American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker Is Magical and Stupendous (Review)

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) The Nutcracker
Credit: ABT

The Nutcracker is a time-honored holiday tradition based on the Russian ballet back in 1892. Since then, it has inspired a generation including Disney producing The Nutcracker and the Four Realms live-action film and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” featured in Grand Theft Auto V. With the holiday season here, it’s time to experience the awe and wonder at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts In Costa Mesa, CA. American Ballet Theatre is back with The Nutcracker, a balletic performance that is magical and stupendous.

The Nutcracker has such a long history, and it was my privilege to be invited to check out the show for the first time from American Ballet Theatre (ABT). The performance starts out in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, and it includes all sorts of activity as the cooks and housekeepers prepare the Stahlbaum family’s annual holiday party. Of course, the plot moves along as the characters danced and the orchestra, lights and stage sets dictate the mood of the scene. The kitchen has a bit of a hiccup, with the mice coming in full force.

The Stahlbaums gather at the party and dance, and young Clara receives a Nutcracker dressed as a soldier by her godfather, Drosselmeyer. The toy is destroyed, no thanks to her brother’s jealousy, but her godfather fixes it. A sleepy Clara starts to see her Nutcracker come to life as everything around her grows larger. This ends up with an epic balletic battle between soldiers and mice.

The Power of Ballet

This is the power of ballet. There is no dialogue, and the dancers, costumes and sets convey what’s happening on stage. That’s not to say that everything is spelled out for the audience. The story helps to engage us with the excellent performances from the artists. When watching the performers, I couldn’t stop but think about the hard work and dedication it takes to move as they do. From elegant spins to tiptoeing via the pointe technique across the stage as if they’re floating in the air, it was a soothing sight to see. Additionally, it’s marvelous at what the human body is capable of. And what’s really impressive is the synchronized performances that range from a small group to a large group as they twist and bend their bodies while dancing.

There’s some humor sprinkled out here and there including a dance group that is the clown of the party. The performers went all out during the Sugar Plum Fairy’s festival where dancers from around the world participated. One of the standouts was a partner dance by Cory Stearns and Devon Teuscher, and they were graceful and mesmerizing.

Final Reaction

American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker is a phenomenal and otherworldly show that’s a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season. The performers give their best as they dazzle on stage and Music Director Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony capture the timeless music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky.

For tickets and info, visit https://www.scfta.org/events/2021/the-nutcracker.

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