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SUGAR PLUM FAIRIES AND FUZZY BEARS : A Veteran 'Nutcracker' and Fledgling 'Babes in Toyland' Arrive for the Holidays

December 12, 1991|ZAN DUBIN | Zan Dubin is a Times staff writer who writes about the arts for The Times Orange County Edition

A veteran troupe and a relative newcomer add their presence this week to the area's laden sleigh of holiday amusements, delivering balletic cheer to Laguna Beach and Irvine.

Reaching the quarter-century mark, Ballet Pacifica will perform its 25th annual production of the "Nutcracker" Tuesday through Dec. 23 at the Laguna Playhouse. The Irvine Ballet Company, now about 1 1/2 years old, will dance "Babes in Toyland" Friday through Sunday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

About 100 dancers will re-enact "The Nutcracker," choreographed by Ballet Pacifica founder Lila Zali. True to tradition, it tells the story of little Clara's snowy Christmas Eve adventure, replete with furry, life-sized mice, brave toy soldiers, a tree that magically grows and the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Nutcracker Prince.

A tape of Tchaikovsky's famous score will accompany the production, whose cast ranges in age from 5 to about 35 and includes company dancers as well as children from the community. Storyteller Douglas Reeve will give an on-stage synopsis before the overture begins.

The "Nutcracker" has become a holiday tradition, says Ballet Pacifica artistic director Molly Lynch. "We've got people who say they went to our 'Nutcracker' 20 years ago and now they're taking their kids, or they took kids before and now they're taking their grandchildren."

Irvine Ballet's "Babes in Toyland," loosely based on Victor Herbert's 1903 operetta, will mark the company's third presentation at the Irvine theater.

The 15-member amateur troupe, which made its debut in the spring of 1990 at Orange Coast College, is composed of 13- to 18-year-old students from the Irvine Academy of Performing Arts, says company executive director Joy Owens.

"Babes," a children's ballet also done to taped music, centers on the travails and triumphs of nursery tale sweethearts Little Bo Peep and Tom Piper, whose world is inhabited by such characters as Mr. Barnaby, the bad guy, Fuzzy Bear and dolls that come to life to dance in a toy shop.

The production was originally choreographed by former company member Shideh Nikkhoo, and restaged this year by Irvine Academy teacher Marina Kalinin, who previously danced with the Bolshoi Ballet and Moiseyev Dance Company in the Soviet Union, Owens says. Guest artist Jeff Rockland, a former member of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, will dance the role of Tom Piper.

"Tom and Bo Peep get together and end up happily ever after, like those kind of stories do," Owens says.

What: Ballet Pacifica's "The Nutcracker" and the Irvine Ballet Company's "Babes in Toyland."

When: "The Nutcracker" is Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 18, through Dec. 23 at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. "Babes in Toyland" is Friday, Dec. 13, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 14, at 11 a.m., and Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m.

Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.

Whereabouts: Laguna Playhouse: San Diego Freeway to Laguna Canyon Road south. Irvine Barclay: On the UCI campus, across from the Marketplace mall.

Wherewithal: "Nutcracker": $12 to $15. "Babes in Toyland": $6 to $14.

Where to call: Ballet Pacifica, (714) 642-9275. Irvine Barclay Theatre, (714) 854-4646.

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