Visions of Sugarplums Pirouette Before Them

What would the holidays be like without the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Land of the Sweets?

Not quite as tasty, at least for the children who attended the Saturday matinee performance of "Nutcracker" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.

The ballet, set in 19th century Germany, showcased dancers with the San Francisco Ballet who twirled to Tchaikovsky before the young audience.

For the boys, there were Russian Cossacks, an obnoxious brother and a fight between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

For the girls, there were Sugar Angels, waltzes with snowflakes and flowers, a swan boat . . . and even a cool-looking prince.

Some of the kids got more involved than just watching. More than a few who gathered outside the center before the performance were dressed much like their favorite characters from the ballet.

And with a 28-foot-high Christmas tree, 100 pounds of paper snow and thousands of flickering lights on stage, it was easy finding the right seasonal spirit.

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