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Birmingham Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker, Birmingham, November 2016

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Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of The Nutcracker begins at Birmingham Hippodrome today, celebrating the 90th birthday of its creator, Sir Peter Wright.  If you see it, do let us know your thoughts.

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I was at the first performance this afternoon and the company look on really good form. All the leads were excellent, Miki Mizutani - Clara, Yaoqian Shang - Sugar Plum Fairy, Will Bracewell - Prince, Iain Mackay - Drosselmeyer, as were Jenna Roberts as the Snow Fairy and Celina Gittens as the Rose Fairy. If the transformation is well done it always sends a tingle down the back of my spine and this was one of the best tingles I've experienced, it started well before the fireplace turned round. All in all one of the best performances I have seen of this production for a few years. Looking forward to three more performances.

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It was a very enjoyable afternoon.  What was *not* so enjoyable was my evening - I've only just got back from the *matinee* after a hellish trip being stuck in a sauna-like, packed train, and then further delays based on misinformation from Transport for London.  It's rather wiped out the enjoyment :(

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I was at the opening matinee yesterday and it was utterly magical. I was enthralled throughout by this, for me, the best version of The Nutcracker! The dancing was superb, especially the perfect prince William Bracewell and the bubbling, joyful Clara of Miki Mizutami.

Such a gorgeous, entrancing production. All the characters come across so well and the effects are incredible. I still come over all goose pimpled when Clara flies across the stage on the goose!! And the transformation scene is jaw dropping!

All the dancers were on such sparkling form that there would be too many to mention. The performance had such a buzz I felt really emotional and like a child again, full of joy!

Great playing of the score by RB Sinfonia under the baton of guest conductor Nicolette Fraillon.

 

This production is truly a great gift from Sir Peter Wright, many happy returns to him!

 

Christmas has well and truly arrived and I'd better book now for next year!

Edited by nottsballetlover
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I watched last night for the special opening night performance for Sir Peter Wrights birthday and it was truly stunning. Karla Doorbar was a fabulous Clara, but Momoko Hirata was the delight of the evening with an effortlessly light Sugar Plum Fairy. Celine Gittins Arabian Dance was also equisite and she received a most rapturous applause.

The highlight of the evening however (apart from watching my daughter as one of the party children I hasten to add!) was the whole auditorium standing for Sir Peter Wright as he came on stage and then joining with the Cast and orchestral accompaniment to sing Happy Birthday! Wow. Definitely a night for the memory bank and looking forward to watching again soon!

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I was also there Balletmummy55 and you're absolutely right - it was indeed truly stunning - an evening to remember. Karla Doorbar and Celine Gittins stood out for me also and special credit to Nicolette Fraillon with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia as well - the entire company on stage and in the pit gave of their all and really did Sir Peter proud!

 

He himself in his brief response paid tribute to John Macfarlane and David Finn and rightly so. Their production has never looked better particularly in the first act.

 

The cameras were there - I hope to catch extracts for the two BBC Xmas documentaries - if so we will have a record of the joy and excitement in the theatre.

 

David Bintley summed up the evening for us all with the comment: "Christmas has Begun!" A great evening.

Edited by David
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I was at the dress rehearsal earlier in the week, with Celine Gittens and Brandon Lawrence in the leads. They were utterly gorgeous!
Here are a few photos:
 
31111003422_99079e8c8f_z.jpg
Yvette Knight
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

31218625206_dbafa76927_z.jpg
Brandon Lawrence, Celine Gittens
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

31218602276_e47ecff4fa_z.jpg
Brandon Lawrence, Celine Gittens
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

See more...

Set from DanceTabs: BRB - Nutcracker 2016
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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The BBC have announced they are showing a Nutcracker over Christmas? is it the BRB version? If so that would be great news as there have been so many film versions of the RB version but only the one BRB version ages ago with Irek and Yoshida. it would be a splendid tribute to Peter Wright to accompany the interview with him and the doc. about the making of the Nutcracker.

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If you have some time to kill in Birmingham at the moment, you might like to take a wander round the Frankfurt Christmas Market, which extends along New Street and up to Victoria Square(?) - it's pretty impressive.

