Reviewed by Joy Wright
The Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet has returned to The Lyceum theatre in Sheffield with The Nutcracker, based on Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation of ETA Hoffman’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and accompanied by Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s score.
We follow young Clara through her magical dreams on Christmas Eve as she meets the handsome Nutcracker Prince, then defeats the Rat King, before being transported into the Kingdom of Sweets by the Sugar Plum Fairy. All this is orchestrated by the magician Drosselmeier with Evgeny Silakov in the role as he introduces Clara to his enchanted toys and through from her present reality to the magical kingdom and eventual romance with the Nutcracker Prince.
The enormous radio-controlled mouse is a highlight in the first half, one of the toys being brought into the realms of Clara’s dreams. The audience reacted with mirth and I imagine it would be the best part for the youngest members of the audience.
The Hungarian Sinfonietta Orchestra, conducted by Guntars Bernats, perform the score and it is beautiful, you’ll recognise many of the pieces even if you’re not a classical music fan. The orchestra pit is extended in the Lyceum to house the live instrumentalists and you can see Bernats as he conducts, which is rather nice as the musicians are so often hidden.
My favourite sequence was the Spanish dance duo in Act Two, performed by Sophie Mergaliyev and Dmitrii Popov. These dancers genuinely appeared to have a vivacious stage presence and moved with enthusiasm and joy. They really convey that they are dancing with spirit and communicate their spirit with glee with one another.
There’s a lovely change of pace during the Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Eastern dance sequences and we see a wider range of dancers, all supported by the lovely and talented ballet corps.
The stage is dressed with a baroque theme and unlike other ballets the set is simplistic and limited with greater emphasis placed on décor, dance and costume. The costumes in Act One have rich feel, really building on the setting and characters and then as the toys are introduced we see more colour and drama.
The lighting is a confusion at times with the stage dropping into darkness as dancers hold their final poise and the back drops are changed. Usually such moments are enveloped in clapping from an appreciative audience but the lighting seems to change the opportunity.
Because the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet is absolutely that, fully and precisely en pointe classical ballet, this production will appeal especially to those with dance experience along with fans of The Nutcracker as a whole. The Nutcracker is often enjoyed at Christmas time and has become quite traditional during the festive season overall, the snow scenes are a touch of decadence to be enjoyed in these weeks after Christmas.
The Nutcracker is at The Lyceum for the remainder of this week and tickets are still available. You could enjoy drinks in the theatre bar before the show and during the interval and cut-rate parking is supported in “The Cheese Grater” as it is known here in Sheffield, the Q-Park nearest the theatre. Tickets are available from theatre staff.
Tickets cost from £15 (booking fees may apply).
Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet’s The Nutcracker is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 7-11 January 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000