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ABT Nutcracker - SCFTA Dec 2017 - Casting Posted

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Here is the casting for the run of Ratmanksy's Nutcracker at SCFTA this year. Thanks to AB'sMom who made me aware that the casting has been posted. Really disappointed they aren't any debuts in the leading roles considering the two new principals--Teuscher and Schevchenko--and the frequency with which some of these dancers have appeared in these roles in this theater for the last two years. On a plus note, I will finally get to see Sarah Lane in it. No Hallberg.

 

 

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Thursday, December 7 at 7 p.m.
Misty Copeland
Daniil Simkin

Friday, December 8 at 7 p.m.
Sarah Lane
Herman Cornejo

Saturday, December 9 at 2 p.m.
Gillian Murphy
James Whiteside

Saturday, December 9 at 7 p.m.
Stella Abrera
Alexandre Hammoudi

Sunday, December 10 at 12:30 p.m.
Sarah Lane
Herman Cornejo

Sunday, December 10 at 5:30 p.m.
Hee Seo
Cory Stearns

Wednesday, December 13 at 7 p.m.
Misty Copeland
Daniil Simkin

Thursday, December 14 at 7 p.m.
Hee Seo
Cory Stearns


Friday, December 15 at 7 p.m.
Gillian Murphy
James Whiteside

Saturday, December 16 at 2 p.m.
Stella Abrera
Alexandre Hammoudi

Saturday, December 16 at 7 p.m.
Misty Copeland
Daniil Simkin

Sunday, December 17 at 12:30 p.m.
Hee Seo
Cory Stearns

Sunday, December 17 at 5:30 p.m.
Gillian Murphy
James Whiteside

 


 

 

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I was hoping to see new principals as well. I wonder why Isabella Boylston isn't coming this year. I've seen Gillian Murphy, Stella Abrera, and Sarah Lane in the past. 

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I bought tickets to four nights under the assumption there would be a debut or two, so I'm pretty disappointed. I guess it's not painful to see Gillian Murphy or Stella again, but...

 

Somehow I ended up with two Misty nights based on my pre-casting booking (I guess I should have known she would get opening night). I already swapped one to see Sarah Lane, but I'm trying to decide if I should swap the other to a Seo/Stearns show??

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35 minutes ago, ksk04 said:

Somehow I ended up with two Misty nights based on my pre-casting booking (I guess I should have known she would get opening night). I already swapped one to see Sarah Lane, but I'm trying to decide if I should swap the other to a Seo/Stearns show??

 

FWIW, Seo looked gorgeous in the second PDD this spring at the Met. I am not a particular fan of hers, but this role really suits her.

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I've heard really lovely things about Hee Seo in Nutcracker. Last year my daughter was the young Clara with Gillian, Hee and Stella so I tended to go to shows that worked out with family and friends who came to see her. I guess none of them happened to coincide with the Hee Seo shows. 

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James Whiteside will not be dancing in Nutcracker due to hernia surgery. Hope he recovers well!

He was scheduled for 3 performances with Gillian Murphy. ABT's site hasn't been updated yet but SCFTA's states that Gomes will take his first performance and Blaine Hoven will take the other two. Great opportunity for Hoven!

 

Edited by ABT Fan

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I'm only going once to the Ratmansky Nutcracker this year, and mainly to watch the adorable children, but I happily chose the Sunday matinee Hee Seo-Cory Stearns performance.  I've seen all the female principals but Copeland, whom I do not find interesting or distinctive as a performer or dancer.   

I am also seeing two performances of Miami City Ballet's premiere run of Balanchine's Nutcracker in L.A., which includes dates when ABT is performing in Orange County.  I wish Miami City would post their casting.  

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I’m going to three performances and had saved Murphy/ Whiteside for closing night. I’m happy that I get to see Hoven. I saw Murphy/Whiteside last year and Murphy/Gomes the year before. 

3 hours ago, Josette said:

I'm only going once to the Ratmansky Nutcracker this year, and mainly to watch the adorable children, but I happily chose the Sunday matinee Hee Seo-Cory Stearns performance.  I've seen all the female principals but Copeland, whom I do not find interesting or distinctive as a performer or dancer.   