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I have now seen four performances by BRB of their Nutcracker, which is my lot for this year. After my first performance, reviewed above, I have seen the following casts: Sugar Plum Fairy/Prince/Clara/Drosselmeyer - Celine Gittens/Brandon Lawrence/Arancha Baselga/Yasuo Atsuji, Yvette Knight/Yasuo Atsuji/Reina Fuchigami/Tom Rogers, Karla Doorbar/Tzu-Chao Chou/Laura Day/Jonathan Payn. For me the stand outs were Celine and Brandon, who were everything you want from the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince. Everything was sharp like crystal but with beautiful soft landings and high jumps from Brandon. Yvette Knight really looks like the ballerina doll that Clara is given and also dances beautifully. I really liked Yasuo Atsuji as Drosselmeyer, he brought a lot of character to the part and made you feel really involved. Tom Rogers was making his debut as Drosselmeyer this season and came over as rather bland but hopefully he will work his way into the part. Of the Clara's that I've seen Laura Day is by far my favourite. She dances the part beautifully and brings a sense of wonder to the part that I haven't seen in the others. In the other roles notable performances were from Delia Mathews as the Snow Fairy and, particularly, Beatrice Parma as the Rose Fairy. I'm only sorry that I wasn't able to see her as Clara after seeing her dance that solo.

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Saw my second BRB Nutcracker this afternoon. Wish I could have seen every performance of this exceptional production. I had a bad seat first time but today was in front row stalls. The magic was incredible. I felt very weepy for some strange reason! Maybe it was the sheer joy of the performance! (or my hormones!!).

Clara was beautifully danced by Laura Day. Superb. Cesar Morales was a perfect partner for both her and SPF Miki Mizutani who lit up the stage with her radiance.

The whole performance was gorgeous.

 

The other day I watched the Peter Wright version for RB on Sky Arts. For me his BRB version is so much better. I love all the dances in Act 2, especially the Arabian & Flowers. I especially love this version for its Snowflakes dance. Live singers, fabulous. But I really love the male 'consorts' in this. They really lift that particular number.

 

Anyway, buzzing happily after this show.Pure joy.

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PS. Tip on seating. The Christmas tree in this version is on the left as you look at the stage. To see the transformation at its best, in stalls, be on the right!!

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Has that changed? I always thought the fireplace was on the right as you look at the stage so you need the higher number seats on the left.

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Some confusion here. The tree is on the audience left and the fireplace on the audience right.

Saw both performances today. Laura Day an absolute delight as Clara this afternoon.

Those of us who have watched her from her schooldays know what a good actress she is.

Technically, she is much stronger now and really attacked her solo in Act 1

Yvette Knight as the Snow Fairy was as usual quite superb this evening and as a bonus we got to see her in the Arabian

Dance as well.

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The boxes in the Circle (and downstairs, no doubt) get in the way of being able to appreciate the transformation properly - so to be avoided.

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Whoops! I have indeed muddied the waters. I always think the best part of the transformation is King Rat coming out of the fireplace. However, I can see that some fans would prefer to see the tree. Mea culpa and many apologies.

 

PS. Went to see the live relay from the Opera House tonight. Nearly had a fit when the woman in front of me said that the production knocked 'Birmingham Royal Ballet into a cocked hat'. I almost needed tranquillisers.

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I probably would have bopped her on the head TP!!!

 

My highlight is King Rat coming out of the giant fireplace too.

 

I saw two sparkling performances on Tuesday.  As far as I am concerned the BRB Nutcracker continues to be ABSOLUTELY THE BEST!!!  I love that the story in Act 1 has Mum as an ex-dancer and Clara as a dance student that allows for more dancing than in many productions.  I also love the magic tricks - it took me years to figure out how one of them was done but even when I did it didn't destroy the magic.  I also love the duet for Clara and the Nutcracker Prince that is so beautiful I fail to notice the giant tree/fireplace transforming into the snow scene.

 

On Tuesday afternoon we were treated to Laura Day as Clara, Tzu Chao Chou as the Nutcracker Prince and Karla Doorbar as Sugarplum.  All three were delightful.  Delia Matthews was, of course, magnificent as the Snow Fairy.

 

In the evening Miki Mizutani was utterly magical as Clara (I so wish I could have seen her Sugarplum) with Yasuo Atsuji as the Nutcracker Prince and an incandescent Yvette Knight as Sugarplum.  Iain Mackay was magisterial and magical as Drosselmeyer.

