So, after saying White Rabbits this morning for luck brought on 1st March, St. David’s Day, I thought having the opportunity to watch the amazing Matthew Bourne’s production of the Christmas phenomenon that is “Nutcracker!” was already all the luck I needed. I adore Bourne’s productions, having seen the Red Shoes, Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake twice and so was enthralled to see this luscious show and their depiction of the classic ballet about a wooden Christmas toy that comes alive.
I adore the Liverpool Empire, having been brought up in Liverpool it always feels like home and has a grandeur all its own. The house was, as expected, full and the audience, like me, poised with anticipation as the curtain rose.
The opening scene of waif-like children walking upon an empty stage glaring in awe at us- the audience, was comical and pitiful. The curtain rose to a drab Dickensian orphanage ran by austere owners Mr. and Mrs Dross played superbly by the talented Danny Reubens and Stephanie Billers. What? This wasn’t the Nutcracker – where was the Victorian manor house and 8- foot Christmas tree? No, we could never presume the direction of a story when it was a ‘New Adventures’ production (now celebrating its 30th year of revising the story of the Christmas classic). And so, throughout the monochrome orphanage scene we see spoilt children Sugar and Fritz (played by the spell-binding Monique Jonas and Stephen Murray), vanity, unfairness and the yearning to be loved, all wrapped up in superb choreography and a Tchaikovsky music score that is utterly breath-taking. Clara, (played by the amazing Katrina Lyndon) the ever-hopeful orphan, is given a toy, which, in a dramatic, thunderous scene, transforms to a handsome man and from here the orphans escape and we are transported to the end of Act 1 to a frozen pond and a magical winter land of ice-skating and falling snowflakes with the orphans, now visions of pure delight and wonder in their new-found freedom.
In act 2, we follow Clara and the cupids into “Sweetieland” to find her ‘Nutcracker’ handsome man, not knowing what explosion of colour, fantasy, and delight that awaits us. Each member of the orphanage had now transformed into counterpart characters of sweets – ranging from the fluffy Marshmallow girls, the Gobstopper boys, the Liquorice All -Sorts trio, King Sherbet, Queen Candy, Princess Sugar, Prince Bon-Bon and the snake-like, awesome Knickerbocker Glory (wonderfully portrayed by Jonathon Luke Baker) all who were spellbinding. The wedding cake scene is absolutely mind-blowing! The imagination put into this production is off the scale!
Throughout this production, with its faultless dancing, amazing choreography, incredible costumes and sets and hauntingly beautiful score, we each have a joyous feeling that all here tonight had escaped to a lavish fairy-tale world and I for one did not want to leave.
Go and explore – find the child in you!
I would recommend that now theatres are open again to the delights of such masterpieces, that you should go and see this show that runs at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday 5th March. Tickets can be sourced from https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/matthew-bournes-nutcracker/liverpool-empire Prices £13.00-£ 67.90
Reviewer Jan Mellor
Reviewed: 1st March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★