Our LEAP Ambassadors review The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker Reviewed

Hero Nutcracker Ambassadors

Last month our marvellous LEAP Ambassadors visited Birmingham Hippodrome for a festive extravaganza... The Nutcracker

Here some of our new cohort of Ambassadors share their thoughts on this wonderful production.

The Nutcracker reviewed by Imogen Levermore

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On 23 November, I attended The Nutcracker ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome in my role as a LEAP ambassador. This show epitomises Christmas and builds on the excitement for that special time of the year, so I was looking forward to watching the new adaptation for this year whilst the original set undergoes restoration after 30 years. The original Nutcracker, produced in the 90s, is such a spectacle to see so I was intrigued as to how the new set compares. 

The ballet opens with Drosselymeyer the doll maker, who brings presents for the young children. The family gathers. Clara is in awe of the new nutcracker doll she has received. The traditional staging of this ballet had evolved and although difficult to adapt to at first, after musing on the show it sat with me better. 

Stand out moments for me were looking up and seeing the orchestra. Instruments and music integrated into the show and visible, this gave the orchestra the respect it so deserves.The costumes were so intricate and the dancers projected their characters through them, so becoming even more believable. The Christmas tree projection, a touch new for this year's production, was cast across the theatre feeling more immersive than previously, with the use of hanging decorations and baubles. It is felt the visual projection may have been stronger in the Royal Albert Hall performance (where the staging originated) due to the type of theatre.  

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Within the show King Rat and his army felt more menacing by the use of smoke and amber lighting, with the children also acting as rats (this was fun to see). The freed up floor space in front of the stage meant the rats were able to enter this way and walk virtually next to the audience, enhancing interaction.  

The Nutcracker is a delight that, especially when viewed through a child’s eyes at Christmas, would make a fun and enjoyable experience, being perfect for children and adults alike. The atmosphere created with Tchaikovsky’s music, particularly when the Mirlitons and Clara danced was spine tingling. The Snow fairies dancing with snow falling really felt magical and so festive.  

So how can young people be encouraged further to experience this spectacle for themselves? The boundaries that may be stopping young people from going to see ballet are felt to be a lack of information being told/aimed at them specifically. How are young people going to find out about ballet? Does social media support or hinder this? Also perhaps gathering feedback from young people and finding out which stories they would like to see performed, could support their involvement. When attracting young people to ballet there could be more performances in public spaces, to show young people that ballet is for everyone to enjoy. Student priced tickets could also be made available for young people to increase accessibility. Using phone technology/virtual effects at the theatre entrance could also be used to bring more young people in and involve them in the ballet from the start of their visit.  

My take home feelings were a joyful, dreamy, Christmassy mixture with Tchaikovsky’s music enhancing the magic  even more so. 


The Nutcracker reviewed by Katie Willmott-Andrews

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★★★★★

"A dynamic and magical performance, an inspiration for the younger generation."

A charming Christmas tale presented through ethereal choreography, jaw-dropping designs, and a remarkable live orchestra, audiences have the opportunity to experience the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s special, one year only, adaptation of Sir David Bintley’s London production Nutcracker this year.

This evening was the first Ballet I have attended since the closures of theatres during the pandemic, and what better way to start off the festivities with the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker, which certainly did not disappoint. 

The buzz in the auditorium with excited theatregoers was unparalleled, caught in suspense as we witness the orchestra preparing us for the performance ahead, engrossed the shifting of silhouettes in Drosselmeyer’s toyshop placed centre stage. Soon to be interrupted by the unexpected booming voice of Drosselmeyer narrating the opening of Act 1 (voiced by Simon Callow, danced by Valentin Olovyannikov). A wonderful addition for the younger audience’s experience, allowing them to follow the story as it progresses.

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Over the duration of approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes, we are whisked away into a magical world filled with mystery and illusion from the magician Drosselmeyer, the mighty battle with the villainous Mouse King and the flawless technique, clean and precise lines, and breath-taking expression from the outstanding cast. Merging traditional choreography (by Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov, Vincent Redmon; additional choreography by David Bintley and Marion Tait) and the lightsome and melodious orchestra (Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia; Conductor Paul Murphy and Leader Ilhem Ben Khalfa) located on a raised platform above the stage and performers, creates a beautiful visual score that marries the bodies of dancers and motions of the musicians for a dynamic and eye-catching performance. 

Astounded with the contemporary approach to scenic design, Dick Bird gives us a modernised take on the classical design of The Nutcracker, using projection (designed by 59 Productions) to surround the audience and bring us into the world on stage. The scenic presentation within the transformation scene in Act 1 is a spectacular event, the gasps and jubilant applause roared from the audience as the projection of a flourishing Christmas tree and suspended gigantic baubles immerse the audience, successfully illuding to the dancers shrinking on stage. Additionally, the projection of glistening trees together with powdered snow that settles romantically on the stage provides a delightful Christmas aesthetic leaving the audience in awe within the joyous occasion. Fixated on the beautiful choreography amidst the snowy scene I found myself thinking, as I’m sure many others were: 

“How can these dancers glide across the snow so elegantly, please don’t slip, please don’t slip!”

