Nutcracker at BAMIf you’re going to be in New York City this holiday season (shockingly, many tourists do this very thing each year!) this native New Yawker has an awesome tip for you. At least if you’d like to squeeze a performance of The Nutcracker into your festivities, without having to hock your plane tickets and hitchhike home.

Now I’m a huge, longtime fan of Balanchine’s NYC Ballet production
at Lincoln Center–there’s nothing quite like it–but if you’ve got
young kids, it’s pretty hard to justify the $110-150 for orchestra
seats. If you can even find them now.

As an alternative, allow
me to put in a plug for the amazing Nutcracker
at BAM
, at the wonderful Brooklyn Academy of Music. Alexi Ratmansky’s
adaptation performed by the American Ballet Theater is so charming,
engaging and even, yes, humorous, I didn’t notice a single child
sleeping through the dance of the snowflakes.

Which happens to be fairly dramatic, by the way. Who knew beautiful
snowflakes could be so cold? (Pun intended.)

This version opens
in the kitchen of the house before the party, from the point of view of
the cooks and staff, and with some mischievous house mice taking on a
larger role before we even discover them as fighting brigade. The young
dancers playing Clara and her Nutcracker Prince are just wonderful to
watch, and in fact, there are some future stars among the young
party guests as well, who’ve got darn good comic timing.

By the time the snowflakes
fail at keeping Clara and the Prince apart, intermission hits, and the
audience is ready for more.

BAM NutcrackerNutcracker purists will be intrigued by many of the
differences in the BAM production, but I was pleased to realize how much
I enjoyed everyone one of them–the Arabian duet is now a wry piece
featuring a sheik and five mildly jealous wives. The choreography of
three Russians takes inspiration not just from acrobatics, but from the
Three Stooges (they were my six year-old’s favorite). And the dance of
the flowers will keep you smiling with the addition of four hilariously
costumed male bees.

(I may not be the only one who took those
bees as a subtle nod to Brooklyn’s own diverse Mermaid Parade-esque
cast of characters. Or am I reading into it?)

Here the Sugarplum Fairy is more like a benevolent matriarch, not a
prima ballerina–it’s really the grownup Prince and Princess who steal
the show in the final act. I caught the exquisite Yirko Kajiya and Alexandre Hammoudi in
the roles and if their final pas de deux doesn’t make every little girl
in the world want to be a ballerina, I don’t know what will.

So yes, you will miss the magic of Lincoln Center’s growing Christmas tree, but
there’s plenty of magic to be found here too.

Besides, I confess there’s something wonderfully
unpretentious about the whole performance, from the multiracial corps,
to the joyous kids in the audience–not an Eloise wannabe in her $400
designer toddler gown to be found.

As for the ticket prices, even
the best orchestra seats at BAM are just $90, but you can find balcony
seats with a full view as low as $25. And lest you’re afraid to cross a
river out of Manhattan, BAM is super close to the Manhattan and Brooklyn
Bridges, and nearly every subway line will get you within a block or

BAM Nutcracker

Can you tell I really really love this show? We went for the second
time this year. We’re already counting on 2012. –Liz

tickets now for the Nutcracker at BAM’s Howard
Gilman Opera House
which runs through 12/31/11. It’s recommended for
children 4+ but a well-behaved three year-old could make it through.

Hurry, there are 15 performances left this year!