Review: The Nutcracker on Ice

SUPERB: Skaters from the Nutcracker on ice show.
SUPERB: Skaters from the Nutcracker on ice show.

 The Nutcracker on Ice by The Imperial Ice Stars

St James Theatre, Wellington, till July 15

Artistic director/choreographer Tony Mercer's version of The Nutcracker is full of humour and joy, with a sprinkling of magic thrown in for good measure.

Since the ballet was first produced in 1892, there have been many variations of the original story by ETA Hoffman (and later, Alexandre Dumas). Mercer's is simply another take on it.

Balletomanes and music lovers may blanch at some changes but, taken as a separate entity from the traditional classical ballet, it works.

Mercer has emphasised lightness and humour and played down the more sinister elements of the original scenarios.

It is choreographically adventurous and acrobatic, with only occasional clunky transitions.

There are some incredible lifts, many of them one-handed, ferociously fast turns, as well as simple running and skipping – fiendishly difficult on ice.

From the warmth of the Pavlov family's home, to the glittering snow-filled Land of the Snowflakes and the jewel-bright colours in the Kingdom of Sweets, the sets by Eamon D'Arcy are vivid and imaginative.

They are offset by striking, though not always appropriate, costumes by Elena Predvodeteleva.

The colour of Drosselmeyer's suit and cape is ineffective, totally removing any shred of gravitas left to the character.

The Mouse King and Queen resemble deflated balloons, while those of the Flowers in their Waltz resemble aliens from Doctor Who.

But the company is superb. Comprised of many former Olympic and world champion skaters, they deliver in spades. Anastasia Ignatyeva is a radiant Marie (aka Clara) and makes believable the journey from young, effervescent girl to star-struck sweetheart.

She is partnered most ably by the elegant Bogdan Berezenko as the Nutcracker Prince.

Vadim Yarkov plays Drosselmeyer as a genial magician and, despite the costume, delivers some startling magic tricks.

He is accompanied by an assistant, danced with great flair by a sparkling Olga Sharutenko.

Mention must also go to Volodymyr Khodakivskyy as Doctor Pavlov, who also partnered Fiona Kirk in the sensuous aerial Arabian Dance.

This production is great family entertainment and well timed during these school holidays.

The Dominion Post