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4.1 out of 5 stars34
4.1 out of 5 stars
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There's more hip and tongue action in Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker than Tchaikovsky or Balanchine probably envisaged, but nevertheless the ballet is funny, touching, original and witty. More to the point, it remains charming and innocent while Bourne brings a whole new look and style to the old perennial.

This time there is no sumptuous family Christmas celebration or crowds of cute dancing tykes. We're in a dim, cold orphanage which Dr. Dross (Scott Ambler) and his wife, the matron (Emily Piercy), run with an unsmiling strictness. Their two children, Sugar (Saranne Curtin) and Fritz (Ewan Wardrop) are spoiled, snotty monsters. One of the orphans, Clara (Etta Murfitt), longs to escape. Magically, after a sad little Christmas party, a nutcracker doll (Alan Vincent) comes to life, rescues Clara and punishes Dr. Dross, the Matron and their children. Clara finds herself in an enchanted winterland. Then, with the help of two cupids in striped pajamas, she makes her way to Sweetieland, where everything, including the people, are made of candy. And here Dr. Dross is the smiling King Sherbet, the Matron is the beautiful Queen Candy and their two children have become Princess Sugar and Prince Bonbon. The Nutcracker, to Clara's wondering eyes, has become a handsome young man who looks much like the shy fellow who gazed longingly at Clara in the orphanage. After all the great Tchaikovsky dances, the party in Sweetieland comes to a close, and Clara finds herself back at the orphanage. It hasn't changed. It's as cold and barren as before. But then she sees waiting for her the young man. He ties a sheet to a bed, they toss the end out the window, and escape together.

Most people, I hope, will find themselves able to do two things: First, to greatly enjoy Bourne's take on this ballet; and second, also to treasure the more conventional and superb versions by Balanchine and Baryshnikov.

Bourne not only uses classic ballet, but Broadway, jive, sports and even burlesque. He's also not afraid to be a little scary. When the Nutcracker comes to life at the orphanage he has a frozen face that looks like a cross between Howdy Doody and Chucky. He lurches across the stage. In Sweetieland, however, everything that was unhappy and threatening has been turned to warmth and gaiety. The three helmet-wearing gobstoppers strut around like football stars in the end-zone, swiveling their hips and pumping the air. The licorice Allsorts do a tempestuous Spanish stomp that has Clara looking twice at where their hands land. Since everything is candy in Sweetieland, there's a lot of finger sucking and face licking, which might startle the grownups but would probably make the kids give a delighted "Eeuww." The whole thing is funny and a little naughty, but never so much that anyone other than the most prudish would be offended...certainly not kids.

This is Matthew Bourne in a playful mood. For a darker look, watch his "Swan Lake." Either way, he's an immensely gifted and original choreographer.
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on 10 January 2010
I am a huge fan of the Traditional Nutcraker and have to admit that I nearly didn't watch this at all when it was on TV a few years ago. But watch it I did and really enjoyed it. So this Christmas I bought it and having watched it again, I do really love this version. The music is same as traditional Tchaikosvky. There are a few tweaks to the story but they are cleverly done and it doesn't stray too far from the original plot. What really makes this ballet fantastic is the sets and costumes. It is a riot of colour and literally makes you feel like a kid in a sweetshop!! It works on so many levels. As regards to children watching it - I really can't see much to offend. Ok there is ambiguity with hints at sexuality and there is a bit of gyrating on the giant cake but these are things which would probably go over most young children's heads. It's definitely a mood-lifter!
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 13 April 2014
Having loved Swan Lake and The Car Man, I found this Matthew Bourne production - the first of them - a bit less good. As someone else has pointed out, the scenes at the orphanage are all in shades of grey, with quite a lot of black, and given that this lasts about 35 minutes, it feels too grimy for a children's ballet, too depressing both visually and in its touch of Dickensian social realism - and for adults too. The acting is very good, but the dancing seems less developed - more secondary - than in the other Bourne ballets. He excels at storytelling, but this too feels stalled in the first act, and because there is no summary anywhere to be found, it is difficult to know what is going on from what we see (thank goodness for C. O. DeRiemer's review on this page). I also thought the costumes were less good than in other productions, either being unflattering in Act 1 or too pink and garish in Act 2. I have to admit that I have always hated Liquorice Allsorts, though, so I can't claim to be very objective!

