Simon Hale is once again captivated by the BRB’s production of The Nutcracker.
What could provide a better start to Christmas than Sir Peter Wright’s version of The Nutcracker for Birmingham Royal Ballet?
The production at Birmingham Hippodrome opens like an illustration from a giant Christmas card with a traditional scene of a grand Victorian parlour being decorated for a festive party.
As the tableau comes to life, the lighting of a tree brings the first sense of enchantment. Children and adults alike then exude their own charm with their party pieces, before the mysterious long-cloaked magician Drosselmeyer (Jonathan Payn) arrives to demonstrate his skills.
As the Christmas Eve festivities come to an end with the dousing of candles and the chiming of a clock, we tingle with anticipation at the magic that midnight will surely bring. What follows is an astonishing transformation scene as the tree grows and the cosy world of domesticity becomes a battleground between toy soldiers and a wicked Mouse King.
For Clara, a young ballet student reduced in size to her Christmas nutcracker present, this is the start of a journey to a phantasmagorical new land. On the show’s opening night, Karla Doorbar danced the complex role with all the poise, sensitivity and childlike awe that it demanded. Her Prince, meanwhile, was all heroic dash and verve with the high-kicking César Morales also demonstrating exceptional technical and athletic mastery.
For a character that has been traditionally side lined for the divertissements after the interval, it was a pleasure to see Clara occupied in imitating the ethnic acts without taking away their glory.
Delia Mathews meanwhile excelled as a sinewy mesmerising Arabian dancer, as did Céline Gittens as the charming Rose Fairy in the Waltz of the Flowers and Samara Downs as the glittering Snow Fairy in the Waltz of the Snowflakes. But the entire corps de ballet were on top form.
Although she only materialises towards the end of the show, the Sugar Plum Fairy provided the icing on the Christmas cake with the exquisite Momoko Hirata dancing the grand pas de deux with Morales with such elegance and grace that it brought tears to the eyes.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the sumptuous Tchaikovsky score, performed expertly by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Matthew Rowe. This world-leading festive production just seems to get better and better. Don’t miss it.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is in performance at Birmingham Hippodrome until December 13th. Tickets