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New Adventures brought their production of Nutcracker! to the screen
following a successful tour on stage, and it certainly is a magical
version of the classic.
Clara and Fritz are in an orphanage where their presents are locked away and they face a miserable Christmas - that is until the nutcracker comes to life and liberates everyone into a land of sugar and sweets, and a land of fairytale princes and princesses.
Matthew Bourne's witty choreography and the dancing of Scott Ambler (King Sherbert), Etta Murfitt (Clara), Arthur Pita (Knickerbocker Glory), and others, compliments the music of Tschaikovsky perfectly.
If you know the classic ballet of The Nutcracker, don't let this new interpretation put you off. It is very funny, and well put together. And it is different - proving that in dance there is room for all sorts of productions to exist together.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Nutcracker for its enchanting story and timeless music is one of
the greatest ballets ever written, and has always been a great personal
favourite. Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker is unconventional and not a
first-choice for those who prefer traditional productions, however it
is proof that being unconventional doesn't equal bad. For it is by far
the best of the non-traditional DVD productions of The Nutcracker,
Maurice Bejart's was self-indulgent and the 2008 Mariinsky performance
was ugly and incoherent. At least Bourne's is fun and makes sense, and
if you are a fan of his Swan Lake you will find lots of merit with his
The production could have been a little better though. The choreography for the Pas-De-Deux is too busy and not quite as intimate as it could have been. And Alan Vincent was rather dull as Nutcracker, he dances very well but not with much personality or passion.
However, the choreography and stage direction is very clever and witty with lots of charm too. Bourne, like he did with his wonderful production of Swan Lake(which is a little more impressive and consistent) brings in his own playful style, and does it in a way that has its own sense of individuality- with some instances of a mix of different dancing styles- while not detracting from the spirit of the ballet or story. The story is mostly intact, there are some tweaks(ie. no mouse king) and the setting for Act 1 is different to what we are used to, but no matter if there are deviations a great job is made to make sure that the magic and charm is not lost.
Visually the production is fine. Some will find the Act 1 orphanage setting perhaps too dark and drab, lacking the homely warmth that is associated with the Christmas party. It doesn't feel joyless though because Bourne still brings forth some touches that sparkle and amuse, especially with the party scenes with the children, and it fits very well within his concept. It also contrasts beautifully with Act 2's Land of Sweets setting, which is full of colour and warmth, when you feel like a kid in a sweet-shop that is a great feeling. The Arabian dance in particular was mesmerising. The costumes are beautiful as well, and the lighting well suited to the mood.
Musically there is nothing to complain about. Tchaikovsky's music is still gorgeous, in all three of his ballets his scores add so much to the impact of the stories the ballets tell. The orchestra play with a very beautiful sound with rich and never anaemic textures, and how they play synchronises cleverly with the choreography. The conducting allows those to come across, it accommodates the dancers and how they dance without straining or hurrying them and succeeds in bringing out the drama of the score, while The Nutcracker's music is incredibly enchanting there is still a lot of drama too which comes across in this production.
As for the dancing there was very little to fault there either. Vincent's Nutcracker didn't leave much of an impression, but everybody else is pretty much spot on. The Corps-De-Ballet show great poise and a real sense of personality and commitment. Scott Ambler and Emily Piercy are menacing and appropriately strict with their presences right at home in the Act 1 setting, and their more welcoming and benevolent characterisations in Act 2 are an effective contrast. Etta Murfitt dances delightfully and is very charming as Clara, while Suranne Curtin plays elegant and spiteful as if born to do so as Sugar/Princess Sugar. Ewan Wardrop's roles as Fritz and Bon Bon require a comic approach and Wardrop manages to be very funny, and Arthur Pitha's Knickerbocker Glory is brilliantly decadent, his slithering and squirming is enough to make the hairs on back of your neck stand up.
Overall, very well done. it may be an unconventional production and Matthew Bourne may not be your cup of tea, but what he has done with this and Swan Lake has been clever, fun and somewhat refreshing and he to me is an innovative director with some good ideas while showing respect to the ballet or such he adapts. 8/10 Bethany Cox
When TRIO! still showed filmed stage shows on their channel, I caught
this one Christmas. I would consider myself a Nutcracker purist, but
this production was utterly superb. With gorgeous choreography and
direction by Matthew Bourne, this Dickensian version of The Nutcracker
soars from stage to screen.
Beginning in a Tim Burton-esquire orphanage, we find Clara and her fellow orphans preparing for a Christmas party thrown by their evil, although comical, head master and mistress: Dr. Cross and Matron. The world shifts in power as the classic moment of Nutcracker reality is played out as only Bourne could provide and their Nightmare Before Christmas home becomes a swirling utopia of tulle, glitter and Victoria's Secret pink.
The wonderful thing about this production is that it provides an outlet for those who are not a) comfortable with ballet or b) not accustomed to the story. Bourne's choreography and the wonderful, funny, and warm performances of the cast are very theatrical. A combination of mime and dance, if you will. It is the perfect version to share with friends who are not dance-literate.
Gorgeous and lush from beginning, this is a version not to be passed up.
I came across this production during Ovation Channel's Battle of the Nutcrackers. I too was a bit of a "nutcracker snob" and thought that either the Bolshoi or Balanchine version would be my favorites, but I was really charmed and amazed by every aspect of this production. I can't wait for my daughter to see it. She has seen only classical interpretations, but I really think this Wonka-esquire version will become a family tradition. So witty and well done! The dancers were wonderful and it was nice to see that they appeared to have eaten at least once in their lifetimes unlike the ones you often see in these productions - it made their enjoyment of the candy believable! Make sure to have sweets on hand as the temptation to lick the TV screen can be overwhelming.
I saw this in theatre with my mom when it was out...and it was
absolutely hilarious!! I've never seen a comical version of the
Nutcracker, but this was great!
My dance teacher told me to see it because it was funny, and one of the dancers went to my dance school...he was brilliant as well! It is definitely a must see if you haven't seen it yet though, there's just so much comedy and humour in it, and as it's being shown through dance, it's even better!! A brilliant show.
It follows the story of the Nutcracker so if you've seen any other version, you'll still understand the storyline as you did with the version you've seen!
One must only assume that the low negative votes are from children
expecting sugar plum fairies in their beds. Contemporary versions of
classic production from Shakespeare to opera are relegated to the
depths by some viewer watching, because of their inability to
comprehend innovation from tradition.
Romeo and Juliet with its modern setting brings to the screen a new view of the story in its contemporary reality. La Boheme in the Australian production is another example.
If we step back and think, then maybe the box-office success of TITANIC when compared to the actual horror of the events will aid these uninformed viewers. A bit of 21st century education should put THE NUTCRACKER at a higher rating.
I am usually up for a good retelling of any story, but this one is so
off the mark I had to force myself to finish it. The Nutcracker is a
classic, and one of the few holiday traditions whose story you can
count on to remain basically unchanged, save for some choreography
differences. Imagine my surprise when watching this.
The setting is an orphanage. You have no idea who half of the characters are. It's hard to enjoy the dancing when you're spending your energy trying to figure out what is happening and who everyone is. You don't even know which of the orphans is Clara until most of the way through the first act. The worst are the sexual innuendos that have no business being associated with such wonderful music.
I believe the choreographer thought it would end up being funny, but instead it's distressing, disturbing, and not enjoyable to one who was raised on the classic version. Then again, this is modern dance, not classical ballet. So what can you expect?
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