I first saw the Birmingham Royal Ballet performing The Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall 4 years ago. I was also able to meet the Sugarplum Fairy (part of a hospitality package) and it was a magical experience. Returning, post-pandemic, I can confirm it is just as magical as I remembered – if not more so!

Credit: Birmingham Royal Ballet

The Projections by 59 Productions, draw the audience in and allow us to descend to the bottom of the Christmas tree with Clara and then on to the toy realm. The addition of lighting and incredible staging – giant Christmas tree baubles descend onto the stage, make this production feel 3-dimensional. You are not just watching the action on the stage but are invited to be a part of it. And just when you think all of the magic has been cast, it snows! Not just on the stage but snow starts falling onto the audience, just as the beautiful snowflakes led by The Snow Fairy (Alys Shee) begin to dance. Watching the snowflakes dance in perfect unison as the sky and stage are covered in snow is truly something so beautiful to behold, the perfect ending to Act One.

Props provide some truly magical moments, such as the Nutcracker toy magically being fixed on stage and Clara’s bouquet blooming. These are small things that don’t need to be included, but the addition is that extra sprinkle of fairy dust on an already charming performance.

The costumes by John Macfarlane are whimsical, yet classical. A strong red palate throughout giving that extra festive warmth. I particularly enjoyed the Mirlitons candy cane striped tutus and red gloves. Harlequin and Columbine are instantly recognisable. The softness of the snowflakes and flowers romance tutus contrasting beautifully with the classic pancake tutus of soloists Sugarplum Fairy and Rose Fairy. Each character is individually recognisable, and yet there is a clear cohesive, classic Christmas aesthetic. It is visually stunning and the costumes, accompanied by the brilliant staging make this such a visual feast.

But what is the Nutcracker without Tchaikovsky’s music. The Orchestra is raised, a necessity for the staging but it’s such a lovely way of, quite literally, elevating the music. Staged in front of the great organ with the projections either side, the music cascades over the stage and audience. Conductor Paul Murphy masterfully leading the Royal Ballet Sinfonia to a standing ovation.

Credit: Birmingham Royal Ballet

Rachele Pizzillo’s Clara is sweet and gentle throughout the performance, giving a youthful and innocent portrayal of our main character. Joshua Mckenzie as Clara’s younger brother Fritz is absolutely delightful! Sweet and naughty in equal measure, absolute younger brother energy. He is a delight to watch and I look forward to seeing him in future productions. The whole of the youth/child ballet company are fabulous. Clear characterisation and beautiful movement. They entertained throughout Act One as guests of the Christmas Party and then as little rats later on. A clearly talented group of young dancers with bright futures ahead. César Morales as Prince has an ease of movement that makes him such a joy to watch. A strong partner as well as a wonderful soloist. Miki Mizutanias’ Sugar Plum Fairy is enchanting. A beautiful performance with all of the turns you could possibly desire – I counted 30 but I could have missed a few! She was soft in her movement, musicality, and at ease. A simplicity to a difficult solo that can only be admired. I fell in love with Yaoqian Shang as the Rose Fairy! Technically brilliant, beautiful to watch and she just looked like she was having the best time! Her smile was as infectious, as her movements were mesmerising. She was stunning.

The ensemble pieces were masterfully choreographed by Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov, Vincent Redmon; with The Waltz of Flowers and Snowflakes being a stand out for me personally, though a little audience member behind me gasped in wonder when the toys came to life in Act Two, saying audibly “Mummy, are the toys real?” A clear indication that this is a magical performance for young and old alike.

This is a truly unique imagining of The Nutcracker, that must be experienced.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Note: Performers change each performance, and you can view the cast list for each performance on the Royal Albert Hall Nutcracker page or the Birmingham Royal Ballet website. I attended Thursday 29th December Matinee and therefore individual performance commentary is based on that cast list.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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  1. I love Birmingham Royal Ballet the Nutcracker, the performance was amazing and breathtaking! Fritz was naughty and fun to watch 🙂

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