Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Tony Mercer
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
In a wet December during which temperatures have seldom dropped below 10 degrees, there is a certain irony in having to step inside the Royal Albert Hall to be reminded of what winters look and felt like traditionally. Snowflakes fall from the domed roof, landing on an ice rink that covers half of the arena space and a snowy Christmas card image is projected onto a large back screen.
Performances of Tchaikovsky’s ballet in the familiar format abound at this time of year, but this slippery twist given to it by the Imperial Ice Stars needs to justify itself by enhancing the experience and taking it in new directions.
The first big plus is being able to hear the wonderful music played in this great concert hall by the London Concert Orchestra, conducted by Tim A Duncan. Many of the themes in this piece have been reduced to instantly recognisable catchy tunes used in tv adverts and the like, but here all the subtleties in the thrilling score can be heard clearly and appreciated fully.
The first half of the production disappoints slightly in that it resembles little more than a fast-moving ballet and does not fully explore the possibilities that skating offers. Inevitably, skaters find it more difficult than dancers to keep time with the music. However, the second half takes wing, in many cases quite literally, with skaters being thrown through the air and even performing acrobatics from a trapeze. The finale is an exhilarating, head-dizzying extravaganza of movement and colour.
Mariia Vygalova as Maria, Vladislav Lysoi as the Nutcracker Prince and Anastasiia Ivanova as the Sugar Plum Fairy lead a large company that skates with grace, remarkable athleticism and precision, choreographed by artistic director Tony Mercer.
Elena Predvodeteleva’s imaginative costumes make a huge contribution to the colourful spectacle, with small armies of cats and evil mice adding to the fun. There can be few happier ways of getting the whole family out of the warm and into the cold this holiday season.
Runs until 2 January 2016 | Image: Imperial Ice Stars