Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without The Nutcracker and English National Ballet have wrapped up a festive treat at the Liverpool Empire Theatre.
Set in London, it is Clara and Freddie who are getting excited for the family Christmas party and people outside their house are skating on a frozen River Thames. Wayne Eagling's choreograpy and Peter Farmer's design give the ballet a traditional feel to start in a house filled with laughter and fun, sumptuous furnishings and exquisite taste.
Dr Drosselmeyer's gift of a Nutcracker doll seems innocuous at first and he is portrayed more as the friendly godfather with a few magic tricks up his sleeve, than the mysterious conjurer often portrayed in other productions. Clara, on the brink of womanhood, is enchanted with the toy but equally interested in the man's nephew. She eventually heads to bed to dream of the dashing young visitor.
Tradition gives way to reverie and this production is now not as sickly sweet as some I have seen. Clara's visitation by the Mouse King in her bedroom is quite sinister, setting the scene for the battle that ensues between him and her beloved Nutcracker, now the alter-ego of Drosslemeyer's nephew. The duo are pursued through the magical land of snow, eventually to escape in a hot air balloon.
The dancing is beautiful from start to finish, from the children from Tring Park School for the Performing Arts at the party to the glorious pas de deux when Clara (Daria Klimentova) becomes the Sugar Plum Fairy with the nephew (Vadim Muntagirov) as the Prince.
Transforming the traditional land of sweets to a puppet theatre performance emphasised the showcase element of the Act II choreography but I missed watching Clara and her guide enjoying the action.
Nutcracker is at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday, November 23 before a run at the London Coliseum. Book now to get in the mood for Christmas on 0844 871 3017 or buy online at