 

I would love to have seen more performances this year as there were so many casts I wanted to see but I didn't want Chipdog spending too long in boarding kennels.

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Hi Janet, I was at the afternoon matinee on Tuesday too and agree it was a lovely performance. I haven't seen this production for a few years after seeing it for the first ten years when it entered the repertoire, and it has lost none of its power to create a truly wonderful theatrical experience. Yes it is the emergence of the Rat King from the glowing fireplace which combines so wonderfully with the triumphant flourish of the music and ensures the transformation scene culminates in such a thrilling manner. Other gems from this wonderful production I enjoyed rediscovering include the magnificen red dress that Clara's mother wears, the rat that Drosselmeyer's assistant fails to capture and escapes up the staircase, the twilight glow of the snowflake scene & the goose that transports Clara ... And that's just the first act. Laura Day was a lovely Clara and Tzu Chao Chou, who has a fine jump, made a strong and attentive Prince who projects a genuine sense of enjoying dancing. Samara Downs made an effective Rose fairy and Lachlan Monaghan caught my eye in the role of Clara's dancing partner.

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My daughter and I made the trip up to Birmingham from London yesterday to see this production, and if I could I would do it again today. And tomorrow.  And Tuesday.  It was magnificent.  We had never seen it live;  just on the video I had when daughter was a little girl and watched it over and over again.  

 

This was a truly magnificent production:  the first act set really put the audience into a Victorian house on Christmas eve, with its plush red walls and gold hangings.  As was mentioned above, the lush red dress worn by Mrs Stahlbaum added to the feeling of warmth, and of Christmas.  It must be one of the loveliest costumes on any stage at the moment.  

 

I loved Act 1, with all of its dancing.  Act 1 usually bores me rigid in any production of Nut, but here there is always someone to watch, and something going on that is relevant to the story.  Special mention to Lewis Turner (a cracking bravura dancer) as Jack-in-the-Box and one of the Chinese dancers, and also to the children of the RBS and Elmhurst schools for an excellent group dance.  The set and lighting for the end of the act were so evocative;  I really felt as if I were walking through woods on a snowy evening, and half expected to see a street light and wardrobe door in the distance.  The Snowflakes were lovely, and with Yijing Zhang as the Snow Fairy this sun worshipper would have been very happy spending all night in those cold, snowy woods.

 

Act 2 was delightful;  it began with Clara high up in the air on the goose:  ooohs and aaahhs from adults and children alike, and applause as she drifted slowly downwards.   She arrives at an unusual set for what is normally the palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy;  this was a fantastical world of the sun and the moon, the stars and the flowers, and the international dancers, all excellent and really enjoying themselves.  I especially liked Alys Shee in Arabian;  sensual, sinewy and sexy, just as it should be. As with the Snowflakes at the end of Act 1, the Flowers also had a beautiful fairy:  Yaoqian Shang as the Rose Fairy was strong for the technical bits, but her smile counteracted the steely strength and made her into a benevolent and happy leader of this joyous group.  Great synchronised dancing from the four men, as well.  

 

Clara was danced by Arancha Baselga, but as she made no impact on me whatsoever there is nothing much I can say on that subject.  Yasuo Atsuji was a sort of eminence grise as Drosselmeyer;  not scary, but enigmatic and slightly understated, and I liked his interpretation.  

 

