Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographers: Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov, Vincent Redmon
Reviewer: Nicole Evans
One of the classics, and undeniably one of the most timeless, ballets, The Nutcracker returns to its anticipated festive home, The Birmingham Hippodrome, for its Christmas run once again presented by Birmingham Royal Ballet. In its 26th year, and with the opening night coinciding with creator Sir Peter Wright’s 90th birthday, it promises to be a night to remember and to set the season off with a bang.
The Nutcracker tells a very simple tale of Clara, a young girl who, after returning downstairs to retrieve a much loved new gift from magician Drosselmeyer, gets whisked away by the magic of her Nutcracker doll to a majestic land where the toys come alive before her very eyes. Mesmerised by the unbelievable sights unfolding, Clara finds herself swept off her feet and is soon embracing her new friends and joining in with the merriment that ensues.
As the orchestra plays us in, the painted curtain rises and the family festivities unfold. With a near floor to ceiling Christmas tree on stage before them, Clara, her brother and her parents – donned in their period style finery to mark the occasion – prepare to greet their many guests.
With the above being less of a vague synopsis and more of a complete sum up of the plot, the onus really is on the dancers to draw the audience in. Sadly some of the sparkle is definitely absent from this particular performance and, whether down to the choreography or the lack of poise from the dancers, it falls short of the spectacle we have come to expect on a good few levels. A few timing and syncing issues with many of the group scenes occur in Act 1, and the technical ability being a little below par on many occasions fail to impress in the way such a classic ballet should.
It certainly isn’t all bad, however. The decision to give Clara less of an observational role pays off and combined with the vast array of delicate and colourful costumes, a stunning snowfall display during the Snowflakes dance and Clara soaring across the stage on an extravagant flying swan, the production does manage to leave us with the warm, festive, magical buzz we are hoping for. The Pas de Deux, Momoko Hirata and Joseph Caley, don’t disappoint with their delicate blend of leaps and spins, moving together almost as one at times and complementing one another’s moves with en point precision at others and Karla Doorbar perfects the innocence and awe of the young Clara as she floats around the stage – a delight to watch.
It is not often that this can be said, but on this occasion, the set overshadows the show. Simply yet extravagantly designed, it fills the grand Hippodrome stage and oozes a certain ‘wow’ factor from the minute the curtain rises with several, festively-adorned, frames adding depth to the fancy surroundings. The transformation scene sees the already outstanding Christmas tree growing in size before our eyes, with parts of it vanishing while larger foliage appears, successfully impressing the notion that Clara has shrunk into another dimension.
Overall, Sir Peter Wright’s production of The Nutcracker is still up there as a fabulous take on a timeless classic and will remain a Christmas tradition for the Hippodrome for years to come. Arrive expecting a masterpiece and you will leave disappointed. Seek out a pleasing evening to dust off those feel-good festive spirits and you’ll be on to a winner. Pleasant seasonal entertainment.
Runs until 13 December 2016 | Image: Contributed