The Nutcracker features set and costumes by Richard Hudson (Tony Award winner, The Lion King), with choreography by ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky. The Orange County Register praised it as a “… colorful, cinematic creation filled with spectacle, humor and eye-popping costumes.” Other critics call it "astonishingly rich in detailed inspiration" and "from beginning to end, beautiful, melodious, original, and characteristic."


The Nutcracker is one of the composer's most popular compositions and much shorter than either "Swan Lake" or "The Sleeping Beauty." The music belongs to the Romantic Period and contains some of his most memorable melodies, several of which are frequently used in television and film. They are often heard in TV commercials shown during the Christmas season. The "Trepak," or "Russian dance," is one of the most recognizable pieces in the ballet, along with the "Waltz of the Flowers," "March," and of course, the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." The composer's reverence for Rococo and late 18th-century music, such as by Mozart and Haydn can be detected in passages in the Overture, the "Entrée des parents," and "Grossvater Tanz."


The world premiere of The Nutcracker was given by the Imperial Ballet, Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia on December 18, 1892, and danced by Antoinetta Dell’Era (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Pavel Gerdt (Cavalier). American Ballet Theatre’s first production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Mikhail Baryshnikov, received its World Premiere at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on December 21, 1976. The production received its New York Premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House on May 18, 1977.



ABT’s second production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Kevin McKenzie, received its World Premiere at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, California on December 3, 1993. A new staging of McKenzie’s production was given its World Premiere at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on December 12, 2000. This present production, with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, received its World Premiere at the Howard Gilman Opera House at Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York on December 23, 2010 danced by Gillian Murphy (Clara, The Princess), David Hallberg (Nutcracker, The Prince), Catherine Hurlin (Clara), and Tyler Maloney (The Nutcracker Boy).


Scenery was built and painted by Hudson Scenic Studio, Inc. Drops were painted by Michael Hagen, Inc. Movable scenic elements by Costume Armour, Inc. Props built by Mauricio Elorriaga Costumes executed by Barbara Matera, Ltd. Special thanks to Jared Aswegan Millinery by Lynne Mackey Studio, Jennifer Chapman and Marian Jean Hose Wigs by Jeffrey Rebelo and Riva Pizhadze Footwear by Pluma Ballet Staff for the Children: Alaine Haubert, Kenneth Easter, Sarah Jones.

THE NUTCRACKER Choreography: ALEXEI RATMANSKY • Music: PETER ILYITCH TCHAIKOVSKY • Set and costume design: RICHARD HUDSON • Associate Designers: JUSTIN ARIENTI and MAURICIO ELORRIAGA • Lighting: JENNIFER TIPTON.



Kevin McKenzie: Artistic Director; Kara Medoff Barnett: Executive Director; Alexei Ratmansky: Artist in Residence.


PRINCIPAL DANCERS: STELLA ABRERA • ISABELLA BOYLSTON • MISTY COPELAND • HERMAN CORNEJO • SARAH LANE • GILLIAN MURPHY HEE SEO • CHRISTINE SHEVCHENKO • CORY STEARNS • DEVON TEUSCHER • JAMES WHITESIDE.

ADDITIONAL DANCERS: JOO WON AHN • ARAN BELL • SKYLAR BRANDT • ZHONG-JING FANG • THOMAS FORSTER • JOSEPH GORAK • ALEXANDRE HAMMOUDI • BLAINE HOVEN • CATHERINE HURLIN • LUCIANA PARIS • CALVIN ROYAL III • ARRON SCOTT • CASSANDRA TRENARY • KATHERINE WILLIAMS • ROMAN ZHURBIN.



Ensemble Dancers: Alexei Agoudine • Sierra Armstrong • Alexandra Basmagy • Lauren Bonfiglio • Kathryn Boren • Jacob Clerico • Zimmi Coker • Luigi Crispino • Jarod Curley • Claire Davison • Brittany DeGrofft • Michael de la Nuez • Léa Fleytoux • Scout Forsythe • Patrick Frenette • April Giangeruso • Carlos Gonzalez • Breanne Granlund • Kiely Groenewegen • Sung Woo Han • Emily Hayes Simon Hoke • Connor Holloway • Andrii Ishchuk • Anabel Katsnelson • Jonathan Klein • Erica Lall • Courtney Lavine • Virginia Lensi • Fangqi Li • Carolyn Lippert • Isadora Loyola • Xuelan Lu • Duncan Lyle • Tyler Maloney • Abbey Marrison • Hannah Marshall • Betsy McBride • Cameron McCune • João Menegussi • Gary Pogossian • Lauren Post • Wanyue Qiao • Luis Ribagorda • Rachel Richardson • Javier Rivet • Jose Sebastian • Gabe Stone Shayer • Courtney Shealy • Kento Sumitani • Ingrid Thoms • Nathan Vendt • Marshall Whiteley • Stephanie Williams • Remy Young • Jin Zhang.


Apprentices are Leah Baylin, Kanon Kimura, Melvin Lawovi, Joseph Markey, Duncan McIlwaine and Chloe Misseldine.


Clinton Luckett Assistant Artistic Director; Ormsby Wilkins Music Director; Charles Barker – Principal Conductor David LaMarche – Conductor; Principal Ballet Mistress – Susan Jones; Ballet Masters Irina Kolpakova, Carlos Lopez, Nancy Raffa and Keith Roberts.

The Nutcracker is now seasonal entertainment even in parts of America where snow seldom falls: Hawaii, the California coast, Florida. Over the last 70 years this ballet, conceived in the Old World, has become an American institution. Its amalgam of children, parents, toys, Christmas trees, snow, sweets and Tchaikovsky’s astounding score is integral to the season of good will that runs from Thanksgiving to New Year. The importance of this ballet to America has become a phenomenon that surely says as much about this country as it does about this work of art.



“The Nutcracker,” playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts from December 13–22, with performances on Thursday & Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 & 7 p.m. and Sundays at 12:30 & 5:30 p.m. With only five more performances in this holiday season, get your tickets today at www.scfta.org.


Chris Daniels

Arts Reviewer

The Show Report


8.5/10

 © 2020 by KDaniels 

Chris Daniels, Arts Reviewer

The Show Report