Review: The Nutcracker @ Birmingham Hippodrome

I find it hard to talk rationally about Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker.

One of Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets, Sir Peter Wright’s inspired re-imagining of this pre-revolutionary Russian masterpiece now celebrating its 25th anniversary is quite simply the most perfect theatrical spectacle in Britain.

Offered a press ticket I accidentally attended its premiere all those years ago and I can honestly say it changed my life. This year’s incarnation is no different.

Trapped in traffic for an hour on the expressway, rushed into my seat after the performance had already begun, I found myself in tears at its sheer perfection during the first act alone. The hard-bitten fellow critic sitting in front of me confessed he had done the same. What we are talking about here is sheer unadulterated theatrical perfection.

The first act with its great Christmas party of a prosperous Russian family from the oldest totterer to the youngest scamp charms with its genial warmth and parlour magic.

But this is no preparation for what happens to Clara, danced here with touching wonder by the delightful Karla Doorbar, when she wakes unexpectedly in the night to find the true magic of Christmas beginning scarily to unfold. The spectacular changes about to begin are a series of set pieces unparalleled in British theatre. No wonder the first night was sold out.

The second act with its astonishing series of divertissements – the exuberant and very funny Russian Dance, the technically impossible Arabian Dance, the hilarious Chinese Dance, the exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy – are always fresh as paint but here seemed newer than ever on opening night with an exuberant cast bristling with energy and enthusiasm like terriers held on the leash.

In the great classical pas de deux that crowns the second act principals Momoko Hirata glittered throughout the impossible seeming steps while her courtly partner Joseph Caley made his own outrageously bravura exploits seem simply a breeze.

If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t just take my word, go, if you can score a ticket, and if you don’t like it, well, you don’t have to go back. But you will, believe me, you will.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker runs until December 13. For tickets phone the box office on 0844 338 5000 or go online at www.birminghamhippodrome.com.

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