Theatre Review: The International Classic Ballet Theatre | The Nutcracker
Words by Melissa Blease | The International Classic Ballet Theatre is in town, bringing both The Nutcracker (until 26 January) and Swan Lake (27 and 28 January) to the Theatre Royal Bath.
The magical tale of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince, based on Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation of ETA Hoffman’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and set, of course, to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s score tops the world’s most popular classic ballet charts by a grande pirouette – and it’s easy to see why: it’s a spellbinding, dynamic and occasionally witty (if slightly surreal?) spectacular show that, despite being largely set in the ballroom of a grand house on Christmas Eve, is most definitely not a strictly seasonal treat.
In technical terms, the ICBT’s retelling of this time-honoured story doesn’t really warm up until the post-interval Act 2, when we’re on the guest list for the entertainment programme laid on in the Kingdom of Sweets to reward Clara for her help in saving the life of the Nutcracker and defeating the Mouse King (long story). Up until that point, the Corps – as versatile and technically competent as they are – don’t quite manage to compensate for the lack of va-va-voom in the scenery and wardrobe department, and certain ensemble pieces feel a bit… well, unfinished.
When the evocative Spanish-Russian-and Eastern-themed dance cameos take the spotlight, all manner of memorable “ooh!” and “aah!” moments easily make up for minor deficiencies in the first half, with Zhanna Tevosyan’s sensual, intricate Eastern Dance proving to be an exquisite, almost ethereal highlight alongside Arissa Hashimoto’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (arguably one the most technically demanding solos in classic ballet, performed in this instance with startling aplomb) and finishing off with that glorious, breathtakingly romantic moment when Clara (the multi-tasking Hashimoto again) finally ends up in the arms of her prince, resulting in a utterly beautiful uplifting experience for all (not least of all for Hashimoto herself, elevated and held aloft by a corps of beautiful men).
There’s plenty of technical, highly athletic physical showmanship to gasp about too; boy, can these boys Jeté! And all the time, of course, everybody’s doing their thing in perfect timing with the ebb and flow of Tchaikovsky’s elegantly rich score, performed by an orchestra who – in a rather deplorable oversight on behalf of ICBT – aren’t credited anywhere in the programme but whose conductor is rightfully given his moment in the spotlight on stage at the story’s end, earning his rapturous applause.
If you’re looking for a charming introduction to (or a refresher course in, perhaps?) the enchanting alchemy of classical ballet, you definitely won’t be disappointed.