Warm welcome for Nutcracker
IT'S a hard heart that fails to be warmed by the Nutcracker at Christmas. Last night the Hong Kong Ballet's annual money-spinner provided a welcome shot of the festive spirit.
It was a production designed to appeal to the many children in its audiences, and to the child in all of us. There were touches such as pandas in the winter forest, monkeys in party hats and a box full of children.
The voices of the Yip's Children's Choir during the forest scenes in Act One added life and a touch of magic to a workman-like but somewhat lacklustre accompaniment by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of young Japanese conductor, Mido Komai - though it warmed up by the final act.
This Nutcracker was marked by particularly accomplished lead performances. Christina Shea was excellent as Clara. Eriko Ochiai was a fluid and graceful sugarplum fairy ably supported in the pas de deux by So Hon-wah, a very competent prince.
Jun Mabaquiao was a stylish Drosselmeyer, the magician. His magnificent cape was a highlight among adequate but unimaginative costumes.
Certainly there were weak points, among them the elderly aunts of Julia Battersby and Chan Wai-ming. Bending at the waist is not sufficient to create an impression of age. Greater effort by the make-up department was needed.
The performance was enlivened by the children from local ballet schools. Aren't there also older dancers who could be called on? The changing of the nutcracker into the prince was clumsily handled with both visible at the same time.
This was the Hong Kong Ballet in one of its best performances of late, helped perhaps by the limited male chorus role - often a weak point. Even so there were some appalling lapses in timing by some of the male dancers.
Overall this was not quite a magical evening but one filled with the Christmas sparkle.
The Nutcracker, The Hong Kong Ballet, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, today at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, tomorrow at 2.30pm, December 20 to 23 at 7.30pm and December 23 and 24 at 2.30pm.