Spotlight: Nutcracker on Ice - Captivating Class Act

This romance is calling me from afar. Christmas came early this year as internationally acclaimed Imperial Ice Stars returns to Singapore with yet another breathtaking production - The Nutcracker on Ice. With a combination of Olympic, World, European, National Championship skaters, brilliant acrobatics and an awe-inspiring Tchaikovsky score helmed by the brilliant artistic director Tony Mercer and you have an unparalleled spectacle of one of the most classic stories ever told on ice.

The Nutcracker on Ice is a fantastical story of young love set on a massive frozen stage told through one dazzling skating maneuver after another. On the afternoon of opening night at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre, I had a quick conversion with the lead creator of the company's contemporary director, Tony Mercer.

Me and Artistic Director Tony Mercer discussing the wonders of the Nutcracker.

GGP: First of all, why did you choose Singapore?

Tony: When we first came to Singapore, we presented the Swan Lake. There was an incredible reception to that production and so it was a natural choice to return to Singapore with the Nutcracker. It came as a pleasant surprise to know that the Nutcracker is not as well known in Singapore as it is in other parts of the world. So bringing it here allows more opportunities for the Nutcracker story to be told.

GGP: What is the Nutcracker about?

Tony: It's a story of young love, fantasy and dreams. The young girl (Marie, not Clara in this version mind you) falls in love and has a determination to fix a problem. It's the same with the nutcracker prince. The way that I tell the story, he has a problem so he's also trying to resolve that problem. And its also Christmas, so it's got a very nice warm feel to it.

Thank you Base Entertainment for the pass!

GGP: Why did you choose the Nutcracker among all the other stories?

Tony: Like Swan Lake, when I realized that Tchaikovsky had written his own storyboard and the whole world knows Swan Lake through the ballet and I saw what the composer had wished to do with the story, so that's why I created Swan Lake. And the same with Nutcracker, he (Tchaikovsky) had written his own storyboard. So rather than - I am trying to correct something I guess. I am trying to put something right that Tchaikovsky had originally intentioned. Our ending is the same as Tchaikovsky planned. And nobody does it that way.

And we do it in this way because that's how Tchaikovsky wanted it to be. That's why I've done Nutcracker. And also, the story had things which we have never touched as a performing company as the Imperial Ice Stars. And it had themes which we've never tried before.

GGP: Themes such as?

Tony: Well, the story was written in a very, very dark way.

So I've made it less dark and more relatable. It has more fantasy than what I call the ballet version. In this version, Tchaikovsky intended it to be more light-hearted. It was supposed to be about Christmas. Christmas isn't dark.

GGP: No it isn't.

Tony: And that was what he planned. We had lots of comedy in it. He had all these little notes. As we say, he created the characters and he intended this to happen and that to happen and that's what I followed through on and picked it up. So as a company, for us for the first time, there's a lot of what I call comedic performance. We are using illusions.

GGP: Ooh. So there is a bit of magic?

Tony: There is. It also has aerial acrobatics inside of it. And we've done flying before. But inside this we've welcomed to the company a pair of aerial gymnasts. So we've challenged ourselves. You know they are great skaters and they are incredible at what they do and they can do drama like what we saw in Swan Lake. They can bring a love story to life. But in here I challenge them to be comedic at the same time. Be funny. It terrified the life out of them because you're staging comedy for them. But it works.

GGP: And they enjoy it!

Tony: They love it! They love performing the scenes because it's got a really feel good factor to it. What I've said from the first time because they were terrified when we came out and did the premiere. Because they had no idea of what they were doing was going to work but suddenly when you sat there and the audience is laughing with you and smiling with you. They go, "My god, we can actually do it!"

Well, it was the same with Swan Lake because we were doing Swan Lake in a very different way. And even they didn't know if it was going to work. But it went on to win awards and lots of nominations. This one (Nutcracker), they really enjoyed. They bounce into it. And the audience just really get into it. And it was very, very different for us.

Tony: So what can we expect from this version of the Nutcracker?

It is about escapism. And I challenge you to try and work out what is real and what isn't. There are lots of things that take place in Act 1 that reappear in Act 2. So what happens is, if you are attentive you will see that detail that was played in Act 1 and it makes sense when you get to Act 2. And finally get to tick all the boxes when you get to the end of the show if you follow it correctly.

GGP: Is it dark?

Tony: No it's not dark. Not at all. The ballet make it dark and I don't think it needs to be. You see it's Christmas. It's a festive season.

GGP: Exactly. We should be joyous about it.

And that's what we're trying to do. There are one of two moments that will make you cry.

GGP: Get ready some tissues. Tug the heartstrings a bit.

Tony: Well yes, that's what we're trying to achieve. It's so expensive to come a watch a show nowadays. And you have to put in for the most important person. It's not me. It's not the performers. It's what we do. The most important person is the person who's bought the ticket. And you have to entertain them and make sure that you're giving them value for money - number one. Number two, when they come here, when they come into a theatre. Their day might have been really bad. Their boss might have shouted at them. They might have run over the cat. So what you want them to come and do is let them come in and watch a show. And let me take you away from your troubles for a couple of hours. And that's what I need to do. And at the same time I need to make you feel that the Imperial Ice Stars have got an incredible reputation. And make you feel as if we've just entertained you.

Presented by BASE Entertainment and Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, The Nutcracker on Ice ran from a limited period from the 23rd to the 28th of October 2012. On opening night, I attended the performance and was left in incredibly high spirits at the end of the show, eagerly wanting more.

A special thank you to the wonderful folks at Fulford PR and BASE Entertainment. 
Photography credit goes to Ace Kindred Cheong from Ministry of Photography. 


Occasional hand model with a taste for adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment