Need a novel gift idea that'll be met with more gratitude than yet another candle or cashmere scarf? Borrow someone's children for the morning and take them to Jerry Griswold's marionette version of Tchaikovsky's ballet. Not only is the traditional staging a little tired — interpretations such as The Nutcracker Swings and Mixed Nutz prove that — but it's also a little long for wriggly kids hopped up on holiday goodies. A swift hourlong pop-up storybook of a show that lets the puppets do the dancing, this production ranks second on a kid's wish list behind only the Candy Land board game being real. Tailored to short attention spans, each song brings a new trick. Sitting around the "stage," which is just the blue portion of the room's carpet, kids' eyes grew wide as a parade of characters trotted by, or a shadow orchestra attacked the overture, or Slinky-like flutes formed words and pictures. No matter how you feel about children, very little compares to their brand of anticipatory excitement. Near the grand finale, a disco ball throws its confetti on the floor. As "oohs" and "aahs" chimed, little hands lurched out in an effort to grab the furiously flitting lights. Sure, it's a show for them, but to this adult, the holidays seemed more magical in that hour than they had in years. Puppeteers rotate, but the cast at the performance reviewed was focused and strong. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m., Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m., through Jan. 16. (213) 250-9995.
Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Starts: Nov. 6. Continues through Jan. 16, 2010