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Review: The Nutcracker at the Playhouse Theatre, QPAC

Review by Gemma Keliher

It isn’t officially Christmas season in Brisbane until you’ve put the star on the tree, heard Mariah Carey playing at a Westfield, and gone to QPAC to see Queensland Ballet’s annual performance of Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker. This year marks its tenth season, for which I was expecting a little extra sparkle to commemorate. Queensland Ballet didn’t disappoint, bringing the spirit of Christmas right back to the stage as we are transported with Clara from a family Christmas party, across the Land of Snow, to the magical Kingdom of Sweets.

Tchaikovsky’s instantly recognisable score, played so beautifully by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under the expert guidance of conductor Nigel Gaynor, set the excitement and cheer before the curtain even rose. The music is certainly one of the highlights of The Nutcracker, and the iconic score exquisitely accompanies the dancers on stage, with orchestra and dancers collaborating incredibly well to create enchanting storytelling. This was aided with the Voices of Birralee and St Peter's Lutheran College Choir adding some lovely harmonies at the end of Act I, which provided even more magic to the performance.

Thomas Boyd’s beautiful set was brought back to life to recreate the fairy-tale like landscapes, from the warmly decorated family home to the enchanting Land of Snow and Kingdom of Sweets. My favourite moments from the set design include the growing Christmas tree, which sets the scene for the battle between the Nutcracker Prince and the King Rat, as well as the Land of Snow, where the gentle falling of snowflakes continues as the Snow Queen and Snow Prince dance with the Snowflakes, before “snow” then begins to fall on the audience. Although I love an Australian summer Christmas, there is still something so dreamy about a white Christmas.

The wonderfully detailed costumes by designer Desmond Heeley and Associate Costume Designer Noelene Hill really bring the characters to life and help transport you into a world with life sized mice, toys come to life, and waltzing flowers. The lighting design by David Walters and Revival Lighting Designer Cameron Goerg added to the mood of the performance and aided the beauty of the set and costumes.

Act I begins with a lively Christmas party which blends children and adults dancing together, gift giving, and comedic moments. No matter where you look on the stage, there is a story playing out. Each of the Queensland Ballet dancers were well cast and shone in their characterisations as well as the style they brought to the choreography. Chiara Gonzalez as Clara captured the youthfulness and sweet innocence of the role wonderfully throughout the performance. Other standouts for me included Liam Geck as the Nutcracker, and Vito Bernasconi as the King Rat, who movements were so strongly characterised. Alexander Idaszak as Dr Drosselmeyer, Isabella Swietlicki as the Columbine, David Power as the Harlequin, Lina Kim as the Nurse Doll, Kohei Iwamoto as the Soldier Doll, and Vanessa Morelli in the comedic role of Auntie all gave strong performances, alongside the rest of the cast and the brilliant young dancers. Principal Artists Mia Heathcote and Patricio Revé, who are both beautiful performers, were a strong finish to the first Act as the Snow Queen and Snow Prince respectively.

Taking us into the Kingdom of Sweets, Act II sees Clara entertained by various inhabitants of the kingdom, allowing the dancers to showcase their talent as the choreography requires strong technique and style across the various characters. Principal Artists Yanela Piñera as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Patricio Revé as the Prince were my favourites of the Act in their pas de deux. Piñera is world-class, and danced the role with wonderful poise, control, and grace. Revé combined his skill as a dancer and storyteller to give a captivating performance. A few of the standouts, including the audience favourites from the night, included Neneka Yoshida and Alexander Idaszak as the Arabian Dancers, and Vito Bernasconi as the Russian Dancer (Gopak). All showed great technical skill and finesse in roles that require both. Act II becomes an example of the great talent that there is at Queensland Ballet, with the dancers of all ages giving great performances that were well received by the audience.

The Nutcracker is not a modern or progressive story by any means, but it is a story that takes the charm of Christmas across a dream world that continues to entertain all generations. While some traditions may grow stale over time, Queensland Ballet has continued to keep the magic of The Nutcracker well alive with what is an entertaining evening of dance, music, and storytelling.

Images Supplied by Queensland Ballet


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