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Birmingham Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker, Birmingham, Winter 2015


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I was at the rehearsal last week - so here are some photos. And lovely it was too!

 

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Karla Doorbar, Joseph Caley
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Rose Fairy - Celine Gittens
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Momoko Hirata, Joseph Caley
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Set from DanceTabs: BRB - Nutcracker 2015 (25th anniversary)
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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I was at the Hippodrome on Friday 27 November for press night, and saw Karla Doorbar as Clara, Joseph Caley as the Prince and Momoko Hirata as the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Nutcracker marks the start of my Christmas every year; the music, the opening party and of course the snow create such a magical atmosphere which really gives me that festive cheer!

My review for Broadway World goes into a lot more detail here, but the production was fabulous as always! I love seeing Karla Doorbar dance; she's so clean and precise with a beautiful line. However, in previous years (watching Laura Day in particular) I have experienced a sense of childlike joy and awe from Clara that Karla did not convey for me - but I think that might just be personal preference. 

Momoko Hirata and Joseph Caley are a spectacular pairing and gave a sparkling performance. Roles like the Sugar Plum Fairy and the lead in Theme & Variations feel like they were created for dancers like Momoko; so precise and yet also so effortless. 

The whole company are on excellent form, and special mention must go to that stunning Snowflake Dance!

I'll be at the Hippodrome again on Wednesday 9th to see Laura Day as Clara, can't wait. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

So, to add to what I said on the train home last night, last night's BRB Nutcracker was just the best one I've ever seen. I had a huge smile of joy on my face all the way through and reconnected with my inner child! What carried the whole performance was the wonderful performance by Laura Purkiss as Clara, who just kept up the powerful feeling of wonderment through both acts. 

 

As usual from BRB, the whole cast plus orchestra were all superb. Special mention of course for the dazzling Brandon Lawrence as The Prince (no silly wig as ROH version seems to require the Prince to wear!) and the ppd with Yijing Zhang as Sugar Plum was divine!

 

Such a shame I had to miss the curtains calls to dash for the last train back to Nottingham. 

 

Memorable evening.  :D

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I was at both performances yesterday,

 

While Nutcracker is not a favourite of mine, I absolutely adore this opulent production.  The transformation scene has got to be absolutely the best ever!  At the first production I saw of this run (Kevin O'Hare was the Nutcracker Prince) the audience all started cheering at the transformation scene and 25 years later I still feel like doing that!  The moment when King Rat appears in the fire sends shivers of joy down my spine every time!  It took me years to realise how one of Drosselmeyer's tricks worked!

 

I like the fact that Clara's Mum is an ex-ballerina and there is more dancing for the party guests and the children than you see in many productions.  There is so much attention to detail that makes the characters in Act 1 real and make the story believable.  I love the butler checking all the details for the party and making sure all is secure at the end of it.

 

It is one of those things that you have to suspend belief that Clara can have a boyfriend but still be interested in dolls but there is one tiny touch that just makes it so real.  When she is dancing with her dancing partner and they start to move apart he goes to kiss her hand and she pulls away.  You can see she is not quite ready to have a boyfriend but realisation comes with the Nutcracker Prince.

 

In the afternoon we were treated to a scintillating performance from Laura Day as Clara, Chi Cao as Nutcracker and Arancha Baselga as Sugarplum.  Laura was a delight as Clara.  Chi is such an elegant and musical classical dancer, it is always such a pleasure to watch him and yesterday was no exception.  Arancha is sublime as Sugarplum; her dancing of the role has a lush softness to it.  She and Chi were terrific together in the gpdd.  Tzu-Chao Chou was scintillating as Clara's dancing partner.  James Barton was fabulous as the Jack-in-a-box and Valentin Olovyannikov brought a sinister edge to Drosselmeyer.

 

The evening turned out to be an especial treat.  Laura Purkiss has just the right touch as Clara.  She absolutely inhabited the role.  Brandon Lawrence was her dashing Nutcracker Prince.  Their glorious duet before the snowflakes was breath-taking and very exciting to watch.  This duet is so beautiful that I always fail to notice the set changing from the giant tree to the snowflake scene.  Brandon just fills the stage with his presence.  Yijing Zhang was making her debut as Sugarplum and she was absolutely radiant.  She and Brandon were fabulous together.  Max Maslen was a superb dancing partner for Clara and I loved Lewis Turner as Drosselmeyer's assistant.

 

All in all two glorious performances from a company performing at the top of its game!

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While Nutcracker is not a favourite of mine, I absolutely adore this opulent production.  The transformation scene has got to be absolutely the best ever!  

 

 

You'll get no argument from me there :)

 

I do hope it's back on next year: I really *must* get my act together and see it again - and that means committing early enough to get cheap train fares, not to mention not getting inundated with work!

