This Nutcraker has a splashy tradition with the Long Beach Ballet

Saturdays through Dec. When: Opens Dec. Sundays, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Where: Terrace Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach.Tickets: $34-$115.Information: 877-852-3177, 10 with shows at 2 and 7:30 p.m., then 2 p.m. 18.
“When I produce the ballet, I do it in a big grand scale, making it about the story and the production,” said Wilcox, the company’s artistic director. 18. “So my Nutcracker is really well-suited for people who aren’t in love with ballet but they just want to see a big extravaganza performance with pyrotechnics, magic and all that stuff.”The troupe’s 34th annual six-performance production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet opens Saturday at the Terrace Theatre and runs on the weekends through Dec. The production will feature scenery created by former Disney designers Elliot Hessayon and Scott Schaffer and special effects by illusionist Franz Harary.

The pyrotechnics, which include explosions during battle scenes and a “pyrotechnic shower” emitted from the sleigh across the 60-foot-wide stage as it flies away, were designed by Universal Studios pyro-technician John Bordeaux, whose explosive work will be familiar to anyone who has seen the “Waterworld” live show. This year will feature guest artists Vanessa Zahorian, the principal ballerina with the San Francisco Ballet, Seth Orza, the principal male dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Sarah Ricard Orza, soloist with the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
One of Harary’s best-known effects, the huge Christmas package that helps the Nutcracker Doll transform into the prince, has been upgraded this year. Previously the package was pulled on to the stage by performers, but the new 6-foot-cube now appears to float magically onto the stage while turning 360 degrees.Also returning is Rebel, the show’s biggest star, well at least in terms of actual size. “He lives for this day,” Wilcox said. Rebel is the horse who trots out on stage and has been part of the production for 12 years.

The way David Wilcox sees it, if you’re going to take on a ballet that’s been around for more than 100 years and has become a Christmas tradition performed by dance companies all over the country, you better do it with an explosive splash sensational enough to attract even ballet haters. So expect pyrotechnics, a live horse, a flying sleigh, impressive special effects, a cast of nearly 300 dancers and a full symphony orchestra, which have all become a tradition for the Long Beach Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”