And the best bit until last:  Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews.  I love how in this production the prince has a bit more to do, in that in Act 1 he dances the 'awakening' pdd with Clara, but then also gets to dance the grand pas in Act 2.  When Brandon is dancing this role, that is truly a blessing.  He has such stage presence, made from a combination of his winning smile, his height, and, well, his very being.  He has got to be one of the most elegant dancers on any British stage at the moment....he has the most beautiful line (his jetes and arabesques are nigh on the best I've seen) with not only his legs, but also his arms and even his expressive hands.  This is a dancer who understands the difference between art and acrobatics, and he truly embodies the artistic aspect of pure, classical dancing and story telling.  He said in his recent fascinating interview with ToThePointe magazine that his favourite part of dancing is partnering.  He loves it, and boy did it show here with Delia, fast becoming his regular partner and already a real class act.  As with a true danseur noble, he took great care of her, and he has an unusual way of combining gentleness with real strength in the lifts.  As for Delia, she is just lovely to behold.  Her long limbs are a perfect match for those of her partner, as is her radiant smile and her stage presence.  Both of them are so musical that I could almost see the music being channelled through their bodies as their limbs slowly unfurled or quickly kicked up or whatever it was that the choreography required on a particular note.  Most beautiful of all, though, was their total confidence in each other, and the absolute joy they each experience whenever they are onstage together.  They clearly adore each other, and respect each other's artistry, and just totally love dancing with each other.  The whole effect of this made me well up with tears and have a big lump in my throat.  Why?  Because I don't usually feel these emotions during this pdd at the end of a happy ballet, but these two embodied everything that is good in the human soul:  love, joy, generosity of spirit (they gave their audience as much as they could give), respect and, overall, pure artistry.  In these sad and turbulent times, being reminded of these things is very welcome, and I thank not only Brandon and Delia, but the whole Birmingham Royal Ballet for doing so in such a wonderful way yesterday.

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And a post-script to the above:  if Brandon and Delia aren't cast as Solor and Nikiya next autumn, I will personally get on the train and go and make my feelings felt at BRB HQ!!  Add Celine Gittens as Gamzatti, and that would be a piece of ballet heaven for me!

 

Second post-script:  being a Saturday matinee, the audience was full of children.  I was expecting a rather raucous afternoon, but to my utter surprise and delight (and most of all great credit to BRB!) there wasn't a peep out of any of them!  No crying, no whingeing, no fidgeting, no talking....just pure, rapt concentration and enjoyment from them all!

 

Third post-script:  I got to meet Sir Peter Wright after the performance so was able to congratulate him and wish him a happy birthday.  That was truly the cherry on the cake of my day!

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Lovely review Sim, thank you so much. It made me feel very nostalgic. I must agree with you about Delia and Brandon for La Bayadere but feel I must also put in a word for Celine Gittens and Tyrone Singleton as a very felicitous alternative. I feel Celine could triumph as both Nikiya and Gamzatti. Actually I think that could well be the first cast with Momoko Hirata who could also play both roles. Having said that, you cannot rule out either Jenna Roberts or Nao Sakuma as Nikiya or William Bracewell as Solor.

 

What a lot we have to look forward to.

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Totally agree with Sim about that performance. The icing on the cake for me was at the end. As Brandon and Delia  circled the stage they ended up at the extreme opposite ends of the stage. I thought, this looks a bit different, Then they both ran to each other  and met in the middle as she leapt into his arms. This, to me showed the complete trust that they have in the partnership and how much they enjoy dancing together. 

Bayadere! Can't wait for this despite some of the negative comments on these pages. It will be a real test for a company the size of

BRB. They most certainly have the dancers for the principal roles.

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I can't manage to catch BRB's wonderful Nutcracker this year and I really appreciate hearing about it on this thread. Thank you to everyone, especially those who have written at some length.

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I would like to add my sincere thanks for the BRB Nutcracker reviews - especially those for Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews.  I too can't wait to see them in Bayadere - a ballet I do sincerely love for the wide amount of variety it brings to dancers in the balletic idiom - while still engaging in its rich character dances.  I pray they bring this to Sadler's Wells as the prices that BRB charge at the Coliseum are I fear at the fat end of my budget and I know I will want to see this more than a few times.  

 

Also if the RB EVER again needs to bring in guest artists ... not that I think that is the case at the moment ... I DON'T .... but if they EVER do ... BRB is SO rich in fantastic artists just now that I would love to see these dancers headlined for a couple of performances at the RB over any swathe of Europe hopping Ukrainians.  Surely such glorious talents as Lawrence, Mathews and Hirata are wholly worthy of a world class imprinteur on ANY balletic stage and their commitment to so clearly enriching the artistic journey of this country speaks for itself I believe.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Lovely review Sim. I'm welling up just reading about Delia and Brandon. Hope I get to see them in something again soon.

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Lovely review Sim. I'm welling up just reading about Delia and Brandon. Hope I get to see them in something again soon.

 

I was very impressed by Brandon in the rehearsal - I usually only focus on the women to be honest (I'm with Balanchine on that!  :-)  ) but he was marvelous dancing with Celine Gittens then (she positively glowed!)

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