The Nutcracker on Ice

Tony Mercer’s ice-dancing spectacular, with a guest performance from Keith Chegwin, opened at the London Palladium last week

Anastasia Ignatyeva and Bogdan Berezenko
Anastasia Ignatyeva and Bogdan Berezenko
© Alastair Muir

It would be the easiest thing in the world for beard-stroking ballet aficionados and churlish critics to slate Tchaikovsky's famous ballet being performed on ice killjoys! While some might blanch at discovering that TV personality Keith Chegwin has been roped in as a guest performer, considering how common it has become for television stars to be cast in Shakespearean roles there's no reason to believe it should be any different for dance.

As it happens 'Cheggers' is a charmer as Herr Drosselmeyer, the mysterious magician who appears on Christmas Eve at Dr Pavlov's (Volodymyr Khodakivskyy) family home to bestow Christmas gifts to his children. One such gift is the Nutcracker Doll (Alena Zmeu), made to look like a toy soldier, which Drosselmeyer's goddaughter Marie (Anastasia Ignatyeva) becomes fascinated in.

As darkness descends, lightning strikes and with strange forces at work Marie's love for the Nutcracker Doll turns him into a handsome prince. The pair go on an adventure that sees the Nutcracker Prince (Bogdan Berezenko) and his army of toy soldiers fight off the Mouse King (Jurijs Salmanovs) and Mouse Queen (Iuliia Odintcova) with the help of two cats (Egor Chudin and Olga Sharutenko).

The Nutcracker Prince then takes Marie to the Kingdom of Sweets where she is introduced to the Sugar Plum Fairy (Yulia Ashcheulova) who organises a celebration of dancing that cues the instantly recognisable divertissements from Tchaikovsky's suite such as "The March", "The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy", "Trepak" and "Chinese Dance".

Throughout the surreal story we are treated to a jaw-dropping display of spins, leaps, jumps, throws, pirouettes, acrobatics and almost everything else that you can imagine both possible and impossible to perform on ice.
Understandable then that the 26-strong cast of the Imperial Ice Stars have between them won over 250 competition medals including Olympic, World, European and National championships.

However, as artistic director Tony Mercer admits, the daredevil feats have not come without great pains ­ literally – with many performers having broken their bones, needed stitches, dislocated their limbs and damaged muscles and ligaments in their efforts to push the boundaries. Just as well a doctor tours with them.

The Nutcracker On Ice defies anyone not to be thoroughly entertained.

Will Stone