Sunday Star Times, New Zealand
by Ann Hunt
ALL THOSE balletomanes out there can eat their pointe shoes. This is a fantastic production. Beautifully performed, produced and hugely enjoyable, it is great family entertainment that is guaranteed to lift the gloomiest of mid-winter spirits.Artistic director/choreographer Tony Mercer has aptly described it as theatre on ice. A mix of ballet, ice show and even circus, he sets his production in the Romanov period of Russian history, the early 1900s. This is reflected in the exquisite costume designs of Albina Gabueva and the stunning, romantic sets of Eamon D’Arcy.
Faithful in spirit to many of the ballet’s traditions, he has added innovative touches that well suit this spectacular production. Of all the ballets to produce on ice, Swan Lake must surely be the most appropriate. The ice itself is such a magical asset, which beautifully aids the illusion of flight and draws the audience into the story.
The evil magician, Rothbart, bewitches Princess Odette. She is condemned to be a swan by day and can take human form only at night. True love alone can break the curse. Traditionally, the ballet ends tragically. Here, the ending is a happy one, with a modern and surprisingly moving twist.
Apart from the occasional corny lift and Rothbart’s smoking clunker, Mercer rarely puts a foot wrong. His choreography cleverly integrates aerial sequences and even pointe work, with daring and beautiful ice dance.
The audience is held from the opening scene in the palace courtyard, with its lovely muted hues, the skaters whirling through falling snowflakes, to the final dramatic lakeside denouement - Odette walking forward throwing a handful of swan feathers into the air - the curse forever broken.
The special effects are spectacular and surprising: the magical first glimpse of the swan maidens rising out of the lake like Venus; incredibly skilful skating stilt walkers, like skeletal black crows; fluorescently costumed aerialists and, best of all, Rothbart surrounded by a flaming circle of fire.
The company of 26 Olympic, world, European and national championship skaters are superb. Olga Sharutenko is softly beautiful and vulnerable as Odette and a wonderful contrast to the sleekly sly and elegant Odile of Olena Pyatash. As Prince Siegfried, Vadim Yarkov is a fine skater and strong partner.
As Benno, Andrei Penkine is the sort of chap you’d want to slap, if he wasn’t so infuriatingly charming! And as Rothbart, Anton Klykov literally sets the stage on fire - a memorable portrayal in any medium.