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First look: Co-op Juniors Christmas show 2018 - The Nutcracker

PUBLISHED: 19:24 06 December 2018 | UPDATED: 20:26 06 December 2018

The Co-op Juniors are staging their version of The Nutcracker as this year's Christmas Spectacular at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall  Photo: Mike Kwasniak

The Co-op Juniors are staging their version of The Nutcracker as this year's Christmas Spectacular at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Mike Kwasniak Photography, 2018 - www.mikekwasniak.co.uk

The Co-op Juniors are reinventing a piece of Christmas tradition this year when they bring their version of The Nutcracker to the Snape Maltings. We take a look backstage at one of company’s most ambitious productions

The Co-op Juniors are staging their version of The Nutcracker as this year's Christmas Spectacular at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall  Photo: Mike KwasniakThe Co-op Juniors are staging their version of The Nutcracker as this year's Christmas Spectacular at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Huge towers of extravagantly wrapped Christmas presents fill the stage as a mysterious face appears in a glowing moon overhead. An upside down umbrella floats magically on a sea of fog as dozens of dancing ‘mice’ swarm across the stage.

It’s time to feel the festive spirit as the UK’s largest youth musical theatre group brings The Nutcracker to life in a vibrant new version for Christmas Spectacular at Snape Maltings Concert Hall from December 7-16.

The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company, now in its 14th season at Snape, has won multiple awards for its annual extravaganza and summer musicals like Barnum, Sister Act and Starlight Express. Now the 100-strong cast are putting their unique stamp on the magical tale of The Nutcracker in a high energy music and dance stage production.

Says director Lucy Allen, “We went back to the original E T A Hoffmann story that inspired Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. Oliver Brett cleverly adapted it to suit our young company of talented dancers, singers and actors, and he’s designed a brilliant set as well.”

She explains that, as in the ballet, there is no dialogue.

“You will see ballerinas, but this isn’t a ballet. The action is so fast, the music so powerful and the musical number staging so ambitious, there’s hardly time for our performers to draw breath.”

The Co-op Juniors are staging their version of The Nutcracker as this year's Christmas Spectacular at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall  Photo: Mike KwasniakThe Co-op Juniors are staging their version of The Nutcracker as this year's Christmas Spectacular at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Lucy Allen adds: “The audience will enjoy lots of familiar tunes from our live orchestra and the wonderful feeling of Christmas running through the whole show. We plan to send everyone out with a warm festive glow.”

Renowned for the visual wow factor, Christmas Spectacular has lots of surprises in store, but the creative team are coy about sharing them.

“Save the surprise!” smiles technical director Alan Ayres as he reveals that there really is a Man in the Moon high above the stage, a hot air balloon that carries off the Nutcracker and doll, a floating giant umbrella and an orchestra of 12 rising out of the floor - reinforcing the fact that this is a live show.

“The thrill for everyone working on this production, whether it’s parents producing our 600 costumes or specialist scenic pieces, is that it’s a volunteer group where everyone works together to make the show a success. We have even more people coming to see it this year, tickets are flying out.”

Those 600 costumes take many months to create, most made from scratch, with some adapted or redesigned from earlier shows. The team, led by Jeannie Ingram and Cilla Tricker, put their heads together early in the summer to plan the massive workload: “Making sets of identical costumes is a challenge when so many people are involved. Let’s just say alterations are sometimes needed.”

Lighting designer Gordon Torrington works with programmer Justin Goad to make The Nutcracker a visual feast, complementing the dancing and set with moving lights and effects worth over £500,000. He draws on his years of experience in television and event lighting. “It’s unusual to have such creative freedom, that’s what makes it such fun,” he says.

Lucy Allen is not only directing but also choreographing most of the numbers, with others taken on by Kerry Sayer and older members of the company.

“Selecting the right music for our story and cast is one of the thrills for me,” Lucy says. “We’ve got an extraordinary range of music and dance styles, with unexpected moments of real delight alongside songs and music that everyone will know and love. That’s what Christmas Spectacular is all about.”

Christmas Spectacular: The Nutcracker runs from December 7-16 at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Best availability is currently on Wed December 12 and Fri December 14. Book tickets snapemaltings.co.uk/spectacular or call 01728 687110. See more about the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company at coopjuniors.co.uk, follow them on Facebook or Twitter @coopjuniors

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