★★★ | Moscow City Ballet presents The Nutcracker – Sheffield Lyceum & National Tour

The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara, a young girl who is magically whisked away to a land of snow, flowers and fantasy, where she transforms into a princess and falls in love with the nutcracker prince. This classic ballet, with the score written by perhaps Russia’s most famous composer, Tchaikovsky, is lovingly performed by The Moscow City Ballet as part of their 25th Anniversary tour.

The score to the piece by Tchaikovsky remains as bold and as enchanting as ever, and sounded beautiful performed by the note perfect live orchestra. A number of the pieces are instantly recognisable and will be familiar to most people, given how embedded they are in popular culture. The music remains powerful and emotive and enjoying and appreciating it was one of the highlights of the evening.

As for the ballet itself, the first act focussed more on the narrative of the story, with Clara attending a Christmas Eve party where the guests are enthralled by her godfather’s magical, mechanical toys. During the first scene of Act 1, the full stage was awash with activity, which, whilst it looked impressive, sometimes led the audience to miss various things, as there was a lot happening simultaneously. Scene two, which finds Clara in a snow filled wonderland, was absolutely delightful with the female ensemble cast performing a stunning routine. Act 2 was more focussed on the dancing itself and it was during this act that the score and orchestra came into their own. The recognisable pieces of music came relentlessly and were accompanied by some charming routines – the highlight again being the female ensemble cast.

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Principal dancer Kanat Nadyrbeck performed well as the mysterious Drosselmeyer, but unfortunately, the ballet as a whole had far too many stumbles, heavy footfalls and overbalances than you would expect from such a prestigious company and the choreography seemed almost clunky at times. The gracefulness of the scenes with the female ensemble juxtaposed sharply with some of the other scenes and there were times when the synchronicity of the cast was not as well timed as it could have been. That said, the cast were enthusiastic and worked hard throughout the show, some of them displaying some spectacular leaps and bounds. There were also times when the principal dancers spent far too much time encouraging applause following a set piece, which interrupted the flow of the ballet and the story and seemed to give a stop/start feel to the second act.

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Proving itself to be a more traditional style of ballet, the show was still charming and engaging and as a whole was enjoyable, but, unfortunately, not without its flaws.

As part of their 25th Anniversary tour, Moscow City Ballet is performing a quartet of traditional ballets in a variety of venues around the Country. The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake are all being performed.

The Nutcracker continues at the Lyceum Theatre Sheffield until Saturday 11th January 2014 and tickets and details can be found at http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/the-nutcracker-14/ . The tour then continues around the country and details can be found at http://www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/moscow-city-ballet