Gorgeous and spectacular, Long Beach Ballet’s The Nutcracker is back in town, its 35th-annual edition featuring a trio of gifted guest artists backed by over two-hundred dancers young and older, the 60-piece Long Beach Ballet Orchestra, and a production design that will have you oohing and aahing at wonders not limited to a Christmas tree that grows to magnificent proportions, Rebel The White Arabian Horse, cannonball blasts, and a sleigh that takes flight as fireworks shower from above.

As conceived, directed, and choreographed by Long Beach Ballet artistic director David Wilcox (additional choreography by Terri Lewis), even those unfamiliar with the story Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky first told in St. Petersberg some hundred-twenty-five Christmases ago will be able to follow the December 24th adventures of young siblings Clara (Grace Beay) and Fritz (Ryan Robinson), whose quarrel over the Nutcracker (Brent Shavelle) they’ve been gifted by their toy-maker Uncle Drosselmeyer (Ben Majors) soon has Clara dreaming of a battle between a mischief of mice (led by Mouse King Craig Rexroad) and an army of gingerbread soldiers, a skirmish that leads to Nutcracker’s transformation from life-sized doll to handsome real-life Prince (Seth Orza).

From then on Tchaikovsky’s ballet treats us to one uniquely styled dance after another: the Snow King (Evan Swenson) and Snow Queen’s (Anna de la Rosa) pas de deux, dancers from Spain (Sofia Striegl and Shivelle), Arabia (Ellen Bigelow and Majors),

China (Lauren Rios and Stephen Kessler), and Russia (Leng Phe, Julian Sanz, and Danny Sre) in addition to Act One’s Harlequin Doll (Sergey Kheylik), Columbine Doll (Jenna Reed), and Moor Doll (Halen Savittieri), and it wouldn’t be The Nutcracker without a pair of sprites (Sarah Ricard Orza as Sugarplum Fairy and Megan Wilcox as Dewdrop Fairy) to make the evening complete.

Real-life marrieds Orza & Orza (appearing courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet) and Wilcox (courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet) are the Nutcracker’s most accomplished stars, but supporting soloists demonstrate considerable talent as well, and if the older party guests are around mostly for show and child dancers (as young as four or five if my eyes don’t deceive me) primarily for cuteness, it hardly matters in a production as breathtakingly beautiful as this one.

Sets by Elliott Hessayon, Rex Heuschkel, and Scott Shaffer, costumes by Adrian Clarke, Donna Dickens, Ann de Farra, Hilde Byrne, and Cheryl Cartwright, lighting by Jared A. Sayeg, pyrotechnics by John Bordeaux, and Flying By Foy make this Nutcracker a visual spectacle without equal this holiday season.

The Long Beach Ballet Orchestra under the baton of Dr. Roger Hickman (Branden Muresan is concert master) makes this Nutcracker sound just as sensational as it looks.

Victoria Gathe Rosado is stage manager. Mike Costa is technical director.

Simply put, there’s no more gorgeous or spectacular show round town this Christmas than Long Beach Ballet’s The Nutcracker.

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Terrace Theatre, Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach.

–Steven Stanley
December 16, 2017
Photos: Katie Ging


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