The Imperial Ice Stars have returned to Melbourne for another short, yet brilliant season. This time our Melbourne winters are warmed with the stunning production of the Nutcracker On Ice.
In the State Theatre of the Arts Centre the lights dim. Tchaikovsky’s music soars and the brilliance of modern lighting, set and costume design are brought to life. The story of the Nutcracker has been adapted multiple times (indeed as the programme notes the original was not intended for children) but today it is a widely recognized German fairytale about a young girl Marie who receives a strange gift from her mysterious godfather Herr Drosselmeyer on Christmas eve.
The Imperial Ice Stars are essentially ice dancers. While this is not a ballet (perhaps a slight disappointment to those who have seen the masterful execution of Swan Lake on Ice in 2011) this certainly is a show packed with exceptional skill and very good character performances.
The leads Marie (Anastasia Ignatyeva) and her Nutcracker Prince (Bogdan Berezenko) are a powerful couple on stage and one of the most compelling moments is soon after the nutcracker comes to ‘life’ ceasing to be a toy and transforms into a regal prince. Both partners demonstrated sweeping confidence, strength and agility and beneath the snowflake studded sky captured the magic of a true winter wonderland.
Herr Drosselmeyer (Vadim Yarkov) and his Assistant (Olga Sharutenko) are also excellent at offering particularly accomplished character renditions. In the Land of the Sweets, home to the exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy (Olena Pyatash) the audience are privy to the highly accomplished skills of the dancers from Russia, China and Arabia. The latter two (Fiona Kirk and Volodymyr Khodakivsky) perform a series of acrobatic feats including aerial that certainly could be comparable to some of the best circus acts – and all to the score of Tchaikovsky’s lilting melodies.
Eamon D’Arcy’s sets are as to be expected, epic and grandiose, and for this production are beautifully complemented by Richard Rhys Thomas’ lighting design. The overall production or perhaps more appropriately, spectacle, is altogether charming – although it certainly needed a little polishing on opening night.
In particular, children will adore the Nutcracker on Ice. The fun and frolic of presents galore, the boisterous behaviour of the rowdy boys, the winsome ways of little girls and indeed the evil Mouse Queen and King – and of course the ultimate joining of hearts between little Marie and her Prince – all offer plenty to entertain.