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Photo: Maarten Holl
Photo: Maarten Holl
The Nutcracker
Choreographer: Gary Harris
Additional choreography: Adrian Burnett
Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Design: Kristian Fredrikson

at Civic Theatre, Invercargill
From 11 Nov 2010 to 13 Nov 2010

Reviewed by Kasey Dewar, 12 Nov 2010

 It was a quick dash on a Friday afternoon to see “The Nutcracker” in Invercargill on the 12th November. I had been looking forward to it since I had seen the advertisement on television a while back and judging by the full house many others had too.

The Nutcracker” itself has been around for 100 years but the version presented by the Royal New Zealand Ballet is a twist on the original story. It was created by Artistic Director Gary Harris and Choreographer Adrian Burnett a few years ago and centres around a children's hospital ward on Christmas Eve. 

On Christmas morning Clara, danced by Katherine Grange and her brother Fritz danced by Harry Skinner open their presents. Of course Clara receives her nutcracker and brother Fritz tries to take it from her, ending in a bump on the head and the ensuing visit to the hospital. Grange excellently conveyed the wide-eyed innocence and excitement of a young girl at Christmas with her expressions and delicate dancing. Skinner as Fritz was entertaining as her troublesome brother with his slingshot in tow.

The hospital is bustling as parents comfort their children watched over by doctors and nurses and Jaered Glavin as the hilarious Matron, bringing giggles from the audience around me. Once the adults leave, the fun begins as Clara's medicine kicks in and her dreams come to life. From her bed high above the stage she watches as her Nutcracker, played by Daniel Morrison and his soldiers fight off Fritz and his buddies as they pelt them with stones from their slingshots. 

I particularly enjoyed the snow storm with its dancing snowflakes and the beautiful duet between Tonia Looker as a young nurse and Medhi Angot as a doctor. From here I really enjoyed the ballet – clever costuming from Kristian Fredrikson was in full force with the traditional tutus worn by the snowflakes and Arabian dancers clothed in lose harem pants and tops referencing the nurse's uniforms from earlier. The Dance of the Mirlitons again has the audience giggling along with the occasional re-appearance of Fritz being chased by Matron.

Antonia Hewitt as Clara's mother did a beautiful job of her solo to the most recognisable piece of music from Tchaikovsky's “Nutcracker” as a Hollywood star. Her duet with Brendan Bradshaw as Father was also great to watch.

A whirlwind of dances brings Clara's dream-state to a close, from a Spanish tea lady to Chinese dancers and graceful flower petals. I loved how this version used the characters from the real world in Clara's dream world – I felt the characters were original and really kept the audience engaged.

It would be hard to leave this production without a smile on your face. It brings all the wonder and colour of a child's world – both imaginary and real to life and reminded me of all that excitement I myself had as a child at Christmas. It is perfect to entertain both kids and adults at this time of year.

 Jenny Stevenson
 Jennifer Shennan (The Dominion Post);
 Deirdre Tarrant (Capital Times);
 Kerri Fitzgerald