This production of The Nutcracker was first presented on the stage of the seattle Opera House, Washington on December 13th, 1983 by the Pacific Northwest Ballet. It was adapted for the screen in 1986 by Ken Stowell, who choreographed it and Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), renowned children’s author.
Here it is performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet, with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.
This Christmas classic tells the story of a young girl Clara (Vanessa Sharp) on Christmas Eve. Every year her parents throw a Christmas Eve party for her and her naughty little brother Fritz (Russell Burnett). The highlight of the party is always the arrival of her Godfather, Herr Drosselmeier (Hugh Bigney), a scary character indeed, but one who is highly skilled in toy-making, clock-making and mouse catching.
Each year he brings gifts for all of the children, this year he has really excelled himself, making Clara a beautiful Arabian Nights style castle, complete with clockwork guards and a ballerina inside.
Clara however is more interested in a Toy Soldier nutcracker which she finds within the Christmas tree. She falls immediately in love with it, much to Herr Drosselmeier’s annoyance. After Fritz tries to break it, he fixes it for her and then leaves.
Later that night, just before midnight, Clara sneaks back downstairs to see the nutcracker again, and finds herself transported to a magical and slightly scary dreamscape world, where toys come to life and mice fight it out with toy soldiers.
To her delight, she finds herself all grown up (Patricia Barker) and her beloved nutcracker prince (Wade Walthall) becomes a real person, just for that one night.
This is a great production of this timeless classic, however unfortunately although the story is timeless, this adaptation is not. It is all quite grainy and the superimposing is as good as you might expect for something made in the eighties, although the sound is very good and does justice to the music. The whole thing is beautifully narrated by Julie Harris (Knot’s Landing, The Haunting).
The influence of Maurice Sendak is clearly visible and adds a dark and sinister element to the piece, which enhances the dream sequences greatly, making everything ever so slightly nightmarish.
It is a sad reflection on the world in which we now live, that these days the concept of inviting a creepy bloke, of whom your children are terrified, into your house and making them spend time with him just because he brings presents, suddenly seems a bit less of a good idea.
This is a great film for getting the family together over the festive period, full of great music, colour and joy, and now finally available on DVD after nearly 30 years, well worth a watch this Christmas.
“Dreams are strangely familiar places, they are not at all the land of make believe, but only the homely inside of yourself, like the inner lining of your favourite coat, or the sweet kernel of the hardest nut, that only the jaws of my beloved nutcracker prince could reveal to me.”
Nutcracker: The Motion Picture is available to buy now on DVD and will be released on 16th October 2015.