Forever a festive treat; TheDailyPreview THE NUTCRACKER BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME (Until Dec 11).
WHETHER by thoughtful design or happy coincidence, Sir Peter Wright celebrated his 85th birthday in the first-night audience as the production he unveiled 21 years ago made one of its perennial reappearances on the Birmingham Royal Ballet calendar.
And if it really is more blessed to give than to receive, the old boy's bounteousness was sumptuously rewarded by the waves of applause which confirmed that his definitive interpretation will remain a Wintermas favourite long after he has settled back into his front-of-circle seat in that great auditorium in the sky.
He did, of course, inherit Tchaikovsky's incomparably hummable score - the second act alone is a veritable top 10 of ballet tunes subliminally absorbed into mainstream culture - and was aided immeasurably by John Macfarlane's extraordinary designs.
The transformation scenes, where the Stahlbaum parlour becomes a battleground for giant rodents and military mechanoids before budding ballerina Clara is whisked off to Drosselmeyer's enchanted kingdom, remain truly magical, even in an age when children's sense of wonderment has been sandblasted by cinema's 3D and CGI chicanery.
It almost goes without saying that the quality of dancing is universally excellent, so much so that it is almost invidious to spotlight individual contributions (although that's the job, so one has to record that on opening night Robert Parker was a singularly compelling magician and Cline Gittens a show-stealing Rose Fairy).
In its coming-of-age year, therefore, Wright's Nutcracker remains a festive treat for all the family - the hoariest of critique clichs, perhaps, but when the treat in question has been honed to such exquisite perfection can there really be any higher praise?