The Imperial Ice Stars
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Set to Tchaikovsky’s spectacular score, the Imperial Ice Stars performed a stunning rendition of The Nutcracker Suite, showcasing exactly why almost two centuries on, one of the world’s most famous ballets continues to be retold through a myriad of platforms, as the beautiful love story of a girl and her nutcracker remains as enchanting as ever.
Under the superb direction of Tony Mercer, two hours of incredible ice dancing comprising limitless lifts, spins and leaps of breathtaking skill took place against gorgeous backdrops, culminating in a glorious banquet for the senses. Elena Predvodeteleva’s luxurious costumes further enhanced the magical aesthetics of the production, although the mask of the Nutcracker was a little comical which slightly detracted from the grace and beauty of Alena Zmeu as she displayed her vast gymnastic expertise as the Nutcracker Doll.
An unexpected delight was that of the mystifying magic tricks performed by Keith Chegwin as Herr Drosselmeyer, with his assistant and partner from last year’s Dancing on Ice Olga Sharutenko, (thankfully his skating has improved enormously since he took part in the show!).This was accompanied, as were most of the magical aspects of the performance, by some exciting theatrical effects and pyrotechnics.
The true stars of the show were undoubtedly Anastasia Ignatyeva and Bogdan Berezenko as the charmingly sweet Marie and the charismatic Nutcracker whose duet at the end of Act 1 was the first truly beautiful and mesmerising moment of the production. They continued throughout to perform entrancing duets and made a gorgeous couple both in their choreography and in their chemistry.
However, not everything was as picture perfect; the absence of a live orchestra was slightly disappointing as Tchaikovsky’s powerful music coupled with the acoustics within the theatre would have had a startling effect. Also, although each individual skater was fantastic, there were some issues of synchronisation in the ensembles and as the performers were all professional ice skaters rather than actors I felt the story did suffer somewhat as the characters were not fully evolved. There were moments of engagement with the audience but for the most part the first act felt rather voyeuristic. The second half however, worked much better as we were able to feel almost a part of the court viewing an array of celebratory dances prompted by the return of the Nutcracker Prince to the delightful Kingdom of Sweets, in a much more intimate atmosphere. These included some beautiful solos and duets from Marie and the Nutcracker, the famous dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and an air dance combining impressive ice skating and acrobatics which elicited some of the most enthusiastic applause of the night.
Eventually the dream had to end and we came to the final scene ‘Reality Dawns’ and this reality bizarrely included an encore of spectacular tricks from the skaters, some of which eclipsed those shown in the performance, leaving some confusion as to why these had not been included during the actual show. But that aside, the Nutcracker on Ice is a dazzling display of spectacular ice dancing in a land of Christmas cheer and fairy-tale fantasy, and with its wintry St Petersburg setting, the Nutcracker lent itself perfectly to a magnificent production upon the ice.