I am also seeing two performances of Miami City Ballet's premiere run of Balanchine's Nutcracker in L.A., which includes dates when ABT is performing in Orange County.  I wish Miami City would post their casting.  

(Is it okay to out myself by saying you’ll be seeing my daughter as young Clara?)

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On 2017/9/9 at 2:31 PM, AB'sMom said:

I was hoping to see new principals as well. I wonder why Isabella Boylston isn't coming this year. I've seen Gillian Murphy, Stella Abrera, and Sarah Lane in the past. 

Isabella Boylston will be guesting at Paris Opera Ballet's Don Quixote. (December 25 and 28)

https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/season-17-18/ballet/don-quichotte/distribution#head

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13 hours ago, AB'sMom said:

I’m going to three performances and had saved Murphy/ Whiteside for closing night. I’m happy that I get to see Hoven. I saw Murphy/Whiteside last year and Murphy/Gomes the year before. 

(Is it okay to out myself by saying you’ll be seeing my daughter as young Clara?)

I love knowing that your daughter is Clara!  

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I've seen two performances so far--had to swap my Lane/Cornejo tickets due to an emergency, which was really annoying as they were the ONE CAST I really, really wanted to see this year. I will have to wait another year to finally see Lane. I saw the opening night with Copeland/Simkin and last night with Seo/Stearns. I have tickets to the Abrera and Murphy (+ Hoven) shows this weekend also.

Opening night was much of the same cast-wise as many shows I saw last year and the year before and last night seemed to either have debuts or castings I've not seen before (not clear which). Luis Ribagorda and Gabe Stone Shayer seem to be on double duty each show I've seen and are both fantastic: Shayer has been the Cook, Harlequin, a Bee, and Russian. Ribagorda has been the Recruit, Russian, the Butler/Major Domo. It is so great to see him back onstage; he's lost none of the charm and presence from before he left.  Courtney Lavine was the Nanny/Sugar Plum last night and I don't think I saw her as this before--I thought she was charming. She also seems to be cast in everything and doing a great job. I thought Skylar Brandt was disappointing as Chinese on opening night (no crazy pirouettes at the end) but lovely in Nutcracker's sisters. Patrick Frenette was the Recruit last night with Catherine Hurlin as canteen keeper; not sure if this is a debut but he had a lot of faces going on that suggested he wasn't super comfortable with some of the choreography, even behind the eye mask. I have a hard time with the costumes for Snow and Flower--they are SO unflattering for so many of the dancers, especially flowers. They make everyone look like they have a short stocky waists.

The little kids opening night were excellent--they had all the cues right and the Fritz especially had that "little sh*t" vibe that really sells the role. I saw him onstage last night as part of the kids group and wanted him back in front causing trouble!

As far as the leads go, Copeland/Simkin were fine, passable. She lacks a lot of twisting and bending that makes the choreography, especially in her solo. Simkin had to save her quickly from falling out of the ending of the a la seconde unsupported pirouette at the end of the pas--though at least they tried it unsupported; Stearns, fairly expertly, made it look as if he let Seo go but kept her in his fingertips. I don't have the same anti-Seo stance that a lot of people have, probably as I haven't seen her in every role whether suitable or not. I thought she was very lush and lovely last night. She and Stearns clearly have a great rapport; he obviously enjoys dancing with her and is so much better at making eye contact and looking like a real person who wants to interact with her. He did a great job at making some of partnering look beautiful especially one of the first lifts where she is gradually raised (dead weight) higher as they spin in a circle. Didn't get a lot of that personal rapport from Copeland/Simkin. Anyway I would rather see Seo again over Copeland or Boylston (probably in most roles, frankly).

I feel our repeated discussions of the torch lift have made a difference. Neither cast is doing the "stop, leg up into the hand, hoist up" nonsense. There is now a clear running jump and even if it takes an extra push to get the woman in the air, the lift looks SO MUCH BETTER. Perhaps they all needed to see Abrera and Hammoudi pull it off last year to have the confidence.

Edited by ksk04

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I was there last night as well and have to say I loved Seo and Stearns. So much of the rest of the show seemed just slightly off, somehow. (I've been to three so far this year). One of the bees was consistently a count behind the rest of them. Speaking of Shayer, he has also been partnered with Trenary in Chinese and if I had my way they would always do those roles, though I love Shayer in everything he does.

