The Nutcracker Hong Kong Ballet Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Ends December 26 The Hong Kong Ballet returns with Stephen Jefferies' production of Tchaikovsky's Christmas classic for the ninth consecutive season. In this version, Clara is a girl who is given a nutcracker doll by the magician Drosselmeyer and develops a crush on his handsome nephew. On Christmas night she dreams that the house is attacked by rats; that she and the Nutcracker defeat the Rat King, and the Nutcracker is transformed into Drosselmeyer's nephew. Together they journey to the Kingdom of Sweets, where dances from around the world are performed for them, and they twirl together before she returns home - and wakes up. This well conceived production provides a fun family show while retaining enough choreographic interest for the ballet purists. The Stahlbaums' Christmas party has real conviviality, enhanced by Peter Farmer's charming Victorian sets and costumes, and the second act's divertissements have some original touches. The impact of a recent spate of injuries and illnesses showed in the first act, which looked under-rehearsed in places. But the children from various ballet schools got their choreography right and were cute without being irritating. Fuzuki Nakajima stood out as Clara's bullying brother Fritz, proving he can act as well as dance. Conrad Dy-Liacco returned as the drunken grandfather, a performance that has become as much of an institution as the production itself. The company was in much better form in the second act. The Waltz of the Flowers was elegantly led by Chantel Elizabeth Roulston and Kenji Hidaka; Ayako Fujioka and Liang Jing brought real artistry to the Arabian dance, and there was a dashing Russian dance from Hikota Taira, Fuzuki Nakajima and Yuh Egami. Crystal Costa, the only dancer to perform both the young Clara and the ballerina role, gave an enchanting portrayal of the transition from child to radiant young woman, and her dancing had musicality and feeling as well as technical strength. Eryck Brahmania partnered her well, but was tentative on his solos - he needs to let his natural energy and panache come through as he moves to principal roles. There was the added pleasure of live accompaniment from the Hong Kong Sinfonietta under Yip Wing-sie.