Act One is best described as busy. For the stage space available there seem to be far too many dancers using it and the choreographic use of extended limbs and quite robotic movements only emphasises the crowded setting. The backdrops are, once again, very detailed and the snow on the rooftops rather fittingly mirrored the conditions outside the theatre.
Alevtina Lapshina is suitably childlike in the role of Clara and her delight when she is given the nutcracker as a Christmas present is acted beautifully. She continues to work very hard throughout the performance but just seems to lack that final “je ne sais quoi” that transforms a dancer to the level of prima ballerina.
The rest of this act is pleasant enough, but not really attention-grabbing and it is not until Act Two that the production really gets into its stride and bursts into colour and life. The Spanish, Russian, Eastern and Chinese dances are greeted with increasing enthusiasm and appreciation from the audience and this seems to inspire the dancers to offer more. Talgat Kozhabayev seems to react particularly well to this and his performance, as the Nutcracker Prince, gets better and better as the act progresses.
The instantly recognisable Waltz of the Flowers heralds the arrival of Orekhova as the Flower Fairy, and she wastes no time in displaying her supreme talent and ability. Her lines are perfect and the grace with which she glides across the stage is quite mesmerising. Once again, however, the stage is quite overcrowded and this occasionally obscures the more subtle movements in the dance.
The orchestra, under the direction of conductor Igor Shavruk, plays very well and the sound of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score fills the auditorium and elicits a tremendous audience reaction at the curtain calls. Maybe it is something to do with the timing, with the festive season a distant memory now, for – although it has some special moments – overall the production seems to lack the magic that is most often associated with the piece.