As a side note, there is an illness sweeping through the kids cast right now so some of them are shifting around to other spots. Last night the young Nutcracker Prince got progressively worse as the night wore on.

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I was fortunate enough to spend part of my recent vacation in Costa Mesa, and while there, was able to see three performances of the Nutcracker (Friday evening 12/8, Saturday 12/9 matinee and Saturday 12/9 evening) at the Segerstrom Center.  It was wonderful to see the Ratmansky Nutcracker once again; it’s so different from the Balanchine version, but just as enjoyable.  New York City misses the ABT production very much!

However, I don’t recall the jokey, comedic production I saw last weekend.  When performed at BAM in the past, I remember a rather palpable, mysterious dark undertone, a kind of thread of menace that would shoot through the drama every time Drosselmeyer appeared.  It created a rather sad, bittersweet ending for Clara, clutching her nutcracker and weeping.  That sense of darkness seems nearly to have vanished, and it has a lot to do with the way Drosselmeyer is played now; as a rather friendly fellow who buoyantly zips around the stage making magic happen.  The change was most pronounced when played by Craig Salstein on Friday night.  Yes, Craig is back, at least for this run, and it was great to see him, but his Drosselmeyer was the most upbeat, energetic and utterly youthful Drosselmeyer I’ve ever encountered.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely not the Balanchine version.  The best Drosselmeyer I saw over the weekend was Alexei Agoudine on Saturday afternoon.  He is a superb actor, and created a moody character who had a real purpose behind his magic.  I enjoyed Roman Zhurbin on Saturday night as well, but the menace he once displayed in the past is mostly vanished now in this production.

The leads on Friday night were Lane and Cornejo.  All seemed well as they began the pas de deux, when suddenly it was apparent that something was wrong with Lane.  I thought perhaps she was injured, or felt unwell, but it was clear something was amiss and her dancing was strained.  She was lucky to have Cornejo there to support her.  I saw him ask her if she was okay; she gave him a brisk nod, and then somehow, not only did they manage keep going, but they completed the pas de deux in its entirety, with no glaring errors, and no elements eliminated or changed.  And that included the torch lift, which they pulled off wonderfully.  Of the three couples I saw over the weekend, they were the only ones who managed to accomplish this.  They are both seasoned, skillful professionals, and their visible exhaustion at the ballet’s end was a real testament to their strength and technical abilities.  I believe their performance on Sunday was much better; Cornejo’s Instagram post that day shows them far more relaxed and at ease than on Friday.

The leads on Saturday afternoon were Murphy and Gomes, and there is nothing I can say about them that hasn’t been said before – they are fantastic dancers, bursting with the relaxed confidence and skill that age and experience bring.  They can do no wrong!  What they did do, however, was alter the torch lift choreography a bit.  Rather than Murphy approaching Gomes in a running leap for the lift, she simply stood before him, and he lifted her from her standing position.  I believe this is something they’d done before in Brooklyn, and obviously was a choice made by Gomes.  Other than that, their pas de deux was perfection.

On Saturday evening, Abrera performed with Hammoudi.  I had high hopes for Hammoudi, thinking that maybe he would redeem himself after that lackluster Swan Lake in the spring.  However, his dancing still was not very good.  He landed his jumps poorly, at one point skidding a bit across the floor.  And he eliminated the double tours the Prince performs just prior to the torch lift, merely walking to his mark for the set up.  The lift began very well, but once he had Abrera in the air he couldn’t hold her there.  He lost his grip on her and she slid down his arm, barely making it to the next move.  It was a disappointing moment.  However, Abrera was far and away the absolute best of the three adult Claras.  The beautiful lyricism of her arms and back, combined with her acting and interpretive skills, made her performance the golden moment of the evening.  I believe she is now the finest female principal in the company and I dearly hope she will be dancing with us for another few years.

