There's no fantasy quite as befuddling and beloved as E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Tchaikovsky's ballet version, far from a pretty platitude, never fails to enchant for the same reason it's so damn strange. With an oddly developed romance and the presence of lots of little confections in a fantasy world presumably of the heroine's making, it's hard to readily decipher the plot. The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band throws out the liner notes and, appropriately, goes extempore with its Dance-Along Nutcracker: Ratified! The band retains the whimsy and music of the original ballet, but dispenses with elegant, overly serious performers. Instead, the audience gets to dress up in fanciful costumes while lollygagging and pirouetting around the stage to the accompaniment of the musicians. In addition, the story takes another detour rather than the focus being on protagonist Clara and her wooden beau, this year the rats (who are the Nutcracker's archenemies, in case you forgot) take to the stage and explain themselves with a tongue-in-cheek counterpoint. What with all the marching musicians and potentially graceless actors, it's a mutiny that'll make the ballet seem terribly passé in comparison.
Sat., Dec. 8, 2:30 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 11 a.m. & 3 p.m., 2007