CHRISTMAS has come a little early to The Theatre Royal, Windsor, this week.
But it’s not an extra-early opening for the venue’s hugely-popular annual pantomime which has been bringing a little early festive sparkle to the old place.
It’s another of those seasonal treats so beloved of audiences at this time of year – the ballet The Nutcracker, a cherished family favourite bursting with plenty of sweet and shiny Christamassy ingredients, all topped off with the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky.
The Vienna Festival Ballet, who seem to spend so much time touring it’s a wonder they have any opportunity to rehearse, are bringing the production to venues around the country.
Their Sleeping Beauty was very well received last year at Windsor so it was no surprise that there was hardly a spare seat to be seen when The Nutcracker opened on Tuesday evening.
As with pantomimes, the lovely old theatre could have been built for such a production, with the audience nestling amid the Edwardian opulence of it all and almost feeling part of the set!
The Vienna Festival Ballet which, just to get things clear, is based in Britain but was founded 21 years ago by celebrated Austrian dancer Peter Mallek, specialises in staging the best-loved classical ballets.
It operates on a tight budget so this is not a production anywhere near as lavish as those staged at larger venues at this time of year, nor is there a live orchestra to accompany the dancers, for taking a gaggle of musicians on tour would hardly be cost-effective.
But don’t get the wrong idea, the recorded music and and more simplistic scenery do not lessen the enjoyment of this delightful production, expertly choreographed by Sheila Styles, with the dancers turning in stunning performances from start to finish.
For most there are several different roles to play, with the constant changes of costume no doubt causing frenetic activity behind the scenes. Congratulations to those unseen heroes for their sterling work.
Each and every member of the cast is a credit to the company and picking out individuals for mention seems unfair but Melanie Cox makes a delightful Clara, who journeys to the Kingdom of Sweets after bravely tackling the Mouse King and saving the Nutcracker Prince.
The scene in the Kingdom of Snow is breathtakingly beautiful, with the dancers delicately and lithely reproducing the silent, swirling wonder of snowfall.
Joel Colmenero earns plaudits as the mischievous Fritz and later as Terpak in the Kingdom of Sweets.
Richard Hackett is suitably full of bravado as the Nutcracker Prince, while Joseph Mackie-Graves makes a perfect Uncle Drosselmeyer as well as appearing in two different roles in Act Two.
Anita Bradshaw’s Nutcracker Doll is a perfect combination of poise and mechanical movement.
But for many present on Tuesday, the performance of the evening was given by Georgina Rose Connolly, whose Arabian dance is so sensual it would melt a skyful of snowflakes.
For first-timers, this is the ideal ballet to choose: entertaining, stylish and colourful and full of that exquisite music, much of which is familiar from its use in other spheres. Go on, give it a try!
The Nutcracker is at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, until this Saturday (November 12). Contact the box office on 01753 853888 or www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk .