Energetic, humorous update of Christmas classic a fitting finale to Harris era

Last updated 12:35 24/11/2010

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The Royal New Zealand Ballet's The Nutcracker.
Choreographer: Gary Harris.
Additional choreography: Adrian Burnett Design: Kristian Fredrikson.
Regent on Broadway, Tuesday, November 23.
Reviewed by STACEY KIRK.

Christmas Eve spent in a hospital A&E ward is not a typical setting for a ballet, but then again, this is not your typical ballet company.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet has a reputation for pushing boundaries and stretching tradition, and its season of The Nutcracker is no exception.

The adventure begins on Christmas morning when Clara's rat-bag brother, Fritz, clouts her over the head with her beloved nutcracker doll. Delirious with concussion, Clara is rushed to hospital where a medicine-induced fantasy world comes to life.

It is a thrilling escapade, blending traditional classicality with a few modern twists – the dancers pull it off beautifully.

Director Gary Harris breathes energy and amusement into a story line which few dare tamper with, and the audience's reactions last night said it all.

Putting the Dance of the Mirlitons on crutches? Genius. A broken leg is every dancer's worst nightmare, but Jaered Glavin, Paul Mathews and Pierre Doncq seemed to feed off the audience's adoration, and performed the clever choreography with flair. The laughs were only matched by the always-entertaining Sir Jon Trimmer, as the busty matron.

The ever-gorgeous Abigail Boyle and Christopher Hinton-Lewis made a wonderful mother and father, and their duet was a highlight.

Adriana Harper was captivating as Clara and Medhi Angot was an uproariously impetuous Fritz.

As always, production values are outstanding, nothing less than audiences have come to expect from the company. Kristian Fredrikson's 1940s-inspired set designs brought Clara's dream world to life.

Tchaikovsky's score is some of of the most well-known classical music in the world and although the Regent does not have the luxury of an orchestra pit, it didn't matter. The musicality and dance quality of all the dancers is a testament to the talent the company harbours.

This being Harris's last season with the company, it is a fitting ballet to say farewell to a charismatic leader who really has brought ballet to the masses.

Audiences tonight are in for a treat: the ballet are holding a "warm-up curtain-up". Be there from 5.30pm to watch the ballet company warm up and rehearse before the show.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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