Nutcracker! (review)

Nutcracker!
Nutcracker!

A SWEETIE-induced sugar rush left ballet fans at Milton Keynes Theatre on a high following the opening night of Matthew Bourne’s sumptuous production of Nutcracker!

It well deserves its exclamation mark because, like the dance genre or not, it’s impossible not to become addicted to the stunning sets, mouth-watering costumes and quite magical performances.

It has been four years since the choreographer delighted us with this production and he has done a bit of tinkering to make it tastier than ever before.

This is a truly spectacular show that is impressive from the opening as a rag-tag collection of scrawny orphans stumble onto the stage to be dazzled by the spotlights and the vast audience in front of them.

Reality soon kicks in as they are dragged back to the ghastly orphanage run by the sadistic Dr Dross and his wife where they are taunted by the couple’s two vile children.

A little girl, Clara, receives a doll as a present and fights to keep possession of it. As the bewitching hour arrives the doll turns into a human boy to take the young girl, Clara, on a mesmerising journey to Sweetieland.

This is a visual treat in every sense of the word. Hannah Vassallo’s performance as the waif, Clara, is animated and deeply touching. She becomes trapped in a nightmare as her love, the young Nutcracker, is entranced by a well-aimed snowball into falling for Sugar, the manipulative and rotten sweetie in the jar, who is the daughter of King Sherbert (Daniel Wright looking like the maniacal Joker from Batman) and Queen Candy.

Chris Trenfield holds the show together as the Nutcracker, performing tender set pieces with Clara before moving onto passionate duets with Ashley Shaw’s Sugar.

The colour palate ranges from the dour, drab grey of the oppressive orphanage, through the light white of the Frozen Lake sequence, where the characters rest before heading to the vibrant pink and candy coloured cornucopia of Sweetieland.

There are Bourne’s trademark flourishes of wit throughout and faultless presentation. It’s a perfect family spectacular and made the ultimate Valentine’s Day opening night.

Running until Saturday. For tickets call the box office 0844 871 7652 or go online www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

ANNE COX