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Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker [DVD]  
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Nutcracker! is Matthew Bournes deliciously witty and colourful version of the most traditional of Christmas ballets, with Tchaikovskys magical score at its heart. This box of treats is crammed full of his trademark saucy humour, inventiveness and a childlike sense of fun. Bournes Nutcracker-with-a-twist still follows the theme of growing up and first love a coming of age story told through the dreams and nightmares of a young girl.
Matthew Bourne is one of the UKs most innovative and popular choreographers. He has achieved world-wide success with his new versions of the classics, such as the ground-breaking Swan Lake, with its all-male swans, Cinderella and The Car Man. Last year, his Play Without Words for the Royal National Theatre received two Olivier Awards. He is the only British director to have won the Tony Award for Best Director and Best Choreographer of a Musical in the same year.
- Dr Dross/King Sherbert Scott Ambler
- Matron/Queen Candy Emily Piercy
- Sugar/Princess Sugar Saranne Curtin
- Fritz/Prince Bon Bon Ewan Wardrop
- Clara Etta Murfitt
- Nutcracker Alan Vincent
- Orphanage Governors Philip Willingdon, Isabel Mortimer, Kerry Biggin
- Orphanage Governor/Humbug Ross Carpenter
- Cupids Valentina Formenti/Neil Penlington
- Liquorice Allsorts Vicky Evans, Richard Winsor, Paulo Kadow
- Knickerbocker Glory Arthur Pita
- Marshmallows Rachel Lancaster, Belinda Lee Chapman, Michela Meazza, Shelby Williams, Mami Tomotani
- Gobstoppers Lee Smikle, Adam Galbraith, James Leece
One of his earliest pieces of choreography, Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker is also one of his most charming and imaginative. Moving the Christmas party from a comfortable middle-class home to a Dickensian orphanage whose proprietors starve their wards to spoil their own children, it then shifts to a wonderland where sweets and sugar are a none-too-subtle metaphor for sexual awakening. In both worlds, Clara (Etta Murfitt) has to struggle to be heroine, or even a participant, in her own story and her struggle for the muscular, sexy Alan Vincent with her bitchy rival Sugar (Soranne Curtin) is not resolved until the last moments of the ballet.
Along the way, Bourne finds charming and sexy ways to make all of the well-known genre moments of the score fresh and new--the Chinese dancers are a bunch of daffy marshmallow girls in pink, for example, whose dance is all strutting cuteness. There is a truly stunning transformation scene at the beginning of the waltz, which like much else in the score becomes a complex ensemble in which all the character dancers have their own things to do. Bourne's Nutcracker has become a popular favourite, and deservedly so.
On the DVD: Matthew Bourne's Nutcrackercomes to DVD with no additional features. It is presented in a 16:9 anamorphic ratio and has sumptuous sound in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and L-PCM Stereo that does full justice to the Royal Philharmonic's eloquent performance of the score. --Roz KaveneySee all Product description
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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.
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.