Those who like The Nutcracker have a choice of three versions this year since all three of our flagship companies are staging the ballet this Christmas. The Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet offer their own versions of Sir Peter Wright's production in London and Birmingham respectively while English National will tour with Wayne Eagling's.
My first choice is the Royal Ballet's. I prefer the story where the fight between the mice and toy soldiers is confined to a dream in Act I and Act II is one great divertissement. In Wayne Eagling's the battle is central to the story and continues into Act II as the mouse king follows Clara and Drosselmeyer by grasping the gondola of their balloon. In the Dutch National Ballet's version, which is also by Eagling and most recently performed last year, the work is actually called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. I suppose it becomes a sort of metaphor for the struggle between good and evil. Another big difference between Wright's versions and Eagling's is that Clara morphs into the Sugar Plum in the latter.
There are some differences between the Birmingham and London versions of Wright's ballet. The Royal Ballet's designs are by Julia Trevelyan Oman whereas BRB's are by John Macfarlane. There are also differences between Eagling's versions for the Dutch and English National Ballets in that ENB's designs are by Peter Farmer whereas Het's are by Toer van Schayk. However, van Schayk influences the choreography of the English version.
Audiences who want to see the Royal Ballet can catch it at Covent Garden between the 23 Nov and 12 Jan 2017. It will also be streamed to cinemas throughout the UK and the rest of the world on 8 Dec 2016. BRB's will run from 25 Nov 2016 to 13 Dec 2015 at the Birmingham Hippodrome. English National's will start in Milton Keynes between 23 and 26 Nov 2016, proceed to the Liverpool Empire between 29 Nov and 3 Dec 2016, and finish its run at the Coliseum between 14 Dec and 7 Jan 2017. It will also be performed in Southampton between 29 Nov and 2 Dec 2017.
It has been some time since I last saw either of Sir Peter's versions because I could find no reviews in the archives of my blog but I can offer you a review of Eagling's for ENB from three years ago (see Cracking 14 Dec 2013). I remember that performance particularly because it was almost the last time that I saw Vadim Muntagirov and Daria Klimentova dance together. I have seen and reviewed several other versions since including the revival of Peter Darrell's for Scottish Ballet (see Like meeting an old friend after so many years 4 Jan 2015) and David Nixon's for Northern (see Northern Nutcracker 19 Dec 2015) but neither of those companies is running a version of The Nutcracker this year. There is also some background information on The Nutcracker on my resource page for the ballet which I really should update.