For its 14th annual "Nutcracker" season, Los Angeles Classical Ballet has revised and re-sequenced its production, as well as dancing it to tape for the first time in any home engagement. Not all the announced novelties were on view at the Friday performance--the first of 11 in the Long Beach Terrace Theater--but Clara and the Prince did adopt a new itinerary as they flew from the Land of Snow to Candyland.
Ever since the original 1892 "Nutcracker," this journey has been a nonstop flight, with the Sugar Plum Fairy greeting them on arrival. The Long Beach travel route, however, sent them to hub cities in Spain, Arabia, China and Russia, where they saw the traditional divertissements before meeting the ballet's reigning ballerina at their final destination.
Besides mandating some musical butchery along the way, this change required the national dances to be performed behind a scrim, jammed against a star backdrop: drab visually and overdependent on unreliable lighting transformations. And who wants to peer through gauze to see Alexander Kalinin's flamboyant Trepak, a rare moment in which dance alone makes this production satisfying.
Cast as both the Nutcracker Prince and Snow King, Kirov Ballet guest artist Andrei Ivanov displayed impeccable Soviet style from the textbook-perfect placement of his feet all the way up to his standard-issue Maryinsky Blue eye-liner. He turned with magnificent ease and sometimes executed immaculate leg beats as if choosing them on the spot from a vast range of virtuoso possibilities. Unfortunately, he proved too short to partner either Mayumi Hanabusa (the stolid Sugar Plum Fairy) or Annette Crespo (the efficient Snow Queen). Even little Clara (Jessica Freitas) towered above him, and his choreography should be revised to make him less oppressed by the nonstop lifting challenges that often courted disaster.
David Wilcox's staging has long been dominated by fireworks rather than dancing, but a number of soloists did display skill and charm--including Lisa Street (Dewdrop), Guoqiang Li (the Moor Doll and Chinese Dance), the Trepak trio and the whole Mirlitons ensemble.
\o7 * Los Angeles Classical Ballet repeats "The Nutcracker" on Thursday-Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; Dec. 23, 8 p.m.; Dec. 24, 2 p.m. Long Beach Terrace Theater, Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., $16-$49. (213) 365-3500.\f7