Spectacular, bedazzling, vertiginous with talent, amazing, the Imperial Ice Stars' performance of The Nutcracker surely courts danger! The stage seems small and Row H in the ASB Theatre feels perilously close as the cast of 26 hit the ice en masse, while Tchaikovsky's famous ballet score is played at speed and flurries of snow fling upwards at the very last moment, right on the edge, with a distinct "chunk" as artists hurl themselves into sudden, gob-smacking stops.
There are racing rodents, energiser bunny tin soldiers, a quartet of hallucogenically costumed Cossacks, and a Nutcracker prince of gorgeously elongated limb and romantic role, who thinks nothing of back-flipping his besotted Marie (not Clara, in this version) at lightening speed, shoulder height, spinning, grinning and she all lilac satin, flying, arched spine, extending - and making a perfect landing. Chunk. Flurry. Then they are off on the next choreographic curlicue and swirl.
Long before that Herr Drosselmeyer makes a magical entrance via wire and is soon making more magic - of the conjuring kind - tossing little balls of light here and there, retrieving them from startled party guests' ears and finally vanishing his equally spooky assistant with a flourish of gold lame cloak.
In Act II's series of divertissements the Arabian duo also fly with an aerial act woven into their ice dance, suspended from frail looking ribbons, boot blades flashing as they swing and soar out overhead, limbs entwining, disentwining. Any moment there could be blood! The funky Chinese Tea Dance comes with flaming batons and a strong whiff of kerosene. The Snowflakes have skirts that light up like Christmas trees. The Spanish dancers do more of those stunning back flips at high speed.
They all do much more!
There is so much happening that you cannot possibly see it all.
There are also some moments of real loveliness, but this is not generally a performance of subtlety or fine emotions. The characterisations are clever - especially Drosselmeyer, who manages to suggest a vaguely evil portent, authentic to the original, much darker tale. The familiar narrative is made very clear.
But mostly this is a big, brilliant circus, saturated with colour, embroidered with every trick of the showman's trade and emblazoned with unlimited athletic prowess.
What: The Nutcracker on Ice
Where: Aotea Centre, to July 8