There were numerous featured performances that were well done, and others that were less so.  On Friday night, the four dancing dolls (Columbine, Harlequin, Recruit and Canteen Keeper) were not very good.  In particular, Gabe Stone Shayer was a real disappointment.  As Harlequin, he had no control over his limp, flailing arms and legs, and seemed to forget he was playing a doll.  Much, much better were the four on Saturday night.  Cassandra Trenary and Arron Scott as Columbine and Harlequin were outstanding, Trenary in particular completely giving herself over to the mechanical movements of a clockwork doll.  Both she and Scott seemed ready for Harlequinade in the spring.  As Recruit and Canteen Keeper, Luis Ribagorda and Courtney Lavine were spectacular.  They were utterly musical, moving with amazing speed and clarity, and were the only dancers in these roles who finished with the music.  Lavine is dancing again after a year off due to injury, and seems better than ever – on Saturday night she also appeared as one of the menacing snow flakes, and then in the Arabian dance in Act II as well.  Would love to see more of her in featured roles the spring!  And on Friday night and Saturday night, Blaine Hoven was "on fire" in the Spanish dance (no pun intended with those wildfires raging).  He really did blaze across stage with grace, energy and intensity, and I hope his lead performances as the Nutcracker Prince with Murphy will be just as good.  He is more than ready for some leading roles in the big ballets in the spring! 

To the parents of Annabelle and Julianna, the two Claras I saw in the three performances – congratulations!  Your daughters were both outstanding, natural performers, moving the drama along with some wonderful acting and mime, and appearing at ease on stage throughout.  Whether they continue to dance or move on to other endeavors, I hope the future holds good things for both of them. 

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Hi laurel thanks for this review! What you point out about Ratmansky's Nutcracker (that the dark, melancholy undertones have disappeared) I've noticed happen to several of his ballets over time. For instance when Odessa premiered I recall being shocked at the violent and fractious relationships depicted onstage. When I saw it again this fall the darkness was very nearly gone and it seemed just more like romantic musical chairs. 

I also saw earlier versions of Ratmansky's Cinderella for the Mariinsky that were rather dark and then I saw the Mariinsky do it in 2015 and besides the industrial set the edge was almost all gone and it became, for better or worse, just another Cinderella story.

Since he personally supervises as many revivals as possible and retains tight control over casting I assume these changes in accents and tone are also his choice.

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15 hours ago, laurel said:

 

That sense of darkness seems nearly to have vanished, and it has a lot to do with the way Drosselmeyer is played now; as a rather friendly fellow who buoyantly zips around the stage making magic happen.  The change was most pronounced when played by Craig Salstein on Friday night.  Yes, Craig is back, at least for this run, and it was great to see him, but his Drosselmeyer was the most upbeat, energetic and utterly youthful Drosselmeyer I’ve ever encountered.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely not the Balanchine version.

Laurel, thank you for reminding me of how bizarre I thought Salstein's characterization was. This was made worse at the show I went to as (as AB'sMom mentioned) his magic trick didn't go off and so it made his characterization look even more hapless/jokey. I thought Zhurbin was menacing enough on opening night, but you are right--it can/should skew darker.

 

I agree with you that Stella is the best interpreter of this role; she captures the choreography and the characterization so well--can't wait to see her again in a few hours!

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I feel like I’ve seen this show so many times over the last few years that I now have a dream cast for almost every role. I got last minute balcony tickets for last night’s show. (My daughter got to perform with the young Prince from the opposite cast, who happens to be one of her best friends, so I couldn’t resist). From where I sat Blaine Hoven looked great. I’m sitting in good seats closing night so I’ll get a better view of his next performance. 

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On 11/28/2017 at 7:44 PM, Josette said:

I'm only going once to the Ratmansky Nutcracker this year, and mainly to watch the adorable children, but I happily chose the Sunday matinee Hee Seo-Cory Stearns performance.  I've seen all the female principals but Copeland, whom I do not find interesting or distinctive as a performer or dancer.   

I am also seeing two performances of Miami City Ballet's premiere run of Balanchine's Nutcracker in L.A., which includes dates when ABT is performing in Orange County.  I wish Miami City would post their casting.  

Just saw on her Instagram that Sarah Lane is filling in for Hee Seo at tomorrow’s matinee. She’ll be dancing with Cory Stearns. I don’t know what happened to Hee Seo but I’m guessing that she caught whatever bug seems to be going around. 

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Thanks for letting me know, AB's Mom! I certainly have no complaints about seeing Sarah Lane. Also looking forward to seeing your daughter.  I am in the front row. 

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