The English National Ballet – The Nutcracker – London Coliseum – Review

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It’s a quintessential part of the Christmas period theatrical fayre. The music is well-known by everyone, but I’d actually not ever seen a production of The Nutcracker live until last night. Would I find it all a bit too twee or a bit too childish? Or would it tick all my nostalgia and ballet boxes?

Wayne Eagling and Peter Farmer have created a rather enchanting piece of ballet here. There are hundreds of variations and ways of doing The Nutcracker, but placing it in its original period and drawing on the classic Edwardian Christmas nostalgia, gives it a real resonance and charm.

The story itself is standard fairy story silliness, but it is Christmas and sometimes its nice to just sit back and be swept away and not have to think or analyse too hard. My main criticism of the actual score/story, is it can on occasions feel a bit disjointed. However as it’s the holiday season I won’t be too curmudgeonly.

As is to be expected the dancing was up to the English National Ballets usual high standards. Eagling’s choreography certainly pushes them. Act 1 had some lovely pieces, the party scene was fun, I was impressed by the child dancers, and that was a clever piece of casting. As the audience had a large number of children present. I imagine a great many are probably dancers too, it certainly gave all the young aspiring dancers a chance to see their contemporaries, and hopefully acted as an inspiration to some watching.

The jewel in the crown of Act 1 was the snowflake scene, which was enchanting.

Act 2 is really where the ballet starts to shine though and here Eagling starts to pull all the clever choreography out of his proverbial conjurors sleeve. Anais Chalendard as Clara was a wonder to behold, such poise, grace and beauty. Partnered against the powerful Vadim Muntagirov as the Nutcracker and Junor Souza as The Prince whose leaps were something to behold.

The Waltz of the Flowers was one of my favourite parts of this act, but the best part of the entire show was the final Pas de Deux, which was majestic.

The enthusiastic applause at the end showed that we’d all had a good time and enjoyed this seasonal nostalgic trip. The Nutcracker is a true Christmas classic, and Eagling’s telling of this tale makes for a masterly version.

STARS : * * * *

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Looking back at 2011

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For me 2011, has certainly been my busiest year theatrically. As I sit here with my Xmas Turkish Delight and box of choccy’s, what were my highlights?

  • Finally getting to see Robert Lepage was certainly a memorable occasion. His play The Blue Dragon I referred to as “Theatrical perfection”.

    Robert Lepage as Pierre Lamontagne

  • I saw my first Burlesque  show, which was certainly an eye opener!

    Mistress of Ceremonies

  • London Road at the National Theatre is certainly one of the highlights for me. An amazing piece of theatre.
  • The best new play of this year I think was The Acid Test by Anya Reiss.

Best new play of 2011

  • The best acting I saw this year was in The Seagull at the Arcola, especially Yolanda Kettle as Nina, who gets my “Best Actress Award”. Best Actor goes to Joseph Milson as Ben Stark in Rocket to the Moon at the National.

    Yolanda Kettle, best actress I saw in 2011, in The Seagull at the Arcola.

Joseph Milson, best actor I saw in 2011, in Rocket to the Moon

  • Crazy for You, was definitely the best musical I saw this year.

    The best legs in London!

  • Manon at the Royal Opera House, wins “best ballet” award.

    Manon left me speechless.

  • Best entertainment award would go to Strictly Gershwin. (so good I saw it twice and my wife saw it three times!)

    Dancing from the beautiful Rhapsody in Blue

  • Best theatre book of the year, without a doubt the publication of Volume 2 Samuel Beckett’s letters from 1941 – 1956, I’m still ploughing my way through them, but they’re one of the most rewarding things I’ve read in a long time.

So all in all a very good year theatrically for me.  Thanks to all my readers and I wish you all a very prosperous 2012.

Strictly Gershwin on Tour – The English National Ballet – The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – Review

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I saw this earlier in the year at the Royal Albert Hall, and gave it a stupendous review here. Would the touring version be a let down or more of the same?

Surprisingly perhaps, but I actually preferred this version. It suited a proscenium arch theatre much better than the vast Royal Albert Hall. It felt a much tighter show and the choreography worked much better I felt as it was framed by the theatre, whereas in the Royal Albert Hall, it dissipated.

The dancers were perfect as ever and a joy to watch. I know that the purists have tut-tutted that this show fuses different styles of dancing with ballet, but to me that is a good thing. Seeing the company dance ballroom with a balletic twist is breathtaking on occasions. What also is contagious is the sense of fun the dancers are having. Sometimes in ballet the smiles of the dancers can seem a bit forced, in this there was a genuineness from all.

The orchestra again were a real highlight, I wish a recording was available, as the orchestrations of Gershwin’s beautiful music  are excellent and I’d love to be able to listen to them again. The orchestra was huge and their sound swelled and filled the theatre gorgeously. The quartet of singers provided stylised and brilliant harmonies. While this is a show most definitely about the dancers, it’s nice that the musicians get a chance to shine with a couple of spots just for the orchestra and singers.

The dancing and music complement each other perfectly, Rhapsody in Blue is still the highlight for me, seeing the orchestra and pianist bring one of my favourite pieces to life is great, but it’s the dancing that adds an extra dimension, as the choreography and costumes are majestic.

I’d certainly see it again (and again and again). I takes you to a magical place like few shows I’ve seen do. Full listings of where it’s playing for the rest of the year and 2012 are here.

 

 

Strictly Gershwin – The English National Ballet – Royal Albert Hall – Review

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Stunning, Sumptuous, Glamorous, Gorgeous, Marvellous, Miraculous, Inspiring, Incredible, Fantastic and Fun!!! How many more superlatives do you want or need???

I can not heap enough praise on this wonderful production that I’ve just seen. I admit I’m a fan of Gershwin, but the English National Ballet have created something very special here. The choreography fits so perfectly to the music, it’s almost like it has been scored specifically for this production.

The dancing is breathtaking, the band are brilliant, the singers are superb. Ballet has a way of reaching out and transporting you to another place and level, which is one reason it’s one of my favourite theatrical forms, this production literally held me spellbound for its entire duration. I just did not want this to end.

Here’s a video as a teaser of what to expect;

It takes you back to an era of glamour and sophistication that’s sadly missing now. The way that Derek Deane has successfully fused not just ballet but, ballroom and tap into this production adds to its dazzle and for that reason I’m sure those that are perhaps wary of seeing a ballet, will enjoy this. It’s a complete package, glistening costumes, silky voice singers, an orchestra bringing Gershwins melodies to life, tap dancers giving of their all (on top of the grand piano lid at one point), with the magical English National Ballet dancers, being the icing on the cake, adding, beauty, skill and style as only they can.

As you can tell I’m on a high from this! So much so, my wife and I are booking tickets to catch this again when it goes on tour shortly in the UK, yes it’s THAT good.

Dancing from the beautiful Rhapsody in Blue