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BALLET REVIEW : Joffrey Alternates in ‘Nutcracker’

When a ballet company plays a single-production run, as the Joffrey is doing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with its winsome “Nutcracker,” it must boast the same advantage as an unbeatable basketball team: a deep bench.

In other words, no single cast can, or should, dance all 16 performances. And at the Thursday matinee there were, predictably, both bonuses won and penalties charged by the energized alternates who showed up onstage.

The most notable turned out to be Daniel Baudendistel as Drosselmeyer. Towering over everyone else from a height of 6-foot-3, the former member of the Lar Lubovitch company was physically commanding.

True, he may not have conjured the mystery of the best Drosselmeyers--is this magician-godfather with the black eye-patch a purveyor of malevolence to some small degree? No. He had no philosophic tricks up his sleeve.

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But that was a moot point, as far as his most attentive charges, Clara and Fritz, were concerned. As Linda Bechtold portrayed her, the little heroine was no namby-pamby but a child with deeply felt, giant-sized emotions, ecstatic with her Christmas presents and devastated at their loss.

Crucially, she carried through this affect in her dancing. Stealing back to the darkened room for a rendezvous with her doll, she swirled with sensual delight. Even in Candyland, with all the distractions, she captured attention.

And her brother, danced by Alexander Brady, was a coiled spring of mischief--his beaming face a map of spiritedness.

But some weaknesses elsewhere were evident. Meg Gurin, for instance, could not equal Tina LeBlanc as the Sugar Plum Fairy. For all her classical poise and careful study she lacked LeBlanc’s instinctive musicality.

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Nor did she find much comfort from her Nutcracker Prince, Pascal Benichou, strictly out of his league as a danseur noble . As a youngster in Act I, he was convincingly boyish. But when the same attributes make for a gangly, insecure cavalier, the casting director needs to take another look.


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