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World View: Enchanted by 'Nutcracker'

December 21, 2011|By Imran Vittachi
  • Tyler Donatelli
Tyler Donatelli

Taking my seat at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, I could sense the dread of some of the parents around me.

I watched mothers and fathers stoically fulfill a holidaytime obligation to their little ones as families packed into the auditorium for an afternoon performance Dec. 11.

I sat there, wedged between two pairs of mothers with their small daughters dressed in their Sunday best. One of the little girls wore her hair in pigtails with pink bows. She clutched a teddy bear as she climbed into her folding seat.

Imagining myself in the parents' shoes, I — a childless bachelor — expected that I would be joining them in having to endure two hours of "Nutcracker" purgatory. Yet, after the curtain went up, to my surprise and delight, I found myself whisked away to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets.

I was 8 years old again.

This was my first time experiencing a live production of "The Nutcracker." During my childhood in New York, I came closest to this yuletide favorite and its unmistakable notes by composer Peter I. Tchaikovsky when my mother took me to a screening of Walt Disney's "Fantasia."

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This time around, the story, as presented by the Fountain Valley-based Festival Ballet Theatre company through its magical sets and costumes, along with world-class performances by guest stars of the New York-based American Ballet Theatre, came alive and enchanted me. So much so that I went back to the Irvine Barclay for a second helping on Dec. 16.

That's saying a lot coming from someone like me, who's not a ballet guy at heart. Tutus and leotards are not really my thing.

Given the abundance of "Nutcracker" productions in and around Orange County, it must be awfully confusing for all these moms and dads to have make a choice.

The various productions range in quality and professionalism. Chances are, the ones offering tickets at the lower end of the price band will give you what you paid for. Having seen it myself, I can attest that parents will get their money's worth — and might even enjoy themselves — if they go see the Festival Ballet's 23rd annual production of "The Nutcracker," choreographed and directed by Salwa Rizkalla.

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