Performance Run: Fri 25 Nov - Tue 13 Dec 2016

Performance Reviewed: Fri 25 Nov Matinee (Press Day)

In celebrating the 90th Birthday of one of its most eminent creatives, Sir Peter Wright, one can think of few productions more delightful, accessible and appropriately festive to serve as an introduction to ballet than his own unique take on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Originally envisaged as a gift from Sir Peter to the people of Birmingham in thanks for the warm welcome given when the company moved to the City’s Hippodrome theatre from Sadler’s Wells in 1990, this now 26-year-old production is certainly showing no signs of its age, and is undoubtedly the Christmas gift to the City that keeps on giving.

But it isn’t just in the instantly-recognisable sweeps and whimsies of that beautiful Tchaikovsky score, the innate wonderment and fantasy of the piece, or the simple fact that it is easily the most Christmassy thing you can catch in Birmingham right now that all of the appeal for this latest production lies. No, so too does the sheer scale, scope, grandeur and majesty of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s stunning artistic direction and vision on display here firmly establish this as a hallmark venture not just for the renowned Company, but for ballet as a whole.

Audiences watch on in rich delight as Drosselemeyer’s transformation sequence early on dwarfs those that have come before, and Clara’s subsequent journey into the world of the Nutcracker Prince is as suitably enormous and grandiose as could be hoped for, without ever sacrificing on the majesty or wonderment in the process. Sequences such as the dance of the Snow Fairy and her attendants towards the end of Act I, showered in a blanket of snow, Drosselmeyer’s eclectic, international entourage in Act II and of course the simply resplendent Grand Pas De Deux of the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy at the top of the show are all utterly enthralling.

But it’s also in the smaller details where the delight was crystallised, right down to the likes of the whiplike vigour of the Rat King and his minions’ swishing, sweeping tails, where lesser interpretations would skimp on such flourishes or perhaps cut budgetary corners. 

Make no mistake, for all of its innate merit, BRB’s The Nutcracker is a visual, artistic delight, and every ounce of passion and professionalism is on display across-the-board.

A nigh-faultless company ensure they are not overshadowed by the stunning sets, rich, decadent costume design or brilliant score. In the performance reviewed, Miki Mizutani danced a youthful, spirited Clara without feeling one-note or cloyingly naïve, making the transition to the increasingly more intimate and adult dances with William Bracewell’s dashing Prince a smooth, suitably romantic affair. Bracewell and an exquisite Yaogian Shang as the Sugar Plum Fairy mesmerised in their Grand Pas De Deux as mentioned, the synergy and attention to detail between the two performers simply beguiling to watch.

Iain Mackay was a reliable, if slightly unexciting, presence as Drosselmeyer, James Barton and Reina Fuchigami delighted as the toylike Harlequin and Columbine, whilst Céline Gittens and Jenna Roberts captivated with their impassioned, vibrant takes on the Rose and Snow fairies respectively.

For many in the City, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is a surefire sign that the festive season is well and truly underway. The Frankfurt Christmas Market is erected, the classic tunes are playing in the shops, and all the usual tells are in place. And yet, it is difficult to imagine anything in or around the City coming remotely close to the festive warmth and enchantment that The Nutcracker offers. It is the perfect Christmas treat for all ages; an enchanting and resplendent delight of a production that is as fantastic and fantastical nearly three decades after its original conception, and easily a must-see this festive season (though be quick, it only runs until 13 December)

It is, quite simply, magical.

RATING - ★★★★★

Birmingham Royal Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER is running at the Birmingham Hippodrome from Friday 25 November to Tuesday 13 December 2016.

CLICK HERE for more information on the show's run at the Hippodrome and to book your tickets!
Alternatively, call Ticket Sales directly on 0844 338 5000 now to book your tickets!

Press access for this performance of The Nutcracker were provided courtesy of Birmingham Royal Ballet directly. The author gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.

Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here