American Ballet Theatre

American Ballet Theatre Nutcracker

Costa Mesa, California
American Ballet Theatre

The Bees Waltz as
the Prince Proposes!

December 11, 2015
By Brad Maxwell



Orange County is buzzing about the birth of the American Ballet Theatre's Southern California Nutcracker!  In a land known for rejecting all attempts to be ruled by a locally grown ballet company, it seems that transplanting an American Masterpiece is the only answer.  And you know that when Hollywood wakes up and realizes that Southern California's ballet capital is located in Orange County, they may begin to ask themselves why they never supported a professional hive.  Thats when they'll realize they have to drive to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts if they want to get any honey!

The American Ballet Theatre's (ABT) New Orange County Nutcracker is a monumental masterpiece of music, choreography and dancing.  American Ballet Theatre NutcrackerA classical celebration; a holiday sensation!  A Nutcracker so grand that OC's ABT has bragging rights to others across the nation!

A brand new show filled with beautiful sets, fun innovative props and sensationally designed costumes.  Alexei Ratmansky's choreography is world class excellence at its best.  He is from the Bolshoi Ballet with a globally impressive resume.  He has incorporated many exciting enhancements while maintaining the beauty of the the traditional story and musical flow.  He is a creative master at telling the story.  For example, this Nutcracker starts in the kitchen with rats taking over the stew pots when the chef leaves.  Its a really fun scene that helps establish the mischievousness of the mice in coattails who will soon be taunting Clara (Claudia Shuman), much like her brother the mischievous Fritz (Justin Souriau-Levine).  Alexei's creative side is expressing the transformation of Clara's real world relationships to those in her dream -- simply masterful.

The Waltz of Flowers includes four finely dressed orange headed bees and the Prince (adult Nutcracker Prince Marcelo Gomez)  ends the grand pas de deux by getting down on one knee to propose to Clara (adult Clara Princess Gillian Murphy).  Alexei tells the story of Clara's dream of a Prince, as one where they get married.  An obvious expansion since everyone always dreams of a life with theAmerican Ballet Theatre Nutcracker person of their dreams.  There is a transformation near the end of Act I when the Nutcracker Boy and Clara look back into what seems to be a mirror of themselves, but as young adults.  As the Prince and Princess walk into the foreground, the Nutcracker Boy and the young Clara walk off into the distance.

Act I opens to the cooking Chef in a big white hat hanging out with two Maids and a Nanny.   A little white mouse appears from under the counter and starts creating fun.  When the chef heads out to the party all of the mice appear in the kitchen and make themselves at home eating hanging sausages and getting into the pots; a wonderfully comical scene to start!  We move to the parlor where most of the children are dressed in simple shades of gray, black and white; adults are dressed in vivid colors.  Drosselmeyer (Victor Barbee), in a long black Victorian overcoat and checkered pants, gives in to the children's wishes and presents his dancing dolls, a black and white patterned Columbine and Harlequin and the two colorful recruits.  Clara is presented with a life size Nutcracker Boy (Seth Koffler) who assists her after hours when the clock strikes midnight and the white mice start invading.  Although the red and white Toy Soldiers are pint-sized, most of the mice are adult sized with realistic mouse heads.  The Battle choreography is a superbly polished scene and is a thrill to enjoy.  The super -sized background of the home seems as if Clara is two inches high looking up to a door and a tree while sitting on a giant chair.  A very creative perspective.

The Snow Scene has a backdrop of tall thin birch-like trees with a beautiful light snow and a blanket of white.  The twenty four Snowflake dancers dressed in delicate light blue dance gowns fill the stage with impeccable timing, grace and technique.  The choreography for the Snow Scene, although not unlike others, is significantly more difficult due to the the number of transitions, complexity of multiple simultaneous movements and the petite leaps incorporated throughout -- a one of a kind Snow Scene thats simply breathtaking!

American Ballet Theatre NutcrackerAct II opens to a garden gate scrim with characters preparing behind it.  The celebration starts with three Spanish couples in brown and black followed by an Arabian male attended by four flirty escorts in purple all fighting for his attention.  The spinning Chinese couple astound followed by three somewhat clumsy Russians who show off their skill and comedy.   Mother ginger who comes out to collect her kids is followed by the miniature top hat wearing pink and green dainty Polichinelles.  The divertisments end with the Waltz of Flowers with sixteen beautiful dancers joined by four orange headed Bees with black coattails and antennas who interact intermittently with the flowers creating a beautiful and highly entertainingly performance.  And if you ask "why the bees" the answer is, it allows for a entire additional level of choreography and beauty, while adding comedic genius. 

The opening night  lead dancers were Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomez, two of the best dancers in the nation if not the world.  They have danced together many times and it shows in the confidence, style, grace, theatrics, and stunning lifts throughout their Grand Pas De Deux.  Of course the Lead Principle Dancers change every night and note that Misty Copeland, the first Female African American Principal Dancer for the ABT performs Wednesday, December 16 and Saturday evening, December 19.

There is no excuse not to setup a holiday date night at the ballet in Southern California at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  There are simply not a lot of places in the world to see a ballet company this accomplished; this amazing, this beautiful.  The consistency of talent, dedication and skill are unparalleled.  There is nothing that provides your heart and soul the warmth and loving embrace of holiday enchantment like the Nutcraker and there is no other Nutcracker like that of the ABT.  So, what are you waiting for?

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