Review: American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker


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This holiday season two shows recognize and envelopes themselves in the Christmas spirit. The former is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the latter is E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. But more specifically, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s music composition for the two-act ballet of “The Nutcracker”.

The instant recognition of a nutcracker tucked under the Christmas tree alongside serene melodies of the classic overture makes it no surprise as to its popularity especially as the 2021 winter season recovers from the previous year.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts celebrates American Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker” now playing until December 19, 2021.

The story follows a young little girl named Clara and her dreamlike fantasy with a charming Nutcracker dressed as a handsome soldier. The unique gift is given to Clara by her godfather, Drosselmeyer, at the family holiday party. From there, Drosselmeyer entertains guests young and old with life-sized dolls demonstrating his skill as a toymaker. When the party ends and everyone in the household is asleep, Clara returns to her beloved Nutcracker lying dormant under the Christmas tree. The grandfather clock chimes at the stroke of midnight where a magical transformation occurs. Everything around the grand parlor seems to grow larger.

Hee Seo and Cory Stearns in The Nutcracker. Photo: Doug Gifford.

Clara finds herself as small as a toy figurine sitting atop a massive chair. The spectacular image conveys a sort of Alice in Wonderland quality. A great battle ensues below between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The brave Nutcracker is able to prevail with the help of Clara throwing her shoe down at the oversized villainous rodent. Like the story of Pinocchio, the Nutcracker transforms into a real boy and rejoices with Clara in a winter wonderland surrounded by a blizzard of beautiful snowflakes dancing with harmonious glee. Godfather Drosselmeyer takes the young couple on a sleigh ride to the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy where their victory is celebrated with delightful dances from around the world.

The American Ballet Theatre brings a much-needed classic to life not only with colorful costumes, precision dance movements, and child-like endearment but also with the swift live orchestration of the Pacific Symphony. The flawless production runs just over two hours with one intermission between the two-act ballet. The program guide provides not only credits to the dedicated cast and crew but also a story synopsis.


This plays an important role especially for those not already familiar with the story of “The Nutcracker” as the ballet is portrayed through tranquil music, majestic dance, lovely costumes, and exaggerated body movements without any exchange of spoken dialogue. This holiday season, Segerstrom Center for the Arts invites you to a feast for the eyes, heart, and soul to the eternal classic of “The Nutcracker” as specially presented by the American Ballet Theatre.

In its annual holiday engagement, American Ballet Theatre will give 12 performances between December 10 through December 19, 2021, in Segerstrom Hall. This year marks the 6th time that The Center has presented ABT’s The Nutcracker, Southern California’s grandest production of this beloved holiday tradition. This Nutcracker features ABT’s international all-star cast.

Tickets start at $30

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