Nutcracker tells a tale of gently evaporating youth; in the opening scenario, young Clara goes to sleep on Christmas Eve, dreams of fantastic creatures, and meets a handsome prince (who eventually sails away), only to wake up several steps closer to womanhood. Whether you consider Clara's adventure a metaphor for lost love or a brightly hued bourgeois elegy for childhood innocence, Nutcracker pulls the heartstrings (mine, at any rate) with a charming corps of kids and regal pageantry missing from childhood today.
Oh, and dress up for this one. Myself, I invoked Music Writer's Prerogative, which permits impoverished scribes like yours truly to commit sartorial sins such as wearing jeans, steel-toed boots, a bolo tie, and a battered black leather vest (what was I thinking?) to any upscale party, concert, celebrity auction, et cetera. All the other audience members, including a fuchsia-haired lip-pierced lass, looked like they worked at Nordstrom, which, along with the kid bouncing up and down on his first-row seat (in time with the music and silently too!), made for superb people-watching. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
Catch PNB's Nutcracker through Sun Dec 28 (McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St, 441-2424), various times, $17-$94. See www.pnb.org/season/nutcracker/nut-sched.html for a complete schedule.