Sweet Success

ABT Whipped Cream

American Ballet Theatre’s Whipped Cream has its world premiere at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

A major new ballet will debut at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, as American Ballet Theatre’s production of Whipped Cream has its world premiere March 15.

Choreographed by ABT’s artist in residence Alexi Ratmansky (“The most gifted choreographer in classical ballet today,” according to the London Telegraph), the production features elaborate and incredibly colorful costumes and sets designed by contemporary artist Mark Ryden.

Featuring a rarely produced score by Richard Strauss, Whipped Cream tells the dreamlike story of a boy who gets sick from eating too many sweets, falls into a fantasy world complete with scary adults, and is rescued by magical Princess Praline and her court of creative characters that includes Princess tea Flower and Prince Coffee.

“This show has the most extraordinarily beautiful scenic elements.”

The original ballet as created by Strauss in the 1920s was based on a sweet Viennese custom whereby kids are allowed to fill up with whipped cream-topped cakes and pastry confections on the occasion of their religious confirmation. “It is the realization of every Viennese child’s fondest dream, with its consequent disillusion,” as critic’s notes on the 1924-era original ballet put it.

“The score is, in some ways, a great one, Strauss’s masterpiece of high and low art,” according to Wayne Heisler, an author and Strauss expert quoted in a New York Times preview story about the ballet. Musicians from the Pacific Symphony will perform the score live during the seven performances of Whipped Cream, March 15-19.

Sweet Shop Arch Area

“This show has the most extraordinarily beautiful scenic elements,” says Judy Morr, executive vice president of Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “The colors are just vibrant.”

That’s thanks to sets and costumes designed by Mark Ryden, the pop artist best known for surrealistic paintings featuring large-eyed children.

“Mark Ryden’s art work is fantastic,” says Morr. “It’s large scaled, and there’s a lot of it: 30 scenic drops, all hand-painted from Ryden’s design.”

Morr, who joined the Center in 1985, has played a principal role in establishing Segerstrom Center as one of the nation’s most prestigious performing arts institutions, especially when it comes to dance. Segerstrom Center’s extremely strong relationship with ABT is a key part of that prestige.

ABT dancers are regulars in Costa Mesa. They were at Segerstrom Center for the Arts this past holiday season for a spectacular production of The Nutcracker, a version of the classic Christmas ballet also choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky that featured OC’s own Misty Copeland.  

Whipped Cream will join other world premieres ABT has presented at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, including Swan Lake (choreographed by Mikhail Baryshnikov, 1988), The Firebird (Alexei Ratmansky, 2012) and The Sleeping Beauty (Alexei Ratmansky, 2015).

“ABT is vitally important to our work,” Morr says. “ABT preformed The Nutcracker the first year the Center was open,” she says. “That was 31 years ago. There has been an ABT production almost every year since.”

Whipped Cream ABT


The Orange County connections to ABT do indeed run deep. Whipped Cream will have its New York premiere on May 22 as part of ABT’s 2017 Spring Gala at the Metropolitan Opera House, thanks in part to the key support of OC arts patron Elizabeth Segerstrom. She is a Diamond Anniversary Chair for the event, as she was for ABT’s 75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee gala performance and dinner dance in 2015.

Elizabeth Segerstrom is a strong supporter of ABT’s productions at Segerstrom Center for the Arts and in New York. She and her visionary husband Henry, who passed away in 2015, and the Segerstrom family have long been Orange County’s most influential art patrons and philanthropists. The Segerstrom’s donated the land where Segerstrom Center for the Arts has grown into one of the country’s most important centers of art , culture and dance.

The Segerstrom Center’s International Dance Series is made possible by The Segerstrom Foundation Endowment for Great Performances and the Audrey Steele Burnand Endowed Fund for International Dance. The world premiere of Whipped Cream is possible in part thanks to special underwriting from William J. Gillespie and Michelle Rohé.
The ABT William J. Gillespie School at Segerstrom Center for the Arts is a year around ballet school that has already received international acclaim since opening in 2015. Local arts philanthropist William Gillespie has been a member of the ABT board since 1999, and also funded the dance studios at UCI. He doesn’t take a lot of credit, but he’s amazing,” Morr says of Gillespie. “He’s made such a difference in the life of Orange County. “

For tickets and more information, go to SCFTA.org

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Timothy Mangan
Timothy Mangan

Timothy Mangan served as The Orange County Register’s classical music critic from 1998-2016 and no longer looks likes his picture. He is a contributor to Opera News and The Los Angeles Times, and he has also written for The Baltimore Sun, The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Musical America and Gramophone, among other publications. In 1999 he won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his writing on classical music. He is co-editor of Paul Bowles on Music, published by the University of California Press. He resides in Mission Viejo splendor with a wife, a son, loud neighbors and new air-conditioning. You can read more of Timothy's work on his blog Classical Life

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