Christmas magic: Birmingham Royal Ballet in The Nutcracker

Birmingham Hippodrome
November 22, 2019

Phil Preece

I realise now that it was by accident that I saw the very first night of Sir Peter Wright’s unmatched The Nutcracker. I’ve seen every first night since so I reckoned I knew it. But this was something different. Because seemingly the entire production was on an even higher plane than usual, every individual performer especially the principals at the very top of their game, all the marvellously magical tricks and special effects working overtime, but best of all, by some unspoken magic it was real, as if happening to everyone both on stage and in the audience for the very first time.

From the great Stahlbaum Christmas Eve party with the huge extended family enjoying music, conjurers, dancing and wine to the magnificent transformation scene where Karla Doorbar’s Clara is transported to the magical Land of the Sweets by Jonathan Payn’s Drosselmeyer, we were genuinely entranced.

Karla Doorbar as Clara in Birmingham Royal Ballet's The NutcrackerPhoto Bill Cooper
Karla Doorbar as Clara
in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Photo Bill Cooper

But even better was to come. Somehow in the second half, as we enjoyed the series of stunning set pieces created for Clara’s (and our) entertainment, a special and very rare sort of magic crept in for an audience of all ages who sat genuinely spellbound.

Yet it was when Miki Mizutani (a super late substitute for the ill Momoko Hirata) as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the marvellous Cesar Morales as The Prince, set about their spectacular set-piece finale that the evening produced a first for me. As they began to perform their series of gravity defying variations, genuine shouts of approbation and delight came from an audience who knew a very good thing when they saw one; and to my surprise I found was shouting with them.

Seriously, this really never happens. I have never heard this response to any Birmingham Royal Ballet production in more than a quarter century of watching their output.

A very special night indeed. Don’t miss it!

The Nutcracker runs at the Birmingham Hipppodrome until 12th December. For tickets phone the Box Office on 0844 338 5000 or go online at

An adapted version of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker can also be seen at the Royal Albert Hall, London from December 28-31. For details and tickets visit

The Nutcracker awaits the magic to comePhoto Bill Cooper
The Nutcracker awaits the magic to come
Photo Bill Cooper