REVIEW: The Nutcracker, Northern Ballet, New Victoria Theatre

Filled with wonderful youthful exuberance, the Northern Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is a perfect festive treat to watch. 

Minju Kang as the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Photo Emma Kauldhar (2)
Minju Kang as the Sugarplum Fairy (c) Emma Kauldhar.

I was first exposed to the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker as a child through Disney’s Fantasia and has remained a firm favourite ever since. Now revisiting the Northern Ballet’s magical and sparkling production it still has the power to enchant, thanks to the youthful exuberance of David Nixon’s choreography and the performances of the cast.

Filled with a cheeky sense of humour and playfulness that runs all the way through David Nixon’s production, The Nutcracker is a wonderful piece to watch unfold visually thanks to Charles Cusick Smith’s sumptuous set design that enhances and frames the choreography to great effect. This is particularly noticeable during the duet between Clara (Rachael Gillespie) and the Nutcracker Prince (Ashley Dixon) in the enchanting final scene in the first act – the set is simple, magical and wintery to keep the audience thoroughly engaged.

But it is also the finer details as well that really impresses in this production. This includes David Nixon’s beautifully colourful and imaginative costume design that work well with the story and the choreography,capturing the spirit and fun that takes place throughout Clara’s adventures. In particular the Arabian and flower inspired costumes are beautifully imaginative.

Elsewhere, it is the cheeky bits of humour that emerge through Nixon’s choreography that ensure the audience constantly have a smile on their face. The whole sequence involving the mice and and the Mice King is particularly delightful to watch – but there are the occasional moments throughout the show  when it doesn’t feel some of the choreography quite fits with the music. But overall, the music and choreography blend well together.

The performances of all of the cast are supremely confident, a great combination of strong characterisation reflecting the choreography well and the sheer energy that they all give to the performance from beginning to end. In particular, Rachael Gillespie as Clara impresses with her youthful energy capturing the character’s spirit and excitement in her adventures well, while Joseph Taylor as the Mouse King is delightfully cheeky. Elsewhere, Ashley Dixon as the Nutcracker Prince is charming and elegant and Minju Kang as the Sugarplum Fairy is perfectly poised and graceful in the way she moves across the stage.

Also impressive was the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, whose performance of Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score was wonderfully controlled by conductor Brett Morris to highlight specific moments – particularly in the second act – effectively.

Overall, the Northern Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is a genuine treat to watch – filled with plenty of enchanting moments that keeps the audience mesmerised from beginning to end. Not to be missed.

By Emma Clarendon 

Northern Ballet‘s The Nutcracker will continue to play at the New Victoria Theatre until the 1st December before visiting Leeds Grand Theatre from the 4th to the 16th December. To book tickets visit ATG Tickets

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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