Christmas at the New Vic is always a special occasion in the theatrical calendar – both for those from North Staffordshire and also from further afield.
They have come to expect a spectacular entrée into the festive season as Theresa Heskins and her well-renowned creative team cast their spell on another classic. For 2023 the offering laid before their captivated audience is the Christmas fairytale that is Nutcracker.
With her father fighting to protect her homeland, Marie (Franky Attard) is living in exile with her mother Anastasia (Kate Spencer) and belligerent brother Fritz (Abigail Middleton). As Christmas Day approaches, Marie is introduced to the local tradition of erecting a Christmas tree by her uncle Drosselmeyer (Peter Watts).
Seeing that his niece is fascinated by the fact that the tree is always topped by a Sugar Plum Fairy accompanied by a nutcracker in the shape of a cavalry officer, Drosselmeyer takes the young girl into that magical time just after midnight when the toys are briefly allowed to spring to life.
Marie discovers that the Fairy was really a princess who lived in a kingdom where everything was made out of sweets and chocolate and is ruled over by King Konstantin (Matthew Ganley) and Queen Clementina (Spencer). The royal family seeking a suitor for their daughter’s hand in marriage.
Unfortunately, their idyllic life is under threat from the evil Mouserink the Mouse Queen (Kaitlin Howard) who intends to put her sweet tooth to work with devastating intent. It is up to Marie and the brave Nutcracker (Edwin Cheng) to come to the rescue but what will the consequences be for the valiant officer?
Heskins has once again proved herself to be a Director at the top of her game and has brought a classic story to life in a way that will be long-remembered. She has created a theatrical experience that left the packed audience agog in wonder as the magic unfolded before them with one glittering scene following another in magnificent succession.
Not that the Director is the only member of the Creative team to warrant praise. James Atherton as Musical Director presented a musical backdrop that included the familiar and lesser-known pieces that combined to entrancethe audience.
Beverley Norris-Edmunds should be proud of how the cast brought her choreography to life and Laura Willstead and Lis Evans did great work with their designs of the sets and costumes respectively.
Every Christmas story needs the wow factor for the young and young at heart to take home with them. These were delivered aplenty. The growth of the Christmas tree brought gasps of wonder from the onlooker while the ferry that crossed the Lemonade Lake was particularly beautifully staged. There was also some very convincing sword-fighting that was expertly crafted by Philip d’Orleans.
Above all, it was delightful to see a talented cast that clearly believed in the magic that they were presenting to their audience. The pleasure that they showed in recounting the story was more than matched by those who were privileged to be watching.
There have been numerous versions of this famous fairytale told over the centuries. For all of those who see it, Heskins’ version will aways be the definitive one. The frost that greeted the audience on its way home was probably Tchaikovsky scattering his own stardust on the heads of all involved in this magical experience. It would be his way of saying “Thank You and Well Done.”
A definite hit that had its family audience totally enraptured. The Nutcracker provides the perfect family outing over the festive period.
The production continues until January 27th and has a running time of approximately two hours including interval.