Sir Peter Wright’s production is spellbinding in every respect, exquisitely danced and magnificently staged. It breathes enchantment, from the hushed moment when the candles are lit in the opulence of a Victorian Christmas, to the change of scale and technical tour de force that sees giant rats pouring from the fireplace and tightly boxed tin soldiers transformed into a living army.
Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao in The Nutcracker Photo: Steve Hanson
Momoko Hirata is a captivating Clara, the ballet student eager to watch and learn. She dances with precision and without artifice, so light and slight that she seems almost spirit at times. There is a tender innocence about her performance that makes her perfectly matched with the intuitive and dynamic Chi Cao as the Prince who leads her to the Land of Snow. A matchless performance from Nao Sakuma as the Sugar Plum Fairy illustrates the different chemistry required of the roles.
The production is a whirlwind of colour and exuberance, especially in the flamboyant showcase of dances in Act II. So much lyricism too, with a rapturous Waltz of the Flowers culminating in Sakuma and Chi Cao’s Grand pas de deux.
Images burn themselves on the mind throughout and every cameo role is important. Samara Downs dances Mrs Stahlbaum in a stunning flame-coloured gown that makes her both decorous and sensuous. Marian Tait and Michael O’Hare delight as myopic and arthritic elders on the dance floor, Tzu-Chao Chou’s springy Jack-in-the-Box fascinates and Ian Mackay’s swirling Drosselmeyer commands the stage. This is a production that never ceases to amaze.