WITH decorations going up around town and shops gearing up for a shopping frenzy, Northern Ballet is doing its bit to convince us that Christmas has come early with this festive favourite.
This enduring classic about a girl whose Christmas Eve gift of a nutcracker comes to life overnight is all sparkling sets, beautiful costumes and swooping Tchaikovsky score.
With those ingredients it really can’t go wrong and it doesn’t.
It’s a sure-footed, lovely production in every way, from the opening scene in the family drawing room which plays out in a profusion of pastel green and lemon costumes like a scene from Jane Austen, against the backdrop of Christmas tree and fire, to the usual highlights - the Waltz of the Snowflakes in the magical pine forest and the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier’s grand Pas de Deux - with Martha Leebolt and Javier Torres making an impact here in the demanding roles.
Pippa Moore is a winsome Clara who’s charmed in her flight of fancy by Ashley Dixon as her Nutcracker Prince (despite a horrible doll’s face)
Drosselmeyer (Darren Goldsmith), the uncle who brings the Christmas Eve gifts - and I loved Sebastian Loe’s extraordinary supple performance in bringing to life his Chinese doll - moves changing scenery into place as he orchestrates Clara’s “dream” and the Nutcracker’s cavalry and soldiers go into battle with the Mouse King and his posse of mice played by youngsters recruited from local dance schools.
The company’s cast of dancers from around the world take on the global array and colourful confection of characters from Arabian princesses to Russian Cossacks.
Backed by Northern Ballet Sinfonia playing live, the company makes a welcome return after some years’ absence with a show which from details such as the falling snow through to the performances is everything it should be.
Sedate and seductive, it eases us gently into the season to come, the calm before the storm of parties and panto.
Enjoy it while you can.