When I saw the initial production of this show back in 2013 I remarked: “In the US The Nutcracker is an annual Christmas holiday spectacle and after his years in America Queensland Ballet’s Artistic Director Li Cunxing is determined to make it a similar Brisbane institution. Will Brisbane fill a theatre every year for the same show and pull crowds every Christmas? With the current production I would say: No problem.”
I was right! Last year and this year the season was booked out before the show started.
I went along to see the third performance, on a Saturday night and just loved every minute. I also considered myself lucky to see soloist Lisa Edwards’ stunning interpretation of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I don’t think I have ever seen her dance better. Her point work and agility created a stellar performance and when Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince, performed so strongly by Shane Wuerthner, danced the Grand Pas de Deux Adagio in the finale there were spontaneous gasps and cheers from the audience. They created a wonderful partnership. The performance was simply breathtaking.
The ballet is filled with magical moments, funny bits and scary bits for the children. The set is bright and beautiful, it is fabulously costumed and lit (by David Walters); the choreography is stunning and in the highly festive opening dancers young and old mill around in thoroughly organised chaos at the Stahlbaum Christmas party. The Stahlbaum children Clara and Fritz welcome the guests while some very naughty and mischievous boys cause trouble. Lina Kim was a delightful Clara and was always in the play even when she was merely sitting in the background. Her brother was danced by company dancer Charles Riddiford who created the obnoxious lout so well I wanted to see him get his just deserts.
The dark magician Dr Drossellmeyer saw Paul Boyd back on stage and, with his swirling black cape brought his magic tricks along, and delighted everyone with his mechanical dolls, Harlequin and Columbine. They was very realistically danced by Nathan Brook and Tara Schaufuss. It was nicely mechanical rather than in Michael Jackson robotic style. So too the Nurse Doll, danced by Teri Crilly and her partner the Soldier Doll danced by Camilo Ramas.
As the children unwrapped their gifts, Dr Drossellmeyer did his conjuring tricks and gave Clara her special present, the wooden nutcracker. Bad boy Fritz breaks the figure but it is soon repaired. Fritz really gets into trouble when he gives Clara a box that contains a dead rat. The party ends and Clara goes to sleep and dreams. The Nutcracker then comes to life danced by Jack Lister, the rats creep in and the slapstick battle commences in as the rodents battle the toy soldiers who with the aid of Clara win the good fight. After the fight the Nutcracker turns into a handsome prince (Shane Wuerthner) and he takes Clara off to the Land of the Snowflakes. This is an eerily beautiful setting where he dances with Vanessa Morelli as the Snow Queen and the enchanting Snowflakes. Clara in an enchanted sledge then flew to the Kingdom of Sweets where she was greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy, who then brought on the entertainment, which was familiar and yet so entertainingly different.
There were the fiery Spanish Dancers and the gorgeous flowers, but the real fun came in the Arabian and Chinese dances and Camila Ramos’ acrobatic Russian dance. Finally, after the proliferation of tutus and floaty chiffon with the always gorgeous Waltz of the Flowers it was the turn of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince to dance Grand Pas de Deux Adagio.
It was a beautiful finale for a beautifully presented ballet.
Company: Queensland Ballet
Venue: Playhouse Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane
Dates: 11 – 23 December 2015
For more of Eric Scott’s writings on theatre, check out Absolute Theatre
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television