WHAT A gorgeous ﬁnale to the Christmas celebrations: last week the luscious scarlet and gilt Royal Albert Hall glittered with perfectly placed fairy lights and the London Concert Orchestra, conducted by Tim A Duncan, tucked away under the roof ﬂooding the place with Tchaikovsky’s heavenly music.
Tons of ice ﬁlled the large arena for the Imperial Ice Stars to do their stuff. Huge back projections provided atmosphere without taking up a fraction of space, a luxury that both Vladislav Lysoi as the Nutcracker Prince and Mariia Vygalova’s Marie, the little girl whom he helps grow up very quickly, exploited to a breathtaking degee. It takes a lot of nerve to demand from an audience a suspension of disbelief on this scale. After all, the scenery is just a blown-up photograph and there’s a great spread of very unfriendly looking ice at the heart of the action. But once they got into their stride these remarkable performers let rip and thrilled us with their high speed athleticism and charming story telling.
The adventure opens with a melee of mice ﬂexing their whiskers and looking for trouble, eventually settling on the Pavlov’s drawing room, home to Marie and the family’s Christmas party.
There is no corps de ballet here, with never more than 15 to 20 artists on stage - sorry, ice. Tchaikovsky’s irresistible run of party dances is a clever exhibition by choreographer and artistic director Tony Mercer, of his company of actor/skaters.
The storytelling is crystal clear. Aleksei Vasilev is an exciting Drosselmeyer, the mysterious magician who conjures up the Kingdom of Sweets where Marie sheds her childhood and falls for her Nutcracker Prince.
Leading the mayhem of dancing dolls and lethal Toy Soldiers that inhabit Marie’s troubled dream are the Mouse King and Queen (Mikhail Kirsanov and Juliia Odintcova) in candyﬂoss pink.
Mercer creates the best choreography for the eight snowﬂakes with ﬂickering skirts; lifts with partners at arm’s length in the air zoom by while Vygalova and Lysoi have a truly lyrical dream of a love duet that sends you out into the night with a smile.
The Ice Stars should be back later this year. I can’t wait.