In the Chronicle, Steve Winn hails the start of a crowded Nutcracker season:

?This year’s competition for the yuletide dollar should be especially keen. With the San Francisco Ballet’s eagerly anticipated new production of “Nutcracker” premiering on one side of the bay and Matthew Bourne’s distinctively marked version bowing on the other, the public has an enriched abundance of choices. Counting such curiosities as the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s “Dance-Along Nutcracker” and the National Jewish Theatre Festival’s “MeshugaNutcracker!,” there are at least eight takes on the Tchaikovsky/E.T.A. Hoffman classic on offer. And that’s with Oakland Ballet’s production sidelined in 2004, as that company regroups financially.?

Among the newest entries in Bay Area holiday entertainment is a campy 1992 version of the Nutcracker by Matthew Bourne who, despite those iconic male swans, is still relatively little known in the Bay Area. London?s Alastair Macaulay, the man who literally wrote the book on Bourne, gives a run-down in the Chron:

?[I]n Matthew Bourne’s “Nutcracker!” there is no pointe work, no ballet bravura, no national dances, no Sugar Plum Fairy. Sounds all wrong, but it works like a dream.

At first, it’s darker and more forlorn than other “Nutcrackers” because its central characters are children in an orphanage. In due course, it’s brighter and funnier than other “Nutcrackers” as the children go first to a skating-lake with behavior out of Sonja Henie movies and then to a Sweetieland with designs out of a Busby Berkeley spectacular. And it’s simply revelatory in the way it makes Tchaikovsky’s music strike home as never before. In the climactic dance originally conceived for the Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux, Bourne’s story manages to make the music’s strokes of sudden darkness bisect its sweetness, all while sustaining fantasy and lyricism.?

It opens Friday, but I won?t be catching it until next week due to holiday travels, and I probably won?t be posting again till then either. So enjoy your Thanksgiving and if you really must go out Friday, try a holiday arts performance instead of the mall?you?ll be leave less haggard and more spirited.

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