Nutcracker, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, December 2011

The original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann  interweaves the real and magical worlds, with Drosselmeyer’s toy Nutcracker based on his own nephew. Wayne Eagling’s production, based on a joint idea with Toer van Schayk, combines the two worlds in various clever ways and the nephew, who appears in the party scene of Act I, later interchanges with the Nutcracker several times.

Photos by Annabel Moeller

At the end of Act I, Clara, Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker escape in a balloon, with the Mouse King clinging on below and quietly disengaging himself at the start of the second Act. Later he and the Nutcracker fight again, and this time it’s the Nutcracker who delivers the fatal thrust of his sword. Clara’s brother Freddie reappears in Act II as a prisoner in the Arabian dance, and she and Drosselmeyer come on to help him escape. Then right at the very end of the ballet when the guests leave the house, the balloon reappears just for a moment, hovering in the background.

Despite these clever inventions this is a traditional production and it works very well indeed. I loved the choreography for Clara and the Nutcracker in the late Act I snow scene, and the main ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ pas-de-deux was beautifully danced by Crystal Costa as Clara, and Jonah Acosta as the Nephew, both making their debuts in these roles. She was beautifully musical, showing superb control in her solos, and he danced strongly, exhibiting fine coupé jetés around the stage.

The Spanish dance was performed with great musicality and fluidity by Anjuli Hudson, Laurretta Summerscales and Anton Lukovkin, the Arabian dance was well performed by James Streeter and ladies, along with Barry Drummond looking suitably naïve as the prisoner, and the other character dances all went well. Eagling has changed the choreography for the Mirlitons, eliminating the three boys who chase the butterfly, but keeping the butterfly, delightfully danced by Adela Ramírez, along with Drosselmeyer. One critic wondered why there were two names in the programme for Mirlitons, but of course the other is Drosselmeyer, danced here by Daniel Jones, making his debut in the role. The lead flowers were Chantel Roulston and Jenna Lee, partnered by Fabian Reimair and by Junor Souza, who also performed very well as the Mouse King, with James Forbat as a fine Nutcracker.

The whole performance came over with a sense of magic, and David Richardson’s lighting gives a sudden mysteriously warm glow after the main Act II pas-de-deux, just before everyone comes on for the final waltz. Peter Farmer’s sets work beautifully, and the conducting by Gavin Sutherland was excellent. The London Coliseum is a great auditorium for dance, so if you want a Nutcracker with fine choreography, dancing and musical excitement, do not hesitate.

Performances at the London Coliseum continue until December 30 — for details click here.

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