Review: The Nutcracker at Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

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This production by the Moscow City Ballet of Tchaikovsky’s much-loved ballet The Nutcracker is a delight.

The opening scene of a Christmas Eve party takes place in a swirl of activity and nicely observed detail. The presiding genius of the evening is Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer, played by Sergei Saliev, whose magnificent dancing is matched by a genial personality.
Soon fantasy interacts with reality, the set is transformed into a pine forest, and the music transports the audience into a magical world of fairy flowers. Clara is played by Anna Ivanova with a heart-felt wistfulness. The Nutcracker Prince, energetically played by Talgat Kozhabayev, emerges as a convincing rival to Clara’s godfather. The whole cast dance with elegance and enthusiasm. The Chinese dance is particularly memorable. There are moments of real imaginative power, as when Drosselmeyer holds Clara aloft in the forest, almost as if she is a sacrifice, as well as moments of pathos and comedy.

The triumph of the evening is that the company manage to combine spectacle with a curiously intimate element. So that when the curtain comes down at the end leaving the three principal dancers at the front it feels as if we have come to know them personally.

The Nutcracker is running at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre until Saturday, January 11m 2014.
ALAN PAYNE