On the plus side, the dancers in all the main parts are very charming, and some of the colourful scenes near the end, particularly those done in front of a giant wedding cake, are superb. Clara is very expressive, and the Nutcracker does look splendid in his shirtless costume. The three gobstoppers are also appealing, and there are many humorous touches. However I don't think it shows Bourne at his best, and the look of his ballets was enhanced when he started working with Lez Brotherston as his costume and set designer.
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on 15 February 2008
Whilst I am a big ballet fan for some reason the 'traditional' nutcracker has always left me cold. I went to see this version on stage to fill a night when my mum was visiting-I have never been so pleasantly delighted in my life! We both loved it-there was so much more of a coherent engaging story with characters that you actually felt something for (something missing from the 'regular' version). Inventive, colourful, simply fantastic!
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on 3 December 2005
I enjoyed the whole ballet enormously. The dancing, and the acting, is superb. Etta Murfitt as Clara is delightful and the supporting cast are first-rate. The ideas are fresh, funny and inventive, particularly in the orphanage scenes. I have only one small reservation: Alan Vincent, as the Nutcracker, is wonderful in the first part but, once arrived in Sweetieland, seems to lose some of his verve and to become, as a previous reviewer has remarked, just a tad 'lackluster'. I don't think people should be put off by the fact that it is not a conventional ballet, danced 'en pointe'. Personally, I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone, whatever their age, and whatever their taste in dance.
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on 8 December 2004
If you know Bourne's work, you will not be disappointed with a sumptuous, witty and quirky interpretation of this classic. If you don't know his work then you are missing out on a fabulous new world of ballet.
If you want to get your kids into some culture this Christmas - or if you simply want a thoroughly good night in - you should look no further...
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on 23 January 2014
This has never been a favourite ballet for me. It seemed that it was designed to use all the costumes in the theatre wardrobe! This is refreshingly different, fun and once again these costumes were fabulous. I was drawn to this version because I love Mathew Bourne's updating of those famous wonderful classical ballets, without losing any of the basic storyline.
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on 22 April 2005
Definately don't make this your first Nutcracker! Don't get me wrong, the whole thing is great fun and has some great comic moments and will certainly keep you (or the kids) amused. However, it is a LONG LONG way from being a "typical" ballet! If you are looking for "en pointe" then I must point you in another direction.
The DVD itself is my first stumbling point, there is NO accompanying material whatsoever. Chapter access is abysmal, you can jump only to sweetyland or the frozen lake for example, no subdivisions for any of the dances, variations etc. This is such a shame because you will want to watch Arthur Pita slither and squirm as the most decadent Knickerbocker Glory again and again (how he manages to avoid burning Clara with his lit cigarette I will never know). Clara is danced most delightfully by Etta Murfitt, Saranne Curtin is great as the spoiled and spiteful Sugar/Princess Sugar and Ewan Wardrop impresses as a very comic Fritz/Prince BonBon however Alan Vincent's Nutcracker seems vapid and without any chemistry.
All in all, an enjoyable exercise in contemporary dance but not a piece of landmark ballet, no matter what anyone says.
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on 28 December 2005
Another fine contemporary offering from Matthew Bourne and as you would expect the dancing is a long way from the typical “en pointe” offerings but wonderful non the less.
Clara (Etta Murfitt) is expressive, Fritz (Ewan wardrop) comic, Sugar (Saranne Curtin) sweetly spiteful and the Knickerblocker Glory is fluidly decadent and they all deserve special mention, although there are no poor performances at all.
This is an excellent and beautifully danced version of a well loved ballet
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on 12 March 2013
This is a lovely original production of an old favourite. I am not what one would call "High Brow" but continue to enjoy it having already watched it three times.
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