American Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker choreographed by Alexie Ratmansky is an unabashed, unalloyed delight. I caught the Sunday matinee at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House surrounded by mounds of children who squealed with delight about the kitchen hijinks, the party, and, most of all, the battle between the scurrying mice and the toy soldiers under the command of the toy soldiers. Clara’s bravery in slaying the Mouse King – on the brink of victory – created a healthy tonic of respect and possibility for the young charges in the audience. Tchaikovsky’s lovely pas de deux at the end of the Second Act drew sighs of wonder from the young and quiet admiration from their elders followed by vociferous applause from all. A spellbinding afternoon. If you are on the West Coast next fall, look for this production!