The Nutcracker on Ice – London Palladium, London ****

26 Oct 13 - The Public Reviews - Robert Cottingham

The Nutcracker is such a classic that no matter what guise it comes in, any iteration of it is surely almost guaranteed to be a success. And so it proves with The Imperial Ice Stars’ production, which touts the inclusion of Keith Chegwin and Olga Shuratenko as guest stars. But make no mistake, the troupe of dancers, with 250 championship and Olympic medals among them, are the real stars here.

It’s Christmas Eve and the Pavlov household is full of hubbub and the spirit of Christmas. Young Marie is full of excitement as she unwraps her presents. A great Christmas party begins and the stage is set for the Christmas celebration. However the atmosphere changes with the arrival of Drosselmeyer (Chegwin) who performs magic tricks. To the delight of Marie, he presents her with a nutcracker doll who introduces her to the magical world of the show.

This Nutcracker rushes along with breathless pace, which is only slowed down by the frequent outbreaks of applause. The dancers move faster because they are on ice and are naturally able to perform greater feats of daring -pirouettes, arabesques and turns are far quicker than if they were on solid ground and much use is made of the opportunity to have the ice dancers lift and carry each other across the ice. It could easily be argued that the Nutcracker is well suited to being performed in ice since much of it takes place in a winter wonderland and the ice simply adds to the seasonal setting.

Marie (Anastasia Ignatevya) dances with supreme grace and beauty, never less than as the Sugar plum fairy, which was mesmerising. The divertissements in Act 2 are like a greatest hits of ballet numbers, each one more magical than the last. Even the Arabian dance, which Tchaikovsky made considerably longer than the others, is given a brand new lease of life with dancers hanging from a wire and performing some really magnificent acrobatics, keeping the audience thoroughly electrified.

Although the Nutcracker can be considered a fairy tale, its just as much a serious play about the nature of love and loss. The pas-de-deux entitled ‘A dance of dreams’ is always a poignant reminder of the fragility of love. Again, there was some beautiful dancing from Ignateyva and the Nutcracker Prince, whose body language was very effective and meaningful.

There was time for one last scene (Reality Dawns) and the return of Keith Chegwin, before the curtain came down. The dancers came back for an encore and were met with a standing ovation from most of the audience, a reminder of how popular dancing on ice has become.

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