Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! arrives for performances in Milton Keynes from Tuesday 15 February and theatregoers can expect a feel-good treat.
Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne’s whimsical dance-theatre take on the traditional coming-of-age Christmas ballet retains Tchaikovsky’s glorious score but adds some scrumptious surprises. Described by Bourne and his company, New Adventures, as a ‘show for all seasons’, Nutcracker! indulges the evergreen themes of self-discovery – growing up, dreaming big and falling in love for the first time.
The updated scenario rejects the festive family scenes used in the opening of the original ballet. Instead, plucky protagonist Clara is reimagined as a young girl who is incarcerated in a Dickensian orphanage. After a pitiful Christmas Eve party, she dreams of happier times.
Pull on your winter coat and follow Clara’s journey from Dr Dross’s gloomy orphanage, across a shimmering frozen pond and into the riotously colourful candy kingdom of Sweetieland.
When Bourne originally created his Nutcracker! for Opera North in 1992 (as part of celebrations for the centenary of the classical Nutcracker) it was his first full-length narrative production. The show went on to become the first big hit for New Adventures and has undergone various reworkings.
Now, thirty years since it was devised and almost a decade since it was last seen on stage, Nutcracker! is back to delight a new generation. Refreshed for today’s fun-starved, pandemic-weary audiences, it promises family-sized helpings of Bourne’s trademark wit, pathos and ingenuity.
The thirtieth-anniversary production has been substantially re-choreographed and topped off with an extra sprinkling of exuberance inspired by the lavish Hollywood musicals of the 1930s. Designer Anthony Ward has also spruced up his delectable sets and costumes.
New Adventures dancers always deliver excellent characterisation and storytelling. Previous productions they have entertained audiences in Milton Keynes with include The Red Shoes, Swan Lake, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Edward Scissorhands.
In Nutcracker! the dancers portray an assortment of orphans, as well as various sweet and sour personalities. The tour started in November 2021 and the New Adventures family has had to negotiate impromptu Covid-related casting changes to keep the show on the road. At this point, the company has likely never been more ready to make magic happen with a pick-and-mix cast.
Don’t miss this opportunity to experience Nutcracker! live. See you in Sweetieland!
*Production photography by Johan Persson.
This preview is also featured on Total MK.
Update 15 February 2022: Read my review of Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Georgina Butler is an editor, a dance writer and a ballet teacher.