Friday, December 23, 2011

Long Beach Ballet's Explosive Nutcracker

"The Nutcracker" remains an enduring holiday tradition, and yet Maria and I had never seen it (it was just never high on my "to do" list). But we were recently invited to watch the Long Beach Ballet's version of the classic ballet, and we brought along the Blogger Kid to stuff a little culture in him.

The Long Beach Ballet may be local, but this is by no means a "local" style production. It's the crowd pleaser. Elaborate sets, special pyrotechnic effects (including a cannon that scared the crap out of the Kid), a flying sleigh, a real live horse, a cast of more than 200 and a 55-member orchestra did the show justice, as did the setting: the grand Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The show also includes the South Coast Children's Chorale.

The kids appreciate the slapstick of the Nutcracker Doll and the Mouse King -- and most importantly, the breakdancing Russian dancers in Act II. You'll appreciate the grace of dancers including "So You Think You Can Dance" contestant Melissa Sandvig and Pacific Northwest Ballet's Sarah Ricard Orza and Seth Orza.

Former Disney designers Elliot Hessayon and Scott Schaffer were behind the set; the detailed costumes were designed by Australian artist Adrian Clark; and special effects handled by magician Franz Harary.

In the show's press release, Long Beach Ballet Artistic Director David Wilcox notes that "You can hate ballet and you’ll still like this production."

Says Wilcox: “I spent the last 29 years perfecting The Nutcracker. From the moment you sit down till the moment it ends there’s not a single second that’s boring. Plus, this year we have the children’s choir, which was the missing piece to the puzzle. Tchaikovsky wrote it with the children’s harmonies and normally productions replace them with synthesizers; we don’t and that’s what sets us apart. The way we introduce the choir is going to be a surprise, it’s going to be unexpected and very theatrical."

The Long Beach Ballet Academy is the successor to Long Beach's Audrey Share School of Dance, which first opened in 1956 as the first Royal Academy ballet school in Southern California.

The final showtime is today, Friday, December 23rd, at 2 p.m., at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Call (877) 852-3177 or go to Ticketmaster for more info.

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