For 26 years after this version was created by master choreographer Sir Peter Wright, this Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) production feels as though it just keeps getting better with age.
Sir Peter was back at Birmingham Hippodrome to watch over his masterpiece for opening night as it coincided with his 90th birthday. Quite a treat judging by the smile on his face. It has become a well-loved version of Tchaikovsky's classic with distinctive opulent costumes and sets dripping in Victoriana.
The story opens with a grandiose Christmas family party where Clara and her younger brother are dazzled by a magician, who presents Clara with a Nutcracker. There's some endearing group dances for young children in the cast at this point and the introduction of fantastical dancing toys wet the appetite.
But the action gets going when the party is over and Clara's journey to a magical world begins.
Clara creeps downstairs to get her Nutcracker from under the tree but is greeted with an unexpected surprise instead. This is when the magnificent stage designs come into their own and whisk the audience away from a grand house to magical places where fairies shimmer, giant rats battle with toy soldiers and we meet an enchanting cavalcade of characters from faraway lands.
It culminates in an extraordinarily beautiful end to the first act when The Snow Fairy and her entourage dance while surrounded by snowflakes. It takes the breath away.
Flying into the second act on a goose, Clara then gets to meet and dance with an array of characters from across the globe, stretching from Spain to Arabia, Russia and China. This is when the choreography comes to the fore as a perfect accompaniment to Tchaikovsky's famous and scintillating score.
The Arabian dance stands out from the crowd and features three bare-chested men carrying a stately woman high above their heads in Cleopatra fashion.
As the lead female dancer in Arabian dance, Celine Gittens is grand and hypnotising on stage. It made me realise that part of BRB's continuing success with The Nutcracker is because it maintains a constant flow of excellent dancers in its ranks.
A flying goose is among the special effects in The Nutcracker
Gittens is among the latest generation of outstanding talents to base herself in Birmingham. She follows in the footsteps of greats like recently retired Elisha Willis but there are obviously more in the pipeline judging by the younger ballerinas emerging in the supporting roles.
Among the current talent are also the exceptional Momoko Hirata - who stars as the Sugar Plum Fairy -and her dance partner Joseph Caley, playing the Prince. They seem to make easy work of the complicated pas de deux and solos at the climax of the show. Their performances were greeted to rousing cheers of 'bravo' from the crowd.
Momoko Hirata stars as the Sugar Plum Fairy pictured with her dance partner Joseph Caley, playing the Prince.