Christmas season may start in mid-October in the retail world, but in the real world Christmas starts with your first Nutcracker. Saint Louis Ballet presents ten performances of The Nutcracker with choreography by artistic director Gen Horiuchi that makes good use of the Touhill's vast stage. Young Clara experiences a Christmas tree that grows to dramatic height and then finds herself in a realm where treats dance, a nutcracker exhibits gallantry and dolls come to life. The show features dazzling special effects and a nighttime sleigh ride through snowfall, all of which will jump-start any Grinch's heart with holiday joy.
7 p.m. Thu., 2:30 & 7 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 12:30 & 4 p.m. Sun., 2:30 p.m. Mon., 2:30 & 7 p.m. Tue. (Dec. 18-23). Touhill Performing Arts Center (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949 or www.stlouisballet.org). $22 to $55.
Thu., Dec. 18, 7 p.m.; Dec. 19-20, 2:30 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 21, 12:30 & 4 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 22, 2:30 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 23, 2:30 & 7 p.m., 2014