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Samara Downs as The Snow Fairy surrounded by Snowflakes. Pictures: Bill Cooper

The Nutcracker

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


TWENTY-five years ago Sir Peter Wright, the artistic director of the newly arrived Birmingham Royal Ballet, created this spellbinding production as his and BRB’s gift to the city they now called home.

And it is a gift that carries on giving, with a ballet that is as magical, magnificent and enchanting as it was at Christmas 1990 when, incidentally, Marion Tait, played the ballet student Clara.

Tait, now assistant director, provides her own pMoJoersonal link to that first performance appearing a quarter century later as Clara’s grandmother.

Christmas might start just after August Bank holiday in some shops but in Birmingham the festive season is launched with the opening bars of Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous, symphonic score.

The hallmark of Wright’s Nutcracker is its sheer elegance and scale, every scene, every dance is a thing of beauty in John Macfarlane’s sumptuous setting from richly decorated drawing room to snowy forest.

The special pairing of Momoko Hirata as The Sugar Plum Fairy and Joseph Caley as The Prince

BRB have created two of the most spectacular scenes in world ballet, the  swans rising out of the mist in Wright’s Swan Lake and the magical Christmas tree transformation in The Nutcracker.

This takes us from the Christmas party at Dr Stahlbaum’s house to a dream sequence as Clara finds herself in a battle between King Rat (Yasuo Atsuji) and his followers and The Nutcracker.

Karla Doorbar dances the role of Clara quite beautifully with an air of playful innocence while Jonathan Caguioa is her dashing, athletic Nutcracker soldier – although to be honest he was none too impressive with the soldiery bit and was being well and truly stuffed by the old rats until Clara saved the day by taking out the King with a whack around the head with her shoe – those pointes are harder than they look.

Jonathan Payn took on the role of Drosselmeyer the flamboyant magician with a cape the size of Dudley who we first see at the party, with his assistant danced by James Baclararton and his troupe of Harlequin and Columbine danced by Kit Holder and Angela Paul and Tzu-Chao Chou’s springy legged Jack-in-a-box.

The company create a real party atmosphere with some delightful dancing from Clara and William Bracewell as part of the party which also included some charming dancing from junior associates of Elmhurst School for Dance – some real concentration going on there – and a nicely controlled badly behaved Fritz, a real menace of a younger brother to Clara danced by youngster Max Blackwell.

Karla Doorbar as Clara the dance student soaring through her fantasy world

Clara’s dream first takes us to the forest where we meet The Snow Fairy, beautifully danced by Samara Downs amid a veritable blizzard falling on her attendants, the winds and snowflakes from the company.

The second act then takes us, and Clara, by flying, flapping-winged swan – which got its own round of applause incidentally - to a magical land where Drosselmeyer introduces dances from around the world with Angela Paul leading a Spanish dance and Delia Mathews providing a sensuous addition to the Arabian dance.

 Her lines and the graceful shapes she creates are a delight and let’s be honest, probably way beyond most of the audience – some of us creak just standing up.

Jonathan Caguia and Lewis Turner are an amusing, busy Chinese couple while James Barton, Alexander Bird and Max Maslen are a colourful collection of lively Cosacks.

Céline Gittins leads the Waltz of the Flowers as The Rose Fairy which brings us to the brightest stars of this glittering firmament, BRB’s very own MoJo, Momoko Hirata as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Joseph Caley as her Prince.

Theirs is a growing stage partnership which crackles with life and chemistry with the eternally youthful looking Caley moving with all the time in the world with consummate ease and the quick footed Momoko precise, delicate and delightful in everything shoe does.

Seeing their names together on the batting order lifts any production.

The whole thing is a piece of Christmas magic all beautifully lit by David A Finn and, as always, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under music director Koen Kessels, seen only by an ethereal glow from the depths of the pit, bring the ballet's glorious score to wonderful life.

If you want to introduce children, or indeed anyone to ballet then this is perhaps an ideal starter – the herald of Christmas past, present and hopefully, future for many years to come. To 13-12-15.

Roger Clarke



Another point of view - second review


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