Left - Adam Bull and Lucinda Dunn. Cover - Adam Bull and Madeleine Eastoe. Photos - Jeff Busby
It’s not quite Christmas yet, but that doesn’t stop demand for The Nutcracker. Audiences can’t get enough of the heartwarming tale and this current version from The Australian Ballet will keep Nutcracker buffs coming back for more. Originally made for the Birmingham Ballet, it successfully came into the AB repertoire in 2007. Now, three years later and hot on the heels of a 2009 restaging of Graham Murphy’s more unconventional Nutcracker, it's back and selling strong.
Created by Peter Wright (with choreography also by Lev Ivanov and Vincent Redmon) and propelled by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s enduring music, this is a solid, healthy production, as much (if not more) about spectacle and ceremony than dense dancing. It's Christmas cheer sparkles past the tops of the gigantic Christmas tree, the velvety backdrops, the lavish furnishings and sensuous costumes. Even a flying swan makes an appearance - opening Act II by carrying Clara through the air towards magician Drosselmeyer's fantastical world. No expense has been spared to evoke opulence, excitement and glorious wonder.
Being a production relying on display and order, ensemble groupings, neat posing and preening is order of the day. Act I is full of formalities at a Christmas Eve party and a collection of young AB School girls and boys fill the stage and help build the party effect. Feature dances, such as the spritely Jack-in-the-box (Tzu-Chao Chou) and the Harlequin and Columbine (Ben Davis and Juliet Burnett) provide the real dance activity and are all executed with aplomb.
Madeleine Eastoe is bright-eyed, naïve Clara who she plays with the right amount of wide-eyed wonder and genuine curiousity. (Eastoe played the role in 2007 and it still suits her beautifully.) The prince, Adam Bull, is more formal, often regal, although on opening night not always completely at one with the brilliant Sugar Plum Fairy, Lucinda Dunn, in the Grand pas de deux. Surrounded by the lead flowers and male consorts, Lana Jones as the Rose Fairy is all whip sharp turns and tight execution. Damien Welch makes a suitably mysterious, cape-twirling Drosselmeyer and the various character dances of Act II add the expected variety and spice.
This Nutcracker doesn't pull any surprises and is not out to break new ground. It's just a solid, crowd-pleasing production that will put smiles on fans' faces and inspire them to count the sleeps until the festive season.
The Australian Ballet presents
Composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreography Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov, Vincent Redmon
Venue: the Arts Centre, State Theatre
Dates: 11 – 25 September, 2010
Bookings: australianballet.com.au or 1300 369 741