What makes “The Nutcracker” so appealing that it brings back audiences year after year? Is it Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music? Or E.T.A. Hoffman’s charming (if convoluted) tale? Perhaps it’s the hundreds of adorable children who perform in Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballet every year, or the opportunity to see the familiar transformed into something fresh. Whatever the reason, the Twin Cities area has “Nutcrackers” galore. From family-friendly to risqué, and traditional to radical, we’ve got a “Nutcracker” for you.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Nutcracker (the un-ballet)

By: Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

What’s it like: Artists with and without disabilities perform in Poe’s story “Hop-Frog,” with Tchaikovsky’s score reinterpreted by composer Aaron Gabriel.

Whom it’s for: Folks who like their holiday entertainment with a macabre twist.

When: Ends Dec. 19 at Interact Center, St. Paul.

Tickets: $20; $5 on Wednesdays and for people with disabilities plus one companion; interactcenter.com.

Nutcracker (not so) Suite

By: James Sewell Ballet.

What’s it like: Celebrated choreographer Myron Johnson teams up with JSB for an irreverent mashup of hip-hop, R&B and Christmas carols, plus a life-size Barbie doll.

Whom it’s for: Audiences who like a little sass and glitter with their ballet.

When: Dec. 4-20 (racier versions Dec. 11 and 19) at Cowles Center, Mpls.

Tickets: $25-$45; thecowlescenter.org.

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

By: Metropolitan Ballet.

What’s it like: Giuseppe Bausilio, from Broadway’s “Billy Elliot,” joins the student dancers and professionals of Metropolitan Ballet and Hopkins Youth Ballet for this traditional version.

Whom it’s for: People who hate canned music. You’ll appreciate the full sounds of the Kenwood Symphony Orchestra.

When: Dec. 5-6 at Hopkins High School.

Tickets: $19-$49; metroballet.org.

Great Russian Nutcracker

By: Moscow Ballet.

What’s it like: Choreographed post-Cold War, this production, featuring a cast of Russian dancers, strives to carry a message of peace and harmony between nations.

Whom it’s for: Traditionalists who love an elaborate set, detailed costumes and technically proficient performers — although the plot detours slightly from the original ballet, cutting the Sugarplum Fairy and sending Clara and the Prince to the Land of Peace and Harmony instead.

When: Dec. 5, Orpheum Theatre, Mpls.

Tickets: $32-$102; hennepintheatretrust.org.

Visions of Sugarplums: A Burlesque Nutcracker

By: Lily Verlaine and Nadine DuBois.

What’s it like: Local burlesque favorites offer a spicy alternative to the classic.

Whom it’s for: Adults seeking a sexy, fun night out.

When: Dec. 11-27, Ritz Theater, Mpls.

Tickets: $35; visionsofsugarplumsshow.com.

Minnesota Nutcracker

By: Twin Cities Ballet

What’s it like: The ballet gets a North Star State spin, with Clara’s story set at Twin Cities locations including Rice Park, Summit Avenue and the banks of the Mississippi River.

Whom it’s for: Audiences in the south metro — especially at a time of year when the roads can be dicey.

When: Dec. 11-13 at Ames Center, Burnsville.

Tickets: $18-$34; twincitiesballet.org.

Clara’s Dream

By: St. Paul Ballet.

What’s it like: The St. Paul Ballet has upped the production values of its 90-minute take on Tchaikovsky’s ballet, with a new set designed by Anne Henly and costumes by Christina Onusko.

Whom it’s for: Younger audiences, with its shorter length and focus on Clara’s journey from adolescence to adulthood.

When: Dec. 17-20 at Macalester College, St. Paul.

Tickets: $16-$26; spballet.org.

Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy

By: Minnesota Dance Theatre.

What’s it like: With more than 150 dancers, artists and production professionals, including a 44-piece orchestra led by Philip Brunelle, Loyce Houlton’s “Nutcracker Fantasy” continues its reign as the gold standard of “Nutcrackers” in Minnesota, beloved by Minnesota audiences since the 1960s.

Whom it’s for: Those who want the whole shebang — elaborate costumes and sets, fantastic dancers and wonderful music performed live.

When: Dec. 18-22 at State Theatre, Mpls.

Tickets: $20-$75; mndance.org.


By: Minnesota Dance Collaborative.

What’s it like: Aerial performers, tap dancers, Bob Fosse jazz hands and hip-hop infuse this fresh take, with adult and youth performance groups and narration by storytellers Shelli Manzoline and Darrin Shaughnessy.

Whom it’s for: People new to dance. The storytelling aspect and fun dance styles should provide an accessible entry point to one of the world’s most famous ballets.

When: Dec. 18-20 at Southern Theater, Mpls.

Tickets: Free-$38; southerntheater.org.

The Classic Nutcracker

By: Ballet Minnesota.

What’s it like: A mix of students and professionals offers a high-energy spectacle in the O’Shaughnessy’s roomy yet intimate space.

Whom it’s for: Anyone who loves seeing cute children dance.

When: Dec. 18-20 at the O’Shaughnessy, St. Catherine University, St. Paul.

Tickets: $18-$44; oshag.stkate.edu.

Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts writer.