Reviews Dance Published 16 December 2011

Magical Night

Linbury Studio ⋄ 9th - 31st December 2011

Kurt Weill’s ‘kinderpantomime.’

Christine Twite

“I’m off to see the new Kurt Weill children’s show” is not a phrase I thought I was ever likely to utter, but so it was with this year’s offering from the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House. Weill did in fact write the score as a ‘kinderpantomime’, and it became his first major stage work to be produced – although what happened next reads like a fairytale itself. When Weill escaped Nazi Europe the full score of the piece went missing. It was thought to be lost forever, until 2005 when the full score magically was found in a locked safe in the vaults of Yale University Library. And so, the Royal Opera House’s production of Magical Night has the honour of presenting the British stage premiere of this new version, as close as you are likely to get to Weill’s original.

The result is a score which, in its dissonant and haunting melodies, provides a great alternative to the sugary treats of Tchaikovsky which can be heard upstairs in the Royal Opera House’s main auditorium. Sprinkling her fairy dust on to the show is choreographer Aletta Collins, Associate Artist at the Royal Opera House. She has cannily invested in The Nutcracker’s familiar story of the toys coming alive at midnight, but as in Weill’s score, the saccharine sugar plums have been erased from the plot. The result is a new, slicker Nutcracker for a Toy Story generation.

The story is a simple one: children Megan and Jason are fighting, when Megan pulls the tail off Jason’s favourite toy, Chimpy. Put to bed by their mother, each of their toys comes to life. Chimpy is obviously upset with Megan – which prompts her to draw herself a new friend who then comes to life as an evil witch. With terrifying consequences …

What mesmerized the children in the audience the most (and the audience was full of transfixed six to ten-year-olds when I attended) was the expert way Collins choreographed each of the toys. Tumble Tot innocently crawled around the stage, while Mighty Robot had more than a touch of Buzz Lightyear in his arrogant posturing. A special mention must be made for Thomasin Gülgec, whose Chimpy swung across the performance space with amazing agility, to the considerable delight of the audience.

The mixture of Weill and fairytale offers something for adults and children alike. Whilst the children are gripped by the story, the adults can marvel at the score and reminisce about their own childhood toys. I particularly enjoyed the design of the witch’s costume and the house was a lovely homage to the Meg and Mog books which I read as a child. Running at just over an hour you can see this pint-sized production and still be home for bedtime.


Christine Twite

Christine is a theatre academic, producer and project manager. She is currently researching a PhD in Contemporary Theatre Audiences with Queen Mary, University of London.

Magical Night Show Info

Choreography by Aletta Collins

Original Music Kurt Weill


Running Time 1 hour 5 mins (no interval)



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