Imperial Ice Stars - Nutcracker on Ice
Lyric Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts
It may be early for Christmas, but the Imperial Ice Stars' Nutcracker on Ice is a fun show designed to thrill adults as well as children.
At her parents' Christmas party, young Maria is given a nutcracker doll by the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer. That night she dreams that the doll turns into a handsome prince, with whom she defeats the wicked Mouse King's army, and travels to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugarplum Fairy welcomes them.
The director-choreographer, Tony Mercer, has taken a classic traditional approach to the story while adding some innovative touches.
Casting a live performer as the nutcracker doll worked brilliantly, thanks to the amazing plasticity of former international gymnastics champion Marina Davydova and the protean partnering of company veteran Vadim Yarkov. Yarkov made not only the diminutive Davydova look light as a doll but every other woman as well.
The high point of Act 2 (in every sense) was a breathtaking aerial routine to the Arabian Dance, which matched the music perfectly.
It was performed magnificently by the fearless Fiona Kirk and Volodymyr Khodakivsky.
There are inevitable restrictions to skating on a proscenium stage as opposed to a large ice rink, with jumps and thrown jumps of necessity limited in number and scope.
Mercer and his cast make up for this with an extraordinarily inventive catalogue of spins, gravity-defying balances and lifts.
One of the most jaw-dropping moments had a woman balanced face down on her stomach on top of her partner's head, arms and legs outstretched with nothing to hold on to while he spun.
Saving the best for last, the troupe delivered its customary rip-roaring finale where all the skaters got to show off their best moves, bringing the audience to its feet in a well-deserved standing ovation.