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Money Woes Kill ABT’s ‘Nutcracker’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

American Ballet Theatre has canceled the world premiere of its much ballyhooed new production of “Nutcracker,” which had been slated for December at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.

Citing shaky finances, the company has backed out of its two-week engagement at the center, where officials had no comment on filling the now-vacant Nov. 29-Dec. 8 slot.

This is the second cancellation this year of a premiere ABT was to have given at the Orange County center. A new ballet by Clark Tippet was to have been unveiled there in March. ABT also canceled its two-week August engagement at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion because of money problems.

According to a statement issued by ABT on Friday, “the company had funding in place” for the new staging of “Nutcracker” by Canadian choreographer Brian MacDonald, which subsequently was to have been performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington. But, according to the statement, the board decided that “the overall ongoing financial viability of American Ballet Theatre is best served by postponing the production for one year.”

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ABT’s board wants time “to place greater emphasis on deficit reduction and general operating funding,” the statement continued. A spokesman said the company has an operating deficit of about $2 million.

Meanwhile, the company has no other production of “Nutcracker” to fall back on. Artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov left the company in 1989 and has refused to allow further ABT performances of his staging, which was presented in Costa Mesa in 1986 and at Shrine Auditorium in 1985.

The remainder of ABT’s 1991-92 season, which includes a one-week stint in Costa Mesa in February, is not affected, said company spokesman Robert Pontarelli.

Refunds will be offered to subscribers who had purchased “Nutcracker” tickets, according to a statement released Friday. Tickets to individual performances had not gone on sale.

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