Zippy ‘Nut’ at Zeum 

Full-length productions of “Nutcracker” can test the patience of small kids and harried parents alike. Mark Foehringer has come up with a beguiling alternative: the choreographer’s family-style version of Tchaikovsky’s ballet runs a brisk 50 minutes without an intermission.

The production, which opened last weekend and continues through Dec. 20 in the Zeum Theater at the Children’s Museum, doesn’t include every episode in the evergreen holiday classic.  But, as directed by Foehringer and danced by members of the Mark Foehringer Dance Project, it hits the highlights without wasting a minute of time. Call it a “Nutcracker” for the Twitter Generation.

Foehringer’s staging fills the Zeum’s modest space with a minimum of fuss.  Peter Crompton’s sets are limited to a few pieces moved on and off to suggest Drosselmeyer’s toyshop, the party scene and Candy Land.

Tucked into a corner of the stage, the nine-piece ensemble Magic*Magic plays Tchaikovsky’s score in an efficient arrangement by Michael Morgan.  The scenes proceed at a steady pace, and if viewers don’t get much of a chance to bask in the glow, they never have time to lose interest, either.

A small corps of dancers, brightly costumed by Richard Battle, brings the story to life.

LizAnne Roman takes top honors in a double turn as a poised Sugar Plum Fairy and an energetic Mouse Queen.  Allie Papazian is a fresh, charming Clara, and Chad Dawson doubles as the Nephew and the Nutcracker.  Brian Fisher is a suitably sinister Drosselmeyer; Juan de la Rosa is a fierce Mouse King.  The Mice, danced by Jetta Martin, Kao Saephanh and Sonja Dale, are irresistible.

So is the music.  Hearing the score live makes all the difference, for the dancers as well as the audience.  Magik*Magic, playing without a conductor, gives a vivacious performance of Morgan’s orchestral reduction.  This may not be a complete “Nutcracker,” but at times it almost sounds like one.

The Nutcracker at Zeum
Zeum, 221 Fourth St., San Francisco
When: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; closes Dec. 20
Tickets: $25
Contact: (415) 433-1235,

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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