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The Nutcracker, Birmingham Hippodrome - review, pictures and video

From the oohs at curtain-up, the ahs throughout and the chorus of cheers at the end, the opening night of this Christmas-time favourite proved a pure joy.

The Nutcracker, Birmingham Hippodrome - review, pictures and video

One sensational stage-set gave way to another as dancers and Tchaikovsky combined to bewitch an audience, mesmerised from the very beginning.

The tale of Clara and her dreams of dance and fairy-dust is a favourite with families, ballet experts and the plain nostalgic.

On one side of us were little girls enjoying their first trip to this beautiful world of graceful make-believe, and on the other straight-backed doyens who had seen every one of the 26 opening nights of this esteemed Birmingham production since it began in 1990.

See a trailer for the show here:

All were entranced, especially when the show's creator Sir Peter Wright, took to the stage afterwards to thank the dancers, the orchestra and the City of Birmingham for their support in allowing his vision to become a reality when he took the helm of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The Nutcracker at Birmingham Hippodrome

He also thanked us for helping him celebrate his 90th birthday which was that day - Sir Peter, the pleasure was all ours.

His verdict - amid the warmth and the applause - was the show was sensational. What a perfect adjective.

How else would you describe the vitality, grace and utter brilliance of the dancers, whose skills prompted my 29-year-old daughter to pinch me and ask me why I hadn't pushed her more as a tutu-clad teenager.

And that music! We saw magic indeed from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under conductor Nicolette Fraillon.

Karla Doorbar's interpretation of Clara, was wonderfully enthralling while the other soloists Momoko Hirata as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Joseph Caley as the Prince and Jonathan Payne as the magician were flawless and flowing. Some members of the chorus showed slight errors in timings, but these were the tiniest of imperfections.

The Nutcracker at Birmingham Hippodrome

My favourite performers were those involved in the Arabian Dance, which was as athletic as it was beautiful.

The sets, designed by John F Macfarlane, were glorious. Just when I thought the Christmas tree - a rapturous confection of pine and baubles - couldn't be beaten, the second act opened with Clara flying above the stage on the back of a silver goose. We even saw snow, and skies filled with wind and frost.

The Nutcracker is a wonderful opener for the festive season. See it and tell me you don't want to go out and hunt greenery.

As director David Bintley put it - Let Christmas begin.

The Nutcracker runs at Birmingham Hippordome until December 13. For more information visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com

by Sarah Cowen-Strong

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