Left – Kelsey Stokes and Lucien Xu. Cover – Edward Smith and Chantelle van der Hoek. Photos – Jeff Busby.
Children have always loved the tradition of the Christmas themed ballet The Nutcracker, understandably: there’s magic, a toy soldier that comes alive, a Sugar Plum Fairy and a Kingdom of Sweets.
The Australian Ballet’s Storytime Ballet is a series aimed at engaging younger children, with shorter productions to keep the attention of little wrigglers, a narrator to explain the story and what is billed as interaction.
The second in the Storytime series, The Nutcracker condenses and simplifies the fable down to 50 minutes – on Christmas Eve Clara is given a Nutcracker doll by Drosselmeyer the Magician (also the narrator), which comes to life at midnight to protect her from marauding mice. When Clara saves the Nutcracker from the mice king, he is transformed into a handsome prince who whisks her off to the delights of the Kingdom of Sweets.
As you’d expect from The Australian Ballet, the dancers are accomplished, and youthful enough to look childlike and appeal to their audience. The costumes, especially in the Kingdom of Sweets, are also simple and storybook-like.
Where the production is lacking is the over-simplified choreography and the absence of sets, apart from a digital backdrop depicting the various settings.
The Nutcracker is meant to be lavish and rich and this production just doesn’t have the wow factor, even if it is just for kids.
On top of this, the “interaction” merely consists of a bit of audience participation when the Magician asks everyone to yell out magic words.
After the show there was a big box full of sparkly dress ups for the kids to dive into which was a lovely idea (albeit conveniently situated next to the merchandise desk).
This might be OK for the 3-5 age group who have had no experience of ballet before, but for a parent lavishing $100 on two tickets The Nutcracker was slightly underwhelming.
The Australian Ballet presents
Storytime Ballet: The Nutcracker
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 14 – 18 December 2016
Sydney Opera House | 21 – 29 December 2016
Chatswood Concourse Theatre | 3 – 6 January 2017
Illawarra Performing Arts Centre | 8 – 11 January 2017
Panthers Penrith | 15 – 17 January 2017
Canberra Theatre Centre | 22 – 24 January 2017