The Nutcracker is one of Tchaikovsky's most popular ballets, and a regular crowd-puller at Christmas.
This year, however, supply may well exceed demand as no less than three major London productions of The Nutcracker are scheduled to take place.
The Royal Ballet's version, at the Royal Opera House, is by Peter Wright, and dates from 1999. It has the attraction, of course, of some of the biggest names in contemporary British ballet, including Darcey Bussell, and the current rising young star — and pin-up (he is seen, shirtless, on the cover of the Royal Ballet's new program and in an accompanying poster campaign) — Ivan Putrov.
At the other side of Covent Garden, at the Coliseum, English National Ballet is also presenting the same ballet, with designs by Gerald Scarfe (who some years ago designed a wonderful Orpheus in the Underworld for English National Opera). The choreography is by Christopher Hampson, and among the cast is Irek Mukhamedov, one of the most charismatic dancers on the London stage. Of the three productions, however, the starriest is at Sadler's Wells, where Matthew Bourne, the golden boy of British choreography, has created a new version of The Nutcracker. Such is his box office pulling-power that the theatre has put his name above the title: Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker!.
The exclamation mark presumably signifies that this is more fun than the traditional versions. It is certainly interesting, and given a dark twist by Bourne who points out in interviews that the first half of the ballet (set in a house) is usually as pretty as the second half (set in a magic kingdom).To give the ballet a greater dramatic contrast, he is setting the first half in an orphanage — the magic kingdom therefore seems that much more magical and colorful.
Bourne's inventiveness reached a peak with his radical, witty and sexually charged reworking of Sawn Lake, though his Play Without Words at the National earlier this year was also a striking demonstration of his imagination and his fascination with old movies.
-By Paul Webb Theatrenow