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

at Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch
From 17 Nov 2010 to 20 Nov 2010

Reviewed by Kerri Fitzgerald, 18 Nov 2010

Everything was beautiful at the ballet tonight as the NZBC filled the stage and spilled dollops of glorious, irreverent fun into the hearts and minds of the receptive Christchurch audience.

The Nutcracker is one of the most widely performed ballets in the world and this version had the right pace, choreography, production elements and spirit to please even those with the most hardened of hearts. The dancers clearly relished their roles, dancing with panache and verve, demonstrating that they could “dance with their hearts rather than their feet.”

Outgoing artistic director, Gary Harris, presents this familiar Christmas story in a new setting and offers scintillating shifts, giving this production a contemporary ‘oomph'. He jet-propels the pace and provides us with a relentless succession of visual, dance and dramatic treats. The scene changes are in themselves masterful, and so swift that the audience barely has time to breathe let alone applaud. Slick theatrical magic!

The choreography is uniformly engaging starting right from the opening with the family romping around the tree enabling the characters to be firmly and comically established (especially Tonia Looker's Clara and Paul Russell as her robust brother, Fritz).

The progression to the hospital offers chances for a beautiful quartet of dancers holding lights and a trio of young doctors (Christopher Hinton-Lewis, Paul Mathews and Jaered Glavin), that also re-appear in Act 2 with a fabulously funny dance on crutches (the Dance of the Mirlitons) - another real crowd-pleaser. The soldiers feature with visual and choreographic impact in their quick stepping dance that would warm any child's heart. The theatrical magic here continues throughout. 

A romantic pas de deux between the nurse (Katie Hurst-Saxton) and the doctor (Brendan Bradshaw) in Act 1 is beautifully conceived with lyrical lines and their Act 2 dance in the Arabian section is again sensuously conceived and performed masterfully by this elegant and connected pair. A gorgeous high light indeed and supported by the corps who demonstrated consistent uniformity and solid technique.

Harris's choreography again in the Grand pas de deux (Act 2) between the parents (danced by fluid Clytie Campbell and the distinguished Qi Huan) is compelling viewing with passing references to Fred and Ginger. It is danced with alacrity by this attentive, musical couple with Qi Huan giving a fine example of dedicated and tender partnering. The orchestral accompaniment (the trusty CSO) at this point seems to meld completely with the dance, leaving me wondering who was leading whom. Beautiful.

Production elements abound with the rich colours and designs of Fredrikson enhanced by fine lighting, snowflakes and wafts of smoke that do exactly what it is supposed to do. Combine all these factors with Jon Trimmer (clearly having a blast) and an entire company who seem to be dancing for the people and you have a winner!

“Everything was beautiful at the ballet,
Raise your arms and someone's always there.
Yes, everything was beautiful at the ballet
At the ballet
At the ballet!” [Maggie; A Chorus Line]

Christchurch really needed this!

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 

 Jenny Stevenson
 Jennifer Shennan (The Dominion Post);
 Deirdre Tarrant (Capital Times);
 Kasey Dewar