An extroverted Clara and an energetic Nutcracker Prince made efficient work of "The Nutcracker" in Tuesday afternoon's American Ballet Theatre performance at Shrine Auditorium.
Cheryl Yeager delivered all the eager girlish gestures (complete with a sybaritic roll of the head at the luxury of a Prince-chauffeured sleigh ride) and scooted through her many lifts with elegant alignment. But moods and gestures often seemed automatically grafted on her neatly schooled dancing.
Julio Bocca blasted through his Act II solos as if they constituted the final round of a ballet competition. Not an altogether lucky one for him, either, what with a spate of heavy landings and the fuzzy shapes his arms were sketching to keep pace with would-be bravura.
Only in their final moments together did this achievement-oriented couple pay each other enough sustained attention to create a believable aura of romance. It worked wonders.
Poignantly torn between her dream-paramour and the dark figure of Drosselmeyer (Victor Barbee), Yeager let the music launch her back into the Prince's arms. This task accomplished, however, she subsided into a bland, all-purpose wistfulness as the dream faded and the curtain began to fall.