I saw LA Ballet's Nutcracker show this past Saturday evening at Royce Hall, UCLA. It was really impressive that they managed to fill that hall, because it's much bigger than their usual venues.
Seeing it again this year, I thought the dancing is for the most part pretty bland and generic --- a lot of it reminds me of stuff you might see on a kid's Nutcracker, and wasn't terribly complicated. I think the staging was also a bit too literal, and not very evocative of the story. You can do a lot of interesting stuff in dance that's richly suggestive, and blend it in very interesting ways into the storyline. Here, it felt more like connect-the-dots.
There are also some strange musical choices. The grand pas's variations are done at the beginning of act 2, and the Mirlitons music was missing. Speaking of the grand pas, the one highlight for me was the grand pas adage, which Corina Gill and Rainer Krenstetter made look radiant, especially compared to everything else.
The music this year was recorded instead of live, assisted by computer, last year, and the costumes were the same, very high-quality ones as last year. But like the dancing and choreography, the rest of the production made this Nutcracker look like a ghost of what it should have been.
The sets were sparse, which was especially apparent on the larger stage. And the lighting was pretty awful. The stage was unevenly lit, so you couldn't see some of the corps' faces when they were lined up across the stage. There appeared to be some missed cues, so some of the action was lost due to darkness, and so on.
Perhaps I'm being picky, but for many people, the Nutcracker is their first and sometimes only exposure to ballet. If a company doesn't put its best foot forward, I wonder how many people will return to see their very promising spring and summer programs.