DanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Nutcracker – Lyceum, Sheffield

Reviewer: Ray Taylor

Music: Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Director: Marina Medvetskaya

Conductor: Guntars Bernats

Tchaikovsky’s perennial favourite The Nutcracker here receives an outing from the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet Theatre with a full live Hungarian Sinfonietta Orchestra expertly conducted by Guntars Bernats. The Lyceum is able to adequately accommodate a full orchestra and take advantage of the excellent acoustics.

Tchaikovsky’s scintillating and enchanting fairy tale continues to entertain and delight audiences around the world and Sheffield is definitely the beneficiary of this Russian production. There is something added to the performance when the group hails from the original country of the composer. The story concerns Clara, the daughter of the household in which a Christmas celebration is under way with a party, dancing, guests and games and the mysterious Drosselmeier who is something of a magician entertaining the children. He gives Clara a nutcracker which later at night comes alive and fights a battle with an army of mice (quite scarily portrayed and which might frighten any young children present) and defeats them and their Mouse King. By this time the nutcracker has turned into a handsome prince and he and Clara journey to a magical land where they meet all sorts of colourful dancers before they return to the real world. Has Clara really had such an adventure or has she dreamed it all?

Of course the “plot” is immaterial and whimsy. The whole point is to showcase the marvellous music and the artistry and skill of the ballet company. Here mention must be made of principal ballerina Yulia Yashina as Clara who has a more demanding role than other Claras I have seen in that she also performs as the Sugar Plum Fairy: she is poised and assured throughout; Vadim Lolenko is the Nutcracker Prince and makes a dashing male lead; Evgeniy Silakov is a somewhat younger Drosselmeier than usual and cuts a sinister figure in black performing very high and skilful jumps; and Natalia Romanova excels in her Arabian solo dance, a sensuous, lithe and beautiful rendition that would surely earn a 10 even from Craig Revel Horwood.

Any production of The Nutcracker is also noted for its costumes, sets and lighting and this is no exception. The Lyceum stage is a feast for the senses with wonderful colour and full scale backdrops and even one or two special effects that can catch you off guard! All in all this is a wonderful evening’s entertainment that sends you home with an inner glow, smiling and whistling all those brilliant tunes.

Runs until 11 January 2020

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