LAST EDITED ON 21-12-01 AT 01:51 PM (GMT)
I wasn't going to post anything about this, but Judith Mackrell's already reviewed it, so I suppose it's all right to do so.
When the association of English National Ballet's Nutcracker production and Barbie was announced, there were some very sniffy reports about it in the press - commercialisation and all that. People seemed to forget that there had previously been an association with Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts (the second act has designs based largely on the sweets' distinctive shapes and colours) and a manufacturer of tights (for the ladies' black dresses in the first act), and of course a Barbie doll is one of the updated dolls which dance in Act One. As it was, the front and stairs in the Coliseum were merely decorated with pink fabric, and the cast sheet was in Barbie pink as well. Barbie herself was present, signing autographs for loads of young children, and sitting in the Royal Box during the performance. All that was missing, unless I missed it, was perhaps some prize draws to win either Nutcracker Barbies or the video.
The tickets were still billed as a "dress rehearsal", but it was in fact a full performance, and with a quality cast, many of whom were in the official first night as well: Edur, Gruzdyev, Duprot, Perego and Takahashi. Edur was very good as Drosselmeyer, and certainly danced the role with more finesse than any other performances I've seen of it. He also got a huge cheer at the end - certainly the star of the show. His interpretation was good, just staying the right side of having an unhealthy interest in his goddaughter, and if he can add a bit more sense of occasion and awe to his unveiling of the Nutcracker Prince (which should be a major climax in this production) I shall be well pleased.
I didn't see Caroline Duprot as Clara until last season, but she has rapidly become one of my favourites in the role, really immersing herself in it and becoming totally involved in the story. Whether it was because I was sitting rather closer to the stage than usual I don't know, but I was more aware than I usually am of the undercurrents during the first scene of Act One, and it was quite understandable that Clara would want to escape a bad family atmosphere in her dream. A particular mention for Joanne Clarke and Rory Mackay (new to the role?) as the "Lady" (but believe me, she ain't no lady!) and the father, who seemed particularly convincing in their adulterous relationship, but all the dancers portraying the adults in the family really made a contribution, making it clear that they knew what was going on even if they didn't mention it.
The audience (lots of school parties and young children, but also quite a lot of adults) were relatively quiet in their appreciation during the performance, but certainly made up for it at the end, with cheers and lots of applause - just like your average ENB schools' matinee. It obviously went down very well, and thanks are due to Mattel for sponsoring the performance so that it could be put on at such low prices. I hope it was a first taste of ballet for many people there.