Presented by The Imperial Ice Stars and Lunchbox Theatrical Productions
Reviewed Thursday 19th July 2012
The ballet, The Nutcracker, was set to the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and based on the story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, by E. T. A. Hoffman in an adaptation by Alexander Dumas père. Hoffman was one of best known and most influential of the great writers of the Romantic era, and several more of his stories are the basis of Jacques Offenbach’s opera, The Tales of Hoffman. The ballet was not an instant success, however, but it is now one of the most loved and often performed.
Although the ballet took a long time to succeed, his orchestral piece, The Nutcracker Suite, which uses many of the dance themes from the second act, was an instant winner. It is, of course, one of the famous and much loved pieces of music that Walt Disney chose to use in his ground breaking feature length animation, Fantasia. There would be few people who would not recognise most of the beautiful melodies.
Many great names have created new choreography for this work, including the Russian born American choreographer, George Balanchine, one of the most important choreographers of the 20th Century. Rudolph Nureyev and Mickhail Baryshnikov have also choreographed the ballet, such is its importance.
Now it has been choreographed once more, as an ice ballet, by Tony Mercer, the company’s Artistic Director and Choreographer. The music has been arranged by Tim A. Duncan and the recorded score is played by the soloists and wind section of Manchester Symphony Orchestra, added to the recording of the string section that was done in Moscow.
It is a Christmas Eve in the late nineteenth century, and there is a party in the home of Dr. Pavlov, in St. Petersburg. His daughter Marie and her siblings are being showered with gifts and then the strange Herr Drosselmeyer arrives. He begins to perform magic tricks, which start to worry his audience. He then presents Marie with a nutcracker doll, with which she immediately loves.
That night she slips downstairs to peek at her nutcracker, and then she is affrighted by the storm outside. Suddenly, she is aware that everything around her is growing, including the Mouse King and Queen and their subjects. They cluster around her but, before they can attack her, the toy soldiers come to life and a melee ensues.
Her nutcracker suddenly comes to life, revealing that he is a prince who has been under an enchantment, and leads her away through the forest and the snowfall to the Land of Sweets. This is where we hear most of those unforgettable themes for the various sweets and drinks: the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Spanish Dance (chocolate), Arabian Dance (coffee), Chinese Dance (tea), Russian Dance (candy) and so on, including the lovely Waltz of the Flowers. Marie and the Prince are now in love, but the magic of Christmas is in the air and perhaps it might all have been just a dream.
A work like this, of course is not performed on a bare area of ice, and the scenic design, by Eamon D’Arcy, and costumes, by Elena Predvodeteleva, are stunning, with the lighting, by Richard Rhys Thomas, superbly creating day, night, Winter, and then adding a magical feel to the fantasy settings.
Anastasia Ignatyeva is absolutely delightful as the bright and bubbly young Marie, and Bogdan Berezenko is all that one could wish for as the handsome prince. In solo and in pas de deux they display enormous talent and skill and make a very believable pair of young lovers. Maria Davydova also gives an energetic performance as the Nutcracker Doll.
Herr Drosselmeyer, and his similarly attired assistant, are danced by Vadim Yarkov and Olga Sharutenko, who create a nice air of mystery, to which the others at the party respond convincingly. The Doctor and his wife are danced by Volodymyr Khodakivskyy and Fiona Kirk, he providing some very strong, masculine moves, including many leaps and spins, whilst she provides an excellent feminine counterbalance based on very graceful movements.
Marie’s sister and brother, who also dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Paige, are performed by Olena Pyatash and Andrey Penkin. As the siblings, they contribute a lot of energetic charging around and a degree of squabbling and joking that young children continually do. As the Fairy and her Paige, there is a regal elegance to their dancing, befitting her role as the person left in charge by the Prince when he was enchanted. There is also a nice bit of humour in the party scene from Svetlana Nalimova as the Grandmother.
The Mouse King and Queen, danced by Jurijs Salmanovs and Juliia Odintcova, are appropriately menacing as they lead their mice against the Nutcracker and his chocolate and toy soldiers. They also show their displeasure and fear at the sight of Vadim Yarkov and Olga Sharutenko as the Black Cat and White Cat.
It is no surprise that the standard of ice dancing by the entire company is of a very high level indeed, with even the couple of awkward landings from some of the most difficult jumps being quickly corrected on landing, without a single fall all night.
There were people of all ages in the fully booked Festival Theatre on opening night, some of considerably advanced years and some I would estimate not quite three years old, yet there was a not a sound, apart from considerable applause and occasional laughter at the comic moments or an ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ at some particularly impressive techniques. The audience was totally captivated by this marvellous production, proving that is really is a family evening out. Try to get tickets if you can.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.
Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: various day and evening performances to 22nd July 2012
Duration: 2hrs (incl 20 min intvl)
Tickets: $49 to $89
Bookings: BASS 131 245 or here