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DANCE REVIEW : Cast Changes in Joffrey Ballet's 'Nutcracker'

December 29, 1988|LEWIS SEGAL | Times Dance Writer

The new Joffrey Ballet "Nutcracker" leaves nothing to chance.

Every flake of snow, wisp of smoke and granule of glitter-dust at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion seems meticulously calculated in terms of its stage-effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, too. But even in a mechanized extravaganza, individual performances always make a difference, so the new principals and soloists in the cast on Tuesday filled their roles in ways quite unlike the dancers at the local premiere last Friday.

The changes were not always for the better. Take Carl Corry, for example, miscast as little Fritz, the brother of the ballet's child-heroine and, in this staging, the virtuosic centerpiece in the Waltz of the Snowflakes. Next to the real children who appeared in the party scene, Corry was simply too tall and too old. Playing animatedly with Christmas toys, he looked not childlike but retarded and, similarly, all the force he could muster in the bravura Snow choreography proved no substitute for the lightness and ease of his predecessor.

As the Nutcracker Prince, Tom Mossbrucker declined to form emotional bonds with either Clara or the Sugar Plum Fairy, but provided a generalized conviviality to each--party manners--and danced with elegance and precision.

Both Jodie Gates (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Deborah Dawn (Snow Queen) seemed to face their ballerina duties as some sort of gruesome ordeal. Each had been excellently coached: Their execution of steps was uniformly accurate, their placement positively majestic. But their pained manner looked like nothing human. In this resolutely all-American version of "The Nutcracker," why the snooty European airs? Aren't the fir forest and Candyland on Yankee soil?

In Act I, Carole Valleskey and Peter Narbutas sharply defined the Harlequin-Columbine doll duet and Joseph Schnell ably impersonated the Nutcracker Doll in the Mouse Battle. In the last-act divertissements, Corry and Cameron Basden reveled in the matched jumps of the Chinese Dance and Douglas Martin and Valerie Madonia managed to salvage their dignity (no easy task) in the protracted kitsch of the Arabian Dance.

As on Friday, Martin had danced the Snow King in the first act and both Alexander Grant and Mary Barton also reappeared in the roles of Drosselmeyer and Clara. John Miner conducted authoritatively, with perhaps more of an emphasis on lyricism than his predecessor but with a similar devotion to speed.

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