Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty

The Birmingham Royal Ballet returned to Birmingham this week with a spellbinding performance of Sleeping Beauty. Transforming the Birmingham Hippodrome stage into a Georgian setting fit for royalty, the dancers of the BRB created a magical and enthralling fairy tale that had just the right amount of menace and spice.

We all know the story of the Princess Aurora, gifted every one of life’s advantages by a stream of beautiful fairies. This was represented in a series of solo dances representing modesty, honour, joy, and, of course, beauty. The mood is bright and beautiful, full of sparkle and light. Unfortunately, no one invited the dark Fairy, Carabosse, and so she invites herself along, determined to destroy the occasion by placing a death sentence on the infant Princess. The moment that Carabosse entered, as danced by the wonderful Nao Sakum , is one that will live in the memory for a long time. She is a remarkable presence, truly frightening in her manner, stance and exquisite black costume. Carried aloft by her bat-like attendants and accompanied by a roll of thunder, Carabosse is the embodiment of fairytale evil. I must admit, I loved her. It’s a bit of a paradox, but her dark blend of charisma lit up the stage every time she appeared.

But the evil of Carabosse had an stunning counterpoint in the Lilac Fairy. Jenna Roberts plays this beautiful enigma, the fairy who had yet to deliver her gift, which turns out to be the gift of life. The Lilac fairy looks so perfect, think Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, and dances with such lightness and elegance that you could not fail to be enchanted. The contrast between Sakumo and the Lilac Fairy is exquisite.

tumblr_m6yb36ANxk1rpvemio1_500 The second act introduces a grown up Aurora, one with suitors, who pirouette the Princess around like a ballerina in a jewel box during the famous Rose Adagio. Aurora is Momoko Hirata, who is everything the role requires. Tiny and beautiful and so charming in her movements and expressions, Hirata invests her character with joy and grace, she is simply a joy to watch. She shows incredible poise during the Rose Adagio, the pirouette is perfect in every way.

The spindle is not attached to a spinning wheel, but hidden in flowers, a neat touch which means all the palace get to see the Princess fall into her deep sleep. It is at this point that the amazing scenery really comes into its own, with layer upon layer of flora and fauna helping to hide and protect the enchanted palace.

Mathias Dingman is the suitably handsome Prince who comes to the rescue of the Sleeping Beauty, transfixed by the vision conjured up by the Lilac Fairy. Dingman is athletic and virile in the role of the handsome Prince, and his solo dances were perfect. His rescue of the Princess through the power of his kiss set us up for an unforgettable finale, one that shimmered and sparkled in a way that left the audience gasping at its sheer beauty.

This classic Peter Wright production continues to enchant new generations. The music of Tchaikovsky continues to soar. All in all, perfection.

An enchanting ballet for all the family.

Wed 14 – Sat 24 Feb

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The Nutcracker – Christmas Comes To Birmingham

The Birmingham Hippodrome was once again transformed into the epitome of Christmas as the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s classic production of The Nutcracker opened last night. The ballet is always seen as the opening of Christmas in Birmingham, and, once again, it’s charm, beauty and magic thrilled the sell out audience. The Nutcracker can be described in a single word- enchanting.

It is Christmas Eve and the Stahlbaum family are giving a party for family and friends. A magician Drosselmeyer is invited and gives the Stahlbaum’s oldest daughter Clara the gift of a Nutcracker. When the guests have departed, Clara creeps down to retrieve her Nutcracker (worried that her jealous younger brother will steal it maybe?), but as the clock strikes midnight the room seems to grow in size and become a strange, eerie place. Giant rats appear and attack Clara. She is rescued by her Nutcracker, who has magically come to life. This intervention leads to a night of magic as The Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince and he leads Clara into a land of snow and ice where she meets a whole host of dancers from different lands.

The company of The Nutcracker is simply wonderful. Karla Doorbar is a charming, lovely Clara, whilst Momoko Hirata is beautiful as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Cesar Morales is perfect as the Prince, a virile yet romantic lead who has a wonderful chemistry with Hirata. Other stand outs including the crowd pleasing Russian dancers (Max Maslen, Lachlan Monaghan and Gus Payne\) who’s energetic Cossack style dance is always a real favourite, particularly as it is performed to the part of Iiyich Tchaikovsky’s score that is instantly recognisable from fans of Home Alone.

The Nutcracker is an annual classic that never loses its charm and beauty and remains an unmissable part of the Birmingham Theatre calendar.

Simply Wonderful.

The Nutcracker

Birmingham Hippodrome

Saturday 25th – Wednesday 13th December

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Aladdin Weaves A Magic Spell at the Birmingham Hippodrome

I think that even adults need the magic of fairy tales in their lives, and last night I was transported to the land of beautiful Princesses, handsome heroes and magic lamps when I attended the press preview of Aladdin by the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

This production by David Bintley is an exquisite triumph, perfect entertainment for the whole family, with scenes that amuse, romantic sequences that charm, and an wholly engaging cast that keep you entertained throughout.

The story is kept thankfully familiar, Mathias Dingman is wonderful as Aladdin, playing the role as a likeable cheeky chappy who gets himself into troubles that almost cost him his head. He rescued by sinister Maghrib who sets him the task to find a magic lamp. This leads to a scene of sheer enchantment as Aladdin progresses through a truly beautiful cave, where the myriad of rubies, emeralds and sapphires are bought to life by a series of energetic dances, before Aladdin finally reaches the centre of the cave, and thus the lamp. The scenery in this particular section is stunning, I loved the stalagmites in a multitude of colours that echo the variety of gems in the cave.

The cave scene is a real favourite, bit there were many other sections to enjoy, not least of which was the wedding dance of the Chinese Dragon, resplendent in white and gold, and actually Aladdin’s friends (Kit Holder and Lachlan Monagham). And I loved the romance of the bathhouse scene, where Aladdin and the beautiful princess ( the always sublime Momoko Hirata) first meet properly and fall in love, their dancing is joyful and tender and is just lovely. In terms of the characterisations, The Maghrib (Iain Mackay)  is a suitably dark and devilish bad guy with plenty of swigger and presence, whilst the blue genie (Tzu-Chao Chou) is both magical and genial, and delights every time he appears. Aladdin’s mother, the legendary Marion Tait, brings forth the comic element, especially in the scene in the Chinese Laundry.

 

A mention must be made of the set, which is almost an extra character in this ballet. You really are transferred to a mysterious cave, a luxurious bathhouse, a magnificent palace and a house that doubles as a Chinese laundry, and set changes are quick and seamless.

This is just a perfect night out for the whole family, delighting the audience by old and young. A total feast for the eyes and for the ears, with the Carl Davis score illuminating each scene majestically, Aladdin shows that ballet can be funny, entertaining and touching in equal parts.

Aladdin

Birmingham Hippodrome

Wed 4 – Sat 7th October

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