The Nutcracker at the Merlin Theatre, Frome

SAY “The Nutcracker” and you im­mediately think of a vast Christ­mas tree, centre stage – and that’s just what you get in Scott Ward and Amy Maughan’s production at Frome’s Merlin Theatre, on until 15th December.

This totally delightful show, with its book and lyrics by Jenifer Toksvig (sister of Sandi) and memorably tuneful music by David Perkins, fills the stage with toys come to life, greedy mouses and of course Clara (the remarkable Anabella Fairgrieve) and her brother Fritz (Owen White) with their beloved godmother Drossel­meyer (Nina Casey).

It opens with little Benjamin Ward reading from a huge pop-up storybook, and the curtains open to the familiar scene, Christmas Eve with the tree bedecked in presents. But there’s something wrong. The lights are off and the star at the top has lost its lustre.

The previous Christmas the mouses, impatient for sugar and bored with endless fairytales, captured the Prince of Make Believe and with him the star. Without imagination, the world’s lights went out. So no matter what Clara and Fritz dream of for Christmas, they are destined to gloom.

Granny has other ideas, though, bringing them a nutcracker doll instead of their most wanted gifts. Truculent Fritz stomps off to bed, but Clara is taken by the Nutcracker Prince, and gradually, loved again, life returns to his wooden limbs.

Of course this is a classic story of love conquering evil, and includes dancing, songs and a fierce battle.

The talented four man band, led by MD Liam Howlett, brings the varied score to exuberant life, and the huge cast – there are 62 of them on stage – are enthusiastic singing, dancing mouses, soldiers, gingerbread men, as well as the principals, who include the Sugar Plum Fairy (Daisy Mercedes), Captain Frederic (Patrick Withey), Marie the doll (Conny Hunter), the royal mouses (Abi Holmes and Jack Hallett) and the Nutcracker Prince, in the person of Ed Henderson.

After some rather lengthy Merlin shows, this one runs for an action-packed 100 minutes, so is ideal for those with young children (who will be thrilled by everything about it) as well as those with ants in their pants.

And the tiny dancers  (the Tri Art Fieldmice) deserve their own special round of applause.


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