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Gosh, I thought Pulchinella was joking about the booking opening tomorrow but this is no word of a lie. This smacks of slight desperation.

It seems to be coming more and more common. At the Lowry, Sunderland and Plymouth booking usually opens for the next season during the current run. I was speaking to one of the FOH staff on Tuesday and he told me that they have been following this policy with the panto for several years now.

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Well, I've booked my 2016 tickets!!

 

I would like to have booked another performance or two to catch different casts this year but I have dithered too much and couldn't get anything decent for the dates I wanted.  Sad news for me but great news for BRB that the tickets have sold so well.

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I have finally got round to writing my comments on Wednesday's performance. Whatever the casting this was always going to be special as my hubby was coming with me for his first ever trip to the ballet.   I am very pleased to say he really enjoyed it, especially the first act.

I really must pay more attention to the details of the cast list. When Dr Stahlbaum entered and I realised it was the utterly divine Wolfgang Stollwitzer my heart skipped several beats and no one else got a look in for much of the first bit.  However, there are always exceptions to even the most obsessive of crushes and I thought Laura Day as Clara was a complete and utter delight.  Her look of rapturous enchantment in the first act pas de deux and the snow scene was just glorious.  

 

I really liked Rory Mackey as Drosselmeyer, quirky but believeable, and hubby was very taken with Lachlan Monaghan as the brilliant Jack-in-the-Box.  Our prince was Tzu-Chao Chou who was a courteous and attentive partner.  His jetes were pretty terrific but I hope I don't sound overly picky when I say that I prefer my princes to land a little more silently.  

 

In the snow scene Yvette Knight was predictably lovely with great attendants including the divine (sorry that word again) Celine Gittens and Delia Matthews.  Th winds were lead by Will Bracewell and Brandon Lawrence.  What more could a girl ask for?

 

The second act was fine, hubby was particularly taken with the Russian Dance and I was very happy as Luke Schaufuss was involved.  Arancha Baselga shone with warmth as the Rose Fairy and the change of child Clara to the adult Sugar Plum of Karla Doorbar was the most convincing I have seen in 25 years of watching this production.  However, I have to say that I thought Karla was flagging a bit towards the end of her variation and the pas de deux actually wasn't quite the climax I was expecting.  She looked beautiful and a very convincing adult Laura Day but that pas de deux is a killer and if you start to fade it really shows.

 

So, all in all a very happy evening and hubby has said he may return as long as it's Hobson's Choice.  I may work on him next time Fille or Two Pigeons come round again.

 

I am only going to one Nutcracker this year but I am really looking forward to The Dream and A Month in the Country, just as long as we get the right casts. 

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I was also at the performance on Wednesday, as I made it a priority to see Laura Day as Clara! She's a lovely lyrical dancer and such a fanstastic actress; I felt that she wasn't just (!) dancing but really living every moment, and each move she made had a clear meaning and purpose behind it. I would love to see her in a more dramatically demanding role. Her musicality is incredible - I love the extra moments she finds in the music to linger between movements and really highlight important moments. I only felt sad that she didn't receive any flowers at the end, but I'm sure she got plenty for her opening night.

The first pas-de-deux is always a special moment, and Laura Day and Tzu-Chao Chou made it even more with such a lovely partnership! I mentioned this last year, but Tzu-Chao Chou always looks like he's having such a great time as the Price that it's infectious.

I would agree with everything said by Two Pigeons; we were treated to an excellent cast on Wednesday.

I was so excited to see Karla Doorbar's debut. Two Pigeons is correct - the transformation was Clara to Sugar Plum Fairy was the most convincing I have ever seen! Karla's technique is so clean and elegant, with her pure line and the most exquisite feet, but I wonder whether the occasion got the better of her on Wednesday. She appeared to lose her centre and confidence towards the end of the variation and pas-de-deux, which was such a shame.

Edited by emma-cann
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I saw both performances by Karla as Sugar Plum Fairy and am pleased to say

That her second performance was very good. No fading at the end of her solo this time.

Absolutely agree about Laura Day. Her acting has a wonderful naturalness about it.

Probably to early to expect her to do Juliet in the new year

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I saw both performances by Karla as Sugar Plum Fairy and am pleased to say

That her second performance was very good. No fading at the end of her solo this time.

Absolutely agree about Laura Day. Her acting has a wonderful naturalness about it.

Probably to early to expect her to do Juliet in the new year

I'm so pleased to hear that about Karla, as she did start the solo so well on Wednesday.

 

I would love to see Laura Day as Juliet too, but I agree that it is too soon unfortunately, especially as there is such a limited run of performances. Maybe A Month In The Country?

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I'm so pleased to hear that about Karla, as she did start the solo so well on Wednesday.

 

I would love to see Laura Day as Juliet too, but I agree that it is too soon unfortunately, especially as there is such a limited run of performances. Maybe A Month In The Country?

 

 

A limited run including 6 performances at the Lowry, 4 in Sunderland and 6 in Plymouth as well as the Birmingham season!  (Sorry to go o/t).

 

If anyone has been at this afternoon's final performance I would love to hear about it!

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A limited run including 6 performances at the Lowry, 4 in Sunderland and 6 in Plymouth as well as the Birmingham season!  (Sorry to go o/t).

 

If anyone has been at this afternoon's final performance I would love to hear about it!

I completely forgot it was touring!!

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I thought Laura would be an absolutely wonderful Vera. I suspect the queue of Juliets might be a bit too long this time around. I am really hoping for Celine and Delia to be the debutantes and you won't need to be Inspector Morse to work out which new Romeos I would love to see.

Edited by Two Pigeons
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A limited run including 6 performances at the Lowry, 4 in Sunderland and 6 in Plymouth as well as the Birmingham season!  (Sorry to go o/t).

 

If anyone has been at this afternoon's final performance I would love to hear about it!

Simply sublime Jan. The whole cast gave it their all and looked as though they were having a ball. Arancha Baselga was a delightful innocent thrilled with her new experiences. James Barton, as the Jack-in-the-Box and Yvette Knight as the Snow Fairy stood out for me and the whole Snow Scene was exceptional. But I had booked the extra performance to see Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews as Prince and SPF and they were everything that I had hoped and expected them  to be. Think that Brandon could clear that stage in two strides ! I am limited in making technical judgements but the grace of their performances and emotion they conveyed in their pdd left me very emotional. I left on a high. This was the last performance and BRB did us proud.

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While I think that BRB's Nutcracker is exceptional  I am not sure that I would say that it is the best that I have ever seen as I have a soft spot for the Nureyev production at Covent Garden.It had menacing rats and a much better battle scene.It also used ideas from other ballets in an inventive way. The rodents saluted their king much as Kostchei's creatures doin the Firebird, while the snowflakes left the stage by climbing up a ramp,  reversing the entrance pf the Shades in Bayadere. I think that the latter idea is Vainonen's rather than Nureyev's.   One of the clever things about it was the way in which,by the time I saw it, the two acts were connected by having family members who appeared in the party scene turn up in some of the divertisements. I recall  Alexander Grant and Gerd Larsen playing he grandparents and then turning up in the Arabian Coffee scene and the parents turning up in the Russian dance.

 

I suspect that the lack of menace in the scene with the rodents in both of Peter Wright's productions was deliberate. Both productions are as far removed from the Nureyev production as you can possibly get as much as anything because they incorporate some of the original choreography, I see them as productions created for specific stages rather than first thoughts and second thoughts.Although of course, he clearly changed things for his BRB production.I think that this probably has more to do with the nature of the two auditoriums. What looks good on an opera house stage with the seating curving in a horse shoe is not necessarily going to look that good on a smaller stage in a more intimate space.I don't think that we would think so highly of either production if they were to swap theatres. The BRB version would lose much of its impact on the Covent Garden stage because it would look lost on it while the Covent Garden production would look desperately cramped at the Hippodrome.

 

Peter Wright's genius as a stager lies in his flexibility of approach.It seems to me that his ability to rethink ideas and tailor productions for the stages on which they will be seen, while retaining their essence,is a much rarer gift than most appreciate.It is one thing to change choreography because you are mounting a new production,such second thoughts are not necessarily an improvement, quite another create a second production that is not merely a pale imitation of the original but a great production in its own right. 

Edited by FLOSS
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While I think that BRB's Nutcracker is exceptional  I am not sure that I would say that it is the best that I have ever seen as I have a soft spot for the Nureyev production at Covent Garden.It had menacing rats and a much better battle scene.It also used ideas from other ballets in an inventive way. The rodents saluted their king much as Kostchei's creatures doin the Firebird, while the snowflakes left the stage by climbing up a ramp,  reversing the entrance pf the Shades in Bayadere. I think that the latter idea is Vainonen's rather than Nureyev's.   One of the clever things about it was the way in which,by the time I saw it, the two acts were connected by having family members who appeared in the party scene turn up in some of the divertisements. I recall  Alexander Grant and Gerd Larsen playing he grandparents and then turning up in the Arabian Coffee scene and the parents turning up in the Russian dance.

 

 

I've got a DVD of the Nureyev Nutcracker, and the rats really do look menacing. 

 

I have to say I like the pas de deux for the SPF and the Prince as well. It might be "fiendishly difficult", I don't know, but Merle Park looks as though she is coping with it without making too much heavy weather of it.  I like the way it seems to fill the music.  It is, however, a bit of a marathon, I suppose, because there are no pauses for breath somewhere in the middle - they dance from beginning to end and it is quite long. 

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