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News / Theater & Performance

Which version of The Nutcracker should you see this year?

Nutcracker Rouge
Photograph: Joshua Flannigan Nutcracker Rouge

Here's our to-see list of five Nutcracker iterations, ranging from the classical to the kooky. Happy holidays!

The gold standard:
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, the New York City Ballet’s mesmerizing spectacle with 90 dancers, 62 musicians, two casts of 50 young students, detailed costuming and larger-than-life stage effects (including a tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet tall) is what people are talking about when they say, “The Nutcracker.”
David H. Koch Theater (at Lincoln Center), W 63rd St at Columbus Ave ( $35–$285. Various dates through Dec 31.

Short and sweet:
Keith Michael’s hour-long Nutcracker is a great introduction to theater for kids as they follow little Marie on her fantastical journey to the Land of Sweets. The New York Theatre Ballet serves up an Art Nouveau–style twist, set in 1907, with polka-dot-dressed mice, clockwork imps and an owl that soars above the audience.
Florence Gould Hall, 55 E 59th St ( Fri 9–Sun 11; $24–$34.

The version of yore:
In The Yorkville Nutcracker, with olde New York of 1895 as the backdrop, performers lead us through a holiday party at Gracie Mansion, dancing at the Crystal Palace in the New York Botanical Garden and ice-skating in Central Park.
The Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse, 695 Park Ave ( Thu 8–Sun 11; $45–$85.

Get on the soul train:
Retro-modern adaptation The Hard Nut takes place in the 1970s and is based on the comic-book art of Charles Burns. Watch traditional characters cut loose as dancing G.I. Joes while crazy party scenes and a glitter-filled Waltz of the Snowflakes spin a funky rendition of the beloved tale.
Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn ( Sat 10–Dec 18; $25–$125.

Risqué business:
Company XIV turns up the heat for a sensual retelling of the classic in Nutcracker Rouge, featuring opera, circus, vaudeville and baroque burlesque. Expect incredible acrobatics and some bare bits and pieces. Merry XXXmas, indeed!
Irondale Center, 85 Oxford St ( $90–$750. Various dates through Jan 7.


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