Boston Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Although “The Nutcracker” is an annual staple in the Boston Ballet’s repertoire, Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen’s dancers make the 2010 production fresh and exciting.

For many theatergoers, the beloved story ballet about a little girl and her Christmas doll is their first glimpse of classical ballet. The plot is easy to follow, the show is action-packed and you’ll laugh, ooh and aah over the cast of characters (Bear, Mouse King, Mother Ginger, Russians, Arabians, the black sheep).

Veterans won’t be disappointed either. Young Alexandra Storch will have you reminiscing about how excited you were on Christmas Eve as a child (she is one of three Claras reprising the role). The Snow King and Queen, Pavel Gurevich and Lia Cirio, are exquisite in The Enchanted Forest. And Misa Kuranaga blows us away again as The Sugar Plum Fairy.

From the rich, live music of Tchaikovsky to the vintage-looking costumes, from the set design to the choreography, Boston Ballet has been swept up in the joy of the holiday spirit — and you will be, too.

Tony Williams’ ‘Urban Nutcracker’

Now in its 10th anniversary season, “Urban Nutcracker” continues to draw families to see its unique and diverse spin of the beloved Christmas story by E.T.A. Hoffmann.

The plot is updated to present-day; Clarice and Omar’s father is serving overseas, the familiar classical music by Tchaikovsky has been morphed into smooth jazz by Duke Ellington.

Gianni DiMarco teams up with funny man Yo-el Cassel (Drosselmeyer and Minimeyer) leading the way to Clarice’s magical journey. The Sugar Plum Fairy (Elizabeth Mochizuki) pays meticulous attention to her footwork. Janelle Gilchrist is comfortable with fluid moves as the lead Branch in the Branch and Flowers. Li-Ann Lim (Arabian) wows the crowd with her flexibility. But this show is all about the kids — the ones dancing and the ones watching — and Artistic Director Anthony Williams really focuses on that, making it enjoyable for everyone involved.

“The Slutcracker — A Burlesque”

A quick note of warning: If any of your kids were actually in either of the other “Nutcracker” productions we reviewed, you might not want to let them read further. In this naughty, sexy, freaky version, Clara is all grown up, and her Aunt Drosselmeyer insists she explore her sexuality and become more intimate with herself before committing to a man. Highlights include the horny Polichinelles, the Sugar Dish Fairy and the battle between the ugly sweater brigade, the Slutcracker and its batteries.

Audience participation (read: cat calls) is strongly encouraged. The show will leave you Energized (wink, wink) — truly the best $20 you and your friends will spend all season.

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