The Nutcracker – English National Ballet: London Coliseum, 26 December 2011

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth

Shall we dance? ENB go nuts for cheese.

Despite the presence in London of (at least) three other Nutcracker shows, Wayne Eagling’s Edwardian extravaganza for the English National Ballet played to a pretty packed Coliseum. It’s an attractive enough production with the obligatory falling snow and a charming ice-skating scene, but it doesn’t really melt the heart.

The plotless opening half hour or so, an encumbrance for any production of The Nutcracker, is very tedious here, padded with a lot of flitting around in posh frocks. Things start to perk up with the arrival of Zhanat Atymtayev’s highly camp Mouse King crawling all over Clara’s dreams but the rest of the first act, especially the Dance of the Snowflakes, was overly frantic as if in compensation for the languid drawl of the opening.

Things weren’t helped by distinctly off-colour performances from Erina Takahashi as Clara and Esteban Berlanga as her beau. They appeared uncomfortable dancing with each other and it wasn’t until their solo variations at the end of the ballet that they produced anything remotely close to their true abilities.

Act II produced some good performances; James Streeter commanded the stage superbly as Drosselmeyer, Nancy Osbaldeston was perky in the Chinese dance and the corps came together well in the delightfully choreographed Waltz of the Flowers. I’ve been suspicious of the hype that’s already gathering around Yonah Acosta, nephew of Carlos, but after witnessing his brief display in the Russian dance his potential is obvious; energetic, full of bounce and harbouring a powerful leap he gave an invigorating boost to the night’s proceedings.

This Nutcracker is a good show at best. The Edwardian update adds little and neither does the tinkering with the storyline (Clara’s brother, for example, is rescued in the middle of an otherwise sensual Arabian dance and the Sugar Plum Fairy is entirely absent). The good news though, for anyone who saw Agony & Ecstasy, the BBC documentary on the English National Ballet, is that the hot air balloon is working perfectly.

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