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It is undeniable that the cast of the Nutcracker are truly talented, with the ability of captivating the audience with their presence and emotion without missing a beat. Each member of the company leaves the audience hanging off every movement. The choreographed illusions from Drosselmeyer, the highly anticipated and perfected Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy (Karla Doorbar), and the intricate and synchronised Waltz of the Flowers (Leading Flowers Yu Kurihara, Miki Mizutani, Emma Price, Ellis Small) with the exquisite and enchanting Rose Fairy (Yaoqian Shang) gliding so gracefully across the stage were personal highlights for me. 

I find it is important for me to mention the incredible children that performed in Act 1 (the Royal Ballet Junior Associates and members of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track programme). Each child impressed the audience as they performed with passion, a strong skillset technically and expressively, with clear enjoyment of performing with their cohort and we too enjoyed their influential performance. 

After spectating Clara’s inspirational performance (Reina Fuchigami) and the children on stage, I heard a little girl sat in front of me turn to her guardian exclaiming how she now wants to be a ballerina and will take on dance part time. Such a heart-warming sentiment to overhear. Although the shortage of spoken word may challenge young people when trying to understand the narrative of ballets, the visual stimuli encourage and inspires young people to partake creatively within the performing arts. 

Cleverly, to combat a potential challenge to the younger members of the audience, or even audiences unaware of the narrative of the Nutcracker, Birmingham Royal Ballet offer ‘The Story’ and ‘Meet the Characters’, within their programme to provide context of the story and characters before the performance begins. Other potential alternatives could be merging these two readings together to create a simple and fun story board so young members can match certain scenes of the production with the story board in the programme, thus helping them follow the story too. The programme also provides information for how young members who are inspired by the Nutcracker can participate in ballet training classes with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is a must-see event, especially as it is a one year only spectacle. After viewing, it inspired me to go home and dust of my pointe shoes and get creative. The Nutcracker is performing until Saturday 11 December 2021 at Birmingham Hippodrome. For further information visit Birmingham Hippodrome's website here.


The Nutcracker reviewed by Pamela Hawkins

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I have seen Birmingham Royal Ballets Performance of The Nutcracker many, many times so it was always going to be a big ask for the exclusive Albert Hall version to impress me. But I was certainly not disappointed. The recorded narration at the start of Act 1 was superbly executed to explain the elegance and beauty of the dancing whilst making it more accessible to younger audiences.

Having the Orchestra raised above the stage cleverly incorporated Tchaikovsky’s romantic scores with the ballet more than ever before, creating a more collaborative modernised production. The dancers of Birmingham Royal Ballet rose to the challenge of adapting this show to Birmingham Hippodrome and had a collective assurance across every role bringing charm and magic to every audience member. 

After watching The Nutcracker, I can assure you will leave feeling inspired, joyous and full of Christmas spirit. So, if you have never been introduced to the ballet before or are a frequent lover of The Nutcracker, I cannot stress enough this is the perfect opportunity to join Birmingham Royal Ballet for a Christmas Classic you will never forget. 

To make the ballet more accessible and reach younger audiences I think Birmingham Royal Ballet should do a YoungBRB ( like Royal Ballets YoungROH) this would provide tickets for £20, any seat in the house for shows Tuesday- Thursday and Matinees for anyone aged 16-25. This would introduce the next generation of ballet lovers to the magic created on the Birmingham Hippodrome Stage. With Birmingham having around five Universities surrounding the city this is the perfect solution and idea to bring younger people to the ballet. 

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The Nutcracker reviewed by Hollie Britzman

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The performance made me feel warm and comforted as the whole performance, especially the music, is very nostalgic to me. Watching Clara interact with all the other characters made me think about how I would have reacted to being surrounded by so many magical creatures. I felt really inspired by the music and dancing as the different energies each portrayed made me feel many different emotions.

I was surprised most by the projection scenes. Having previously only watched Sir Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker, getting the chance to watch the Royal Albert Hall version was very new and refreshing. I felt like with the inclusion of this technology it gave the production a much more modernised feeling which was interesting to see. In addition to this, as usual, I loved all the costumes and scenery throughout the performance, my favourites being the sugar plum fairy costumes and Mrs Stahlbaums’ long red dress.

I think that younger audience members, especially children may struggle to follow along with the story. With ballet performances being solely body language and facial expressions with no dialogue, it may be hard for young people to follow along and understand what’s happening.

As many people are on social media, I believe that this would be an ideal platform to share some of the performances from the theatre and maybe what goes on in the background. People would then come across these when maybe they wouldn’t usually go looking for them and give them a ‘sneaky peak’ into what to expect when going to a ballet performance. There could also be special showings of full shows for people who are unable to attend the theatre in person.

Photos © Bill Cooper