by Vicki Paris Goodman
“But everything was beautiful at the ballet…”
So goes the reflective musical number from the Broadway show A Chorus Line. And the character singing those dreamy lyrics could well have been describing the Long Beach Ballet’s gorgeous production of The Nutcracker, the famous Christmas ballet by composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
A cast of what had to be well over 100 child, teenage and adult dancers filled the stage of the otherwise barn-like Terrace Theater, for once rendering the usually impersonal and voluminous space sublimely intimate. I guess it’s all about scale.
Sets were breathtaking, as were the ballet soloists, some of whom were “borrowed” from other ballet companies. In the first act, dance numbers deftly tell the story of how young Clara receives a Nutcracker– a wooden soldier doll– as a present from her uncle. She drifts off to sleep embracing the cherished gift and dreams of terrible huge mice and their King, who engage in battle with an army of toy soldiers led by the Nutcracker. Clara’s beloved Nutcracker dies in the battle, but is miraculously transformed into a handsome prince, who takes her to a far-off land of wondrous sights.
Act II takes place in the Sugarplum Kingdom, where Clara meets the members of the court and the beautiful Sugarplum Fairy. Clara is treated to a fantastic array of dancers performing dances from Spain, Arabia, China and Russia. The three men dancing the Russian dance seemed to defy gravity as they performed amazing feats.
The adult and young teenage dancers and soloists were just superb. Dressed in splendid costumes, and accompanied by a live full orchestra, they masterfully performed the stunning choreography and astonishing acrobatics, making it all look easy.
I especially liked the fact that some of the youngest children in the cast, playing angels and snowflakes and Chinese dancers, weren’t overly practiced and were thus permitted to be their adorable and funny selves. In fact, children in the audience seemed enthralled by the numerous youngsters participating in the gala production.
Artistic Director David Wilcox further embellished the dance roster this year by inviting three finalists from the TV reality show So You Think You Can Dance– Melissa Sandvig, Ade Obayomi and Jason Glover– to join the company. They were spectacular performers, as were all of the other guest artists, including Tyler Burkett and Jacie Jewett as the mechanical Harlequin and Columbine Dolls and later as the Snow King and Queen, Seth Orza as the Nutcracker Prince and Mara Vinson as the Sugarplum Fairy. Katelyn Conrad was charming as Clara.
The Long Beach Ballet’s Nutcracker doesn’t rest on its musical and dancing laurels. It also wows its audience with exciting special effects, aerial acts and pyrotechnics.
I can’t think of a better way to make the holidays special for families. If you missed the show this year, why not consider making next year’s production of the Long Beach Ballet’s The Nutcracker part of your family’s holiday celebration?
For one weekend every December the Long Beach Ballet performs The Nutcracker at the Terrace Theater of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center in downtown Long Beach. Additional performances take place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. For information on next year’s production, contact the Long Beach Ballet at (562) 426-4112, or online at www.longbeachballet.com.