Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
London Palladium – 25th October 2013
A favourite Christmas ballet, the Nutcracker is this year brought to life by the Imperial Ice Stars, transforming the Palladium’s stage into an ice rink. The skaters make a triumphant return to London after the critically acclaimed Swan Lake on Ice last year, which I saw at The Royal Albert Hall.
Turning the Palladium into an ice rink is no mean feat, taking more than 140 hours to build and using 14 tonnes of ice. Although the stage is slightly too small for the amount of skaters and the choreography, the overall effect is magical, as the show opens with skaters in the snow on Christmas Eve.
Tchaikovsky’s ballet tells the story of Clara (in this production Marie) and her dream about the Nutcracker she is given for Christmas. Along with the handsome Nutcracker Prince, she journeys through the Land of Snowflakes and the Kingdom of Sweets before waking up on Christmas morning.
As an ice-skater myself, it surprised me that Keith Chegwin was the alleged ‘star’ of the production. He may have been popular on Dancing on Ice but his passable skating can by no means compare to the professionals. However, his skating was by far the least important part of his role as the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer, performing tricks and illusions and (albeit with a slight technical hitch) flying across the stage.
But his assistant (Olga Sharutenko – also his partner on Dancing on Ice) helps him along and shows that she is not just a superb skater, but also a clever actress. Her comical role as Drosselmeyer’s assistant is a stark contrast to her heartwarming performance as Odette in Swan Lake last year.
Volodymry Khodakivsky performed well as Dr Pavlov, showing off his perfect sit spin before some daring ‘drunken’ skating (almost disguising a later mistake), while Alena Zmeu wowed us with some excellent gymnastics as the Nutcracker doll.
However, the true stars were Yulia Ashcheulova and Anastasia Ignatyeva. Playing the Sugar Plum Fairy and Marie respectively, their skating was flawless, beautifully capturing the magic of the story.
My only real criticism was that many of the audience seemed unaware of the earlier start time, which meant that people continued to arrive and disturb everyone for a full thirty minutes after the performance began.
Despite a few glitches, The Nutcracker on Ice is a spellbinding production with fabulous scenery and costumes that (for me at least) epitomises Christmas – ballet and ice-skating.
The spectacular skating, with dangerous moves, lifts and throws never before performed (and are therefore unnamed), is exciting, beautiful and magical. Artistic Director Tony Mercer should feel very proud and I will be the first in line for their next production.