“When the most famous ‘Nutcracker Suite’ music washed over me I genuinely had tingles.”
I had never been to see a Ballet. Not before The Nutcracker at the Hippodrome, anyhow. And I can tell you honestly, that now I’ve been, I’m hooked. I had this preconception – similar to that of the opera – that no actual talking meant the performance would drag and as an audience member I would need some serious stamina. This couldn’t be further from the case. The dancers are so exquisite and the choreography is so ridiculously difficult looking that it’s (regrettably) over in a flash.
Originally designed for the Hippodrome by Sir Peter Wright, The Nutcracker has a special place in Birmingham’s heart. Wright’s treatment of the pre-revolutionary Russian masterpiece is also celebrating its 25th birthday this year. Not being born and all, I obviously missed the 1991 performance. But this production was so spectacular I am sure they met the performance if not excelled it. Another unique and adorable thing is that Kit Holder from Solihull, who played the smallest child in the very first Nutcracker, aged eight, features in this show.
The show begins on Christmas Eve in a grand Russian house belonging to the Stahlbaum family. Magician Drosselmeyer, played by Iain Mackay, has several tricks up his sleeve to impress the guests. He presents the daughter of the house, Clara, with a Nutcracker in the shape of a toy soldier. After the party, Clara sneaks downstairs and searches for her new present. The true magic of Christmas then unfolds as she’s transported into the Kingdom of the south. This transformation scene was by far the standout moment for me.
As Clara shrinks the Christmas tree becomes one goliath-sized branch. The toys under the tree jump out of their box as full sized male soldiers. An elegant-looking fireplace becomes a spitting furnace which human-sized rats come running from to fight with the soldiers. Everything is happening at once. It’s an incredible spectacle to watch.
The second act involves a series of smaller group or duo performances. The Chinese duo’s static movements proved very funny with the audience. There was also a Spanish trio, Arabian dancers and four Russian men. The group performances were well timed in the narrative of the show. Having such an exciting first act, the mixed style of dance kept things moving and audiences entertained until the anticipated scene of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince arrives. Which, by the way, was everything it should be. When the most famous ‘Nutcracker Suite’ music washed over me I genuinely had tingles.
Removing the element of the incredible dancers and their incredibly flexible limbs just for a moment, the music is the reason you should see this ballet. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t sat down and Youtubed Tchaikovsky’s score. It is so famous, and has been reused in countless films and adverts, you are guaranteed to know a lot more than you thought you would. Each one is beautiful and will get even an Ebenezer Scrooge like myself feeling festive.
This year The Nutcracker finished December 13th.