1) Here comes the ballet that even non-ballet fans enjoy. The Nutcracker provides a huge share of annual ticket sales for ballet companies across the nation, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production is among the grandest of all. It was developed by PBT artistic director Terrence S. Orr, who drew in part from the original 1892 choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. But Orr also studied many contemporary versions, then teamed with his PBT colleagues to create a one-of-a-kind synthesis of classical ballet, modern artistry, and stunning stagecraft. (See the background story here.) This Nutcracker is set at an old-time Christmas party in Pittsburgh at the turn of the last century. Then, as we move into the realm of fantasy—with the Nutcracker doll coming to life and leading a cast of adult and child dancers through a visit to the Land of Enchantment—there are dazzling special dances, amazing magic tricks, and breathtaking stage effects. The music of course is by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Performances continue through December 27. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. (MV)
2) The holidays are full of traditions around these parts: Italians have the Feast of the Seven Fishes; Eastern Europeans have their 12-dish supper; and the Elf on the Shelf is here to stay. This year, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History wants to be part of your seasonal traditions with the Neapolitan presepio, a Pittsburgh tradition at the museum since 1957. This carefully preserved Nativity scene, which covers 250 square feet, offers a glimpse into 18th-century Italy with its life-size figures handcrafted by artisans between 1700 and 1830. While there, enjoy the Carnegie Trees. This year’s theme is Beloved Children’s Books, featuring trees inspired by The Cat in the Hat, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Jungle Book, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Docents are available to speak with visitors of all ages about the presepio from 1–3 p.m. every day.display too which this year focus on the Americas. Both exhibits run through January 7 and are free with museum admission. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 440 Forbes Ave., Oakland.