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What's on stage: Moscow Ballet's Nutcracker, Terry Fator, Salute to Vienna, Sebastian Maniscalco

Photos by the Moscow Ballet The Moscow Ballet, shown here in 2013, returns to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersbug Dec. 26 and 27, 2018, to present the Great Russian Nutcracker, in which Uncle Drosselmeyer brings magical life-sized Matrushka Dolls to the Christmas Eve Party. [Courtesy of the Moscow Ballet.]
Photos by the Moscow Ballet The Moscow Ballet, shown here in 2013, returns to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersbug Dec. 26 and 27, 2018, to present the Great Russian Nutcracker, in which Uncle Drosselmeyer brings magical life-sized Matrushka Dolls to the Christmas Eve Party. [Courtesy of the Moscow Ballet.]
Published Dec. 26, 2018

MOSCOW BALLET: GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER

It must be Christmas, because Great Russian Nutcracker is back. And more than ever, the cast includes young local dancers playing mice, party guests, snowflakes and snow dancers. The Moscow Ballet, founded 25 years ago around choreographer Stanislav Vlasov's adaptation of the Tchaikovsky suite, joins forces with thousands of students as it tours the United States and Canada.

Most principal dancers have performed in ballet companies in Russia; some have won awards in national or international competitions. The story for the most part remains the same as when The Nutcracker debuted in December 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia — the Christmas Eve party with the Russian court dancers, Father Christmas, the Snow Maiden and the Nutcracker Prince.

The ballet's signature twist started in 2012, when it replaced the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy with the Dove of Peace, a male-female couple. "The Moscow Ballet dancers themselves are not strangers to violence," the ballet says on nutcracker.com, citing one dancer who was in Egypt during the 2013 Arab Spring uprising and others who demonstrated for peace. Many of the young dancers in this production come from the Judith Lee Johnson School of Dance in St. Petersburg.

$34 and up. 7 p.m. Wednesday, and 3 and 7 p.m. Thursday at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7832. themahaffey.com.

A WALTZ: SALUTE TO VIENNA

A Viennese tradition is also Clearwater's, every New Year's Eve for more than 20 years. Salute to Vienna brings singers, champion ballroom dancers and a full orchestra to ring in 2019. A new program includes waltzes, operettas and polkas by Johann Strauss Jr., Franz Lehar and Emmerich Kalman. $25 and up. 8 p.m. Monday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.

HEARS VOICES: TERRY FATOR

With an irrepressible puppet on his arm, ventriloquist Terry Fator went on America's Got Talent and knocked 'em dead. His bid to win Season 2 opened with "Emma Taylor" singing Etta James' hit At Last. The hits kept coming — six more puppets impersonating even more singers along with Fator, who would go on to win the show and make millions. $43.25 and up. 8 p.m. Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

LOTSA LIGHT: CIRCQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE

It appears the circus will survive without elephants. Cirque Dreams, a recent incarnation on the "Cirque" circuit, delivers aeralists, jugglers, song and dance. Cirque Dreams Holidaze combines Christmas and Hanukkah traditions and lights to glittering effect, all wrapped up in a family-friendly package. Performers change brightly colored costumes in the flash of an eye and magicians double as acrobats. Lots of movement, from jump rope to ballet. $35 and up. Starts at 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7832. themahaffey.com.

STILL HUNGRY: SEBASTIAN MANISCALCO

With comic legends, you never think about the fact that it's an act. On open mic night, it's usually impossible to forget. But there's another very respectable tier in between, actually quite close to the top, where comics like Sebastian Maniscalco reside. The Chicago-born, Italian-American comedian was further down the food chain when Andrew Dice Clay spotted him. He soon became a fixture on late-night television. On his Stay Hungry tour, Maniscalco might touch on relationships or interacting with strangers or tell family stories like this one: "I remember when I was young, I was watching TV, and my father came into the room, agitated, and told me to start a business. I was 8 years old." $43.50 and up. 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Morsani Hall, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.