While visions of nutcrackers and Victorian misers dance through the Yuletide entertainment listings, this production offers a delightful alternative. Forty kids, age 9 to 19, romp through Alice Hammerstein Mathias and William Mount-Burkes contemporary version of Victor Herberts operetta Babes in Toyland. But this is no kiddie pageant designed for parents to gush at their children onstage; rather, it is a polished exhibit of remarkable young performers. Director-choreographer Devon Yates, founder of Theatre 360 (a serious training ground for young performers), demands precision, timing and stage presence from her charges. Musical director Ryan Cantwell and his small orchestra provide excellent accompaniment. Highly impressive are some of the older students, particularly Samuel Lopez, who shines via his bizarre physicality and fine vocal work, as the plays villain, Pete Pinkerton. Perhaps the finest moments comes with a pair of brand-new toys in the shape of ballet dancers Alex Hurren and Maxine Hillman, whose pas de deux give hope to the future of American dance. Scores of costumes are meticulously created by Erin Augustine, keeping the production values as strong as those afforded by host Pasadena Playhouses lighting and sound. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave.; Thurs.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 6 p.m.; thru Dec. 21. (626) 356-7529. Theatre 360 and Pasadena Playhouse.
Thursdays, Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 & 6 p.m. Starts: Dec. 11. Continues through Dec. 21, 2008