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You would be doing yourself a disservice if you did not take time to gather the family and/or friends and head out to see Festival Ballet Theatre‘s gorgeous The Nutcracker playing now at The Irvine Barclay Theatre in South Orange County.

Such Leg Extensions

I was fortunate enough to see Sophia Johncox (who unfortunately was injured and not able to dance in The Firebird) dance the role of Clara and WOW. Those of you who get to see her dance at the 12/21 matinee, 12/22 matinee or 12/24 matinee will be so fortunate! I was amazed by all those incredible extensions. She has legs for miles and talk about the grace she exudes!

The other dancers scheduled to dance the role of Clara are Bella Do (12/20, 12/22 evening) and Sami Samtos (12/21 evening, 12/23) who both excelled in Chopiniana and Frescoes this autumn.

So Many Talented and Charismatic Children

Festival Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker

One of the treats about seeing The Nutcracker at Irvine Barclay Theatre is the number of children featured in the cast.  The children in the cast brought joy and happiness to the audience. And there were quite a few who sparkled in their solos such as Julian Chao (Fritz, 12/20, 12/21 matinee, 12/22 matinee and 12/24); Angelina Jones (12/21 matinee, 12/23) and Leon Sai (12/20, 12/21 matinee, 12/22 matinee, 12/24) as the Mouse Duet. And I couldn’t tell you how many times my friend and I ooo’d and awww’d over the adorable little ones who were featured as party guests, little mice and angels.

So Many Applause Worthy Moments

Lex Ishimoto in Festival Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker
Lex Ishimoto in Festival Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker

Everyone in the audience was in aww of the Festival Ballet Theatre company dancers Lex Ishimoto (So You Think You Can Dance Winner, 2017), Donald Davison. I personally could not take my eyes off Davison especially in the gorgeous blue coat he wore as Dr. Stahlbaum (Clara’s father), as one half of the Arabian Pas de Deux (Act Two) and as a Petal Cavalier opposite FBT Trainee Anjoulie Kempton. And Ishimoto was such a star and audience favorite as Harlequin (12/20-12/24) and one part of The Russian Pas de Deux (12/20-12/24).

Trainee Bella Do earned huge applause as Harlequinette (12/24) as did Ashley Chung (12/21 matinee, 12/22 matinee, 12/24) as the Porcelain Doll in Act 1, Scene 1.

All the pas de deux performers were stunning although Mariana Carrillo (Arabian Pas de Deux, 12/20) and Megan Yamashita (Russian Pas de Deux, 12/23) and the Chinese Pas de Deux pairing of Trainee Athena Skiathitis (12/22 matinee, 12/23) and Toleu Mukanov (12/21 matinee, 12/22 matinee, 12/24) were extra memorable. There were times I thought Carrillo was going to break in half given her incredible movements.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention talented company dancers Greyson Hanson (12/21 matinee, 12/22 matinee, 12/24) and Jestoni Dagdag who did such a fabulous job in Act One, Scene Two as the Nutcracker Prince and Mouse King.

It really was impressive how well trainees such as Skiathitis, Do, Chung and Kempton held their own opposite the company dancers.

Stunning Guest Artists

Tara Ghassemieh + Vitor Luiz In The Nutcracker
Married couple Tara Ghassemieh + Vitor Luiz In The Nutcracker.

Each weekend, Festival Ballet Theatre welcomes guest artists in the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Cavalier. I was lucky to see Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell (courtesy of Ballet West) who enthralled the audience with both their special pas de deux and individual solos.

For the final dates, Tara Ghassemieh Luiz (12/22 evening), Maria Kochetkova (12/20, 12/21, 12/22 matinee) and Joffrey Ballet’s Jeraldine Mendoza (12/23, 12/24) share the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy. Vitor Luiz (12/20, 12/21, 12/22) and Joffrey Ballet’s Dylan Gutierrez (12/23, 12/24) will alternate as the Cavalier.

It is impressive to note how well the guest stars connect with both the company dancers and student dancers during Act Two.

Sumptuous Costume Designs by Simon Pastukh and Galina Solovyeva

Festival Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker

Festival Ballet Theatre’s costume team of Donna Dickens, Cyndee Ely, Cliff Faulkner, Heather Lerma, Kaye Michel, Jack Sykes, Barbara Vieuretta did a fabulous job of recreating and constructing the iconic costumes for this season’s The Nutcracker.

Everyone was so beautifully dressed without any of the costumes showing age or distress.

Upcoming Dates:

December 20 7pm

December 21 2pm, 7pm

December 22 1pm, 6pm

December 23 6pm

December 24 11am

A Visit to Festival Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker Will Warm Your Hearts

I know this holiday season can be extremely busy and overwhelming but I am confident that a visit to see The Nutcracker at The Irvine Barclay will not be a disappointment. Yes, there is no live orchestra but the music being piped in was rich and swirled around those of us in the orchestra section. And while this cast may not feature recognizably big names such as Misty Copeland, it does offer a very strong company of dancers and the Irvine Barclay Theatre is just the right size so the show does not get swallowed up by the auditorium.

Be sure to allow yourself time to arrive early to check out the gorgeous lobby that is decked out for the holidays. There is even a nutcracker sale featuring gorgeous nutcrackers of all sizes and several life sized nutcrackers for Instagram-worthy photos.

Who, What, Where and When:

Who: Festival Ballet Theatre

What: The Nutcracker

Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre (Tickets: Online or Box Office)

When: 12-20 through 12-24 (see above for specific dates and times)

The Joyous Living Presents 5 Reasons Festival Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker is Encore-Worthy!

Accessible Note: The theatre has accessible seating available for those with mobility impairments and listening devices to amplify stage sound for those hard of hearing. Also, a big thank you to UCI for the FREE parking in their UCI parking structure for those with Disabled Placards.
Disclaimer: I received my tickets for review purposes but all opinions are my own.

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