The day after Christmas was as bleary on the Shrine Auditorium stage as it may have been at your house. In the American Ballet Theatre matinee of "The Nutcracker," Ross Stretton was a bland, perfunctory Nutcracker Prince and Clark Tippet (who replaced the originally scheduled Victor Barbee) turned Drosselmeyer into an amiable Bob Barker-like character who seemed the victim of consequences beyond his control.
A dutiful, sometimes even effortful partner for Clara (Amanda McKerrow, who replaced the originally scheduled Deirdre Carberry), Stretton heaved himself into his solos with stiff, inexpressive arms, a working leg liable to bend when it shouldn't and a stodgy torso. His few vivid moments occurred during Nutcracker combat duty and in his forceful mime recreation of the battle.
With his clumsy, poorly timed handling of the prologue and his peculiarly lost look when he arrived at the Stahlbaum's party, Tippet seemed to be wearing the wrong fellow's tail coat. He orchestrated the puppet show and unveiled the Nutcracker doll with a hollow, emcee-like enthusiasm. At the end of Act II, his casual observer's stance and vague interruption of Clara's romantic dream made it clear that the real Drosselmeyer must have had business elsewhere. The remainder of the cast was familiar from previous performances.