Saturday, 19 December 2015

Northern Nutcracker

Standard YouTube Licence

Northern Ballet, The Nutcracker, The Grand Theatre Leeds, 18 Dec 2015, 19:00

I had begun to worry about Northern Ballet. 1984 did not quite meet my expectations even second time round (My First Impressions of 1984 12 Sept 2015 and 1984 Second Time Round 24 Oct 2015) and I had seen them dance better than they did in Bradford with Wuthering Heights (see  Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights in Bradford 22 Nov 2015). All that coinciding with the management's increasing my Friend's membership subscription by 133% including VAT on the basis that the concessions which I have never taken up constitute a chargeable supply (see The Increasing Cost of Friendship 14 Oct 2015).

All of that, however, is in the past - forgotten and forgiven. Last night's performance could not be faulted. It showed Northern Ballet at its best - energetic and exuberant.  I attended last night's show with my teacher and members of my ballet class at Dance Studio Leeds (see Dance Studio Leeds Beginners' Ballet Class 22 Oct 2015). For several members of out class it was our first taste of ballet on stage and for them it must have been magical. I enjoyed it tremendously even though it was at least the third and probably the fourth time time that I had seen that production (see my pre-Terpsichore article Cracking Nuts - Copyright in Choreography IP North West 24 Nov 2011 IP North West).

I think the reason I liked last night's show so much was that all my favourite dancers were there even though some of them were not on stage for very long. The excellent Hannah Bateman danced the Arabian dance with the magnificent Javier Torres and Joseph Taylor. The splendid Hironao Takahashi danced Drosselmeyer. The great Pippa Moore was a slightly dotty granny. Isaac Lee-Baker was the pater familiae. Sean Bates doubled as the Sugar Plum's cavalier and the mischievous little boy who broke the nutcracker. Kevin Poeng was a fine prince, Antoinette Brooks-Daw  a delightful Clara, Niola Gervasi an impressive mouse king and Ayami Miyata a gorgeous sugar plum. Great also to see Gavin McCaig doing so well and Rachael Gillespie and Abigail Prudames are always a pleasure. All the cast did well and I congratulate each and every one of them.

Good though this production was there are a few light touches that could make it perfect. First, the scenery needs a bit of attention.  The walls of the Edwards' drawing room (would it really hurt to call them the Stahlbaums as every other company does?) are noticeably flimsy even when viewed from the gods. The orchestration could be reviewed. More than one member of our group thought it was too light. I missed the vocals in the snow scene at the end of Act I. Why can't James be Fritz or Hans, Clara's pesky little brother? And where were Harlequin and Columbine? French and Chinese dolls, apparently, even though Kiara Flavin, Jeremy Curnier and Matthew Topliss danced them well.

Having said that there are some delightful touches that one does not see in every other production. There are the mime sequences where Clara recounts the battle with the mice to Drosselmeyer and later her dad and the children's pieces, particularly the little chap with his trumpet whom Gita named "man of the match". Cara O'Shea has to be congratulated for the work she did with the little ones for so often it is they who can make The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker is not to everybody's taste. It is very sweet to the point of sugary. But if you have never seen ballet before - particularly if you are very young - this is a good one to start with and Northern Ballet's is one of the best.

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