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The Nutcracker Leads This Week's Arts Picks

Canton Ballet presents The NutcrackerBy the middle of the 19th century, when Alexander Dumas wrote his interpretation of what became everyone's favorite Christmas ballet, the story was already nearly half a century old. The Nutcracker ballet traces its origins to E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 book, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which, like the familiar ballet, involves a nutcracker doll who comes alive on Christmas Eve and takes the little girl away to a far-off dreamland filled with toys, where he whips out his sword and defeats the Mouse King. It wasn't until 1892 that the celebrated Russian choreographer Marius Petipa commissioned Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to write the music to go with his dance steps. A year later the Kirov Ballet gave its premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. It was 1940 before the dance came to the United States, on a tour by the Ballets Russes. The Canton Ballet presents its version, directed by Cassandra Crowley, in four performances this weekend: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at Canton's Palace Theatre (605 Market Ave. N., Canton). The pre-professional ballet company has performed the Christmas classic every year since 1968. Tickets: $8-22. Call 330.455.7220 or go to cantonballet.com.

CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR

The pianist Christopher Taylor has memorized a lot of notes in his day, and he'll put a lot of them together at 7:30 tonight when he continues the Cleveland Museum of Art Viva and Gala Around Town celebration of the 100th birthday of composer Olivier Messiaen. He'll play "Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus," which roughly translates (with echoes of Wallace Stevens) to "Twenty Ways of Looking at the Infant Jesus." More than two hours in length, the work consists of 20 movements reflecting on the baby Messiah and all that birth implies - from calm to awe to exuberance. Taylor will perform from memory at the Old Stone Church (91 Public Square). Tickets: $29, or $27 for CMA members. Call 216.421.7350 or go to clemusart.com.

CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA CHRISTMAS CONCERTS

You are not likely to ever hear "Deck the Halls" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" played with more refinement or a greater sense of ensemble than in the coming days at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave.), when the Cleveland Orchestra performs its annual Christmas concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and several area choirs. What more do you need to know? Robert Porco conducts performances at 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, as well as 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, December 20, and 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 21. Tickets: $33-$80. Call 216.231.111 or go to clevelandorchestra.com.

TREMONT ART WALK

This month's Tremont Art Walk is busy with an open-studio event at Voss/Edwards Gallery (2275 Professor Ave.), hosted by Laila Voss and Bruce Edwards, with guests Michael Loderstedt and Lori Kella, and an addition to the neighborhood, a new business called Virescent Designs Ltd., showing "What If" jewelry by proprietor Alison Saville, who makes things out of "various parts of random broken or unwanted objects." Asterisk Gallery (2393 Professor Ave.) offers its fourth annual Christmas silent auction, while around the corner, a group of artists will explore shadows as an art form at Doubting Thomas Gallery (856 Jefferson Ave.). Brandt Gallery (1028 Kenilworth Ave.) opens an installation exhibit by Linda Smith called Ant Farm, while Studio 11 (2337 W. 11th St.) offers work by Meredith Hahn. Most galleries are open from 6-10 p.m. For more information call 216.522.0006 or go to tremontartwalk.org.

DAVID'S REDHAIRED DEATH

Death, redheads and McDonald's are all obsessions in Sherry Kramer's play, David's Redhaired Death, which has its Ohio premiere at the Bang and the Clatter Theatre. It's the story of two women who fall in love and deal with the death of one of their brothers. Jean and Marilyn are redheads in a world of mousy blondes, but their relationship stalls when they confront death. The women struggle to hold on to each other, but also to let go, in a modern fairy tale where the steed is a 1970 Pontiac Tempest and the story about McDonald's will make you fall in love. Sean McConaha directs. The show opens at 8 p.m. with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays at B & C's Sometimes in the Silence Theatre (224 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $15. Students and seniors pay as you can. Call 330.606.5317 or go to bnctheatre.com.

JOSHUA SMITH AND JORY VINIKOUR

Four stars will shine in a chamber music concert tonight at 8 at First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland (3630 Fairmount Blvd., Shaker Heights), but only two of them are musicians. The other two are instruments - harpsichords, to be precise, two French-style, double manuals with a dynamic range that will change your mind about harpsichords sounding like well-mannered music boxes. One of them came from Paris, but the other was made in Cleveland by Philip M. Cucchiara and David Pierce for the late, legendary Cleveland harpsichordist Frieda K. Schumacher. Chicago-born harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, who went to Paris on a Fulbright scholarship and stayed to build a career there, will perform works by Bach, Duphly and Handel, and will be joined by Cleveland Orchestra principal flutist Joshua Smith in sonatas for flute and harpsichord by J.S. Bach. Admission: $10 donation at the door to benefit the church's music programs. Call 216.932.7480 or go to firstbaptistcleveland.org.

CIM CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL FACULTY RECITAL

A whole lot of wind power will gather at 8 tonight at the Cleveland Institute of Music's Mixon Hall (11021 East Blvd.) as Cleveland Orchestra Assistant Principal Bassoonist Barrick Stees anchors a program called "The Bassoon in Contemporary Solo and Chamber Music." With the exception of a single pianist (Elizabeth DeMio), he'll be joined by a whole bunch of wind players, including the University of Akron-based Solaris Wind Quintet. The program includes works by John Steinmetz, Nikola Resanovic, Andre Previn, Willard Elliott and Jeffrey Rathbun. Free. Call 216.791.5000 or go to cim.edu.

MICHAEL MEDVED SIGNING

In The 10 Big Lies About America, Michael Medved takes any shade of criticism about the United States, amplifies it to the extreme and then claims that someone is out there peddling it as an absolute truth. For example, Big Lie No. 1 is that "America was founded on Genocide vs. Native Americans." Of course, he's right that disease - which came with the European colonists and explorers - killed native Americans by the millions. That doesn't change Christopher Columbus' diary, which says in the way of sizing up the Arawaks when he landed in the Bahamas, "They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane ... They would make fine servants ... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." Similarly, Medved plays with statements like "The United States is uniquely guilty for the crime of slavery" (as if anyone was calling us "unique"), "Government programs offer the only remedy for economic downturns and poverty" (as if anyone was really claiming that) and six other inventions of his misguided psyche. His 10th big lie - that America is in the midst of an irreversible moral decline - was invented by his colleagues on the religious right, and the only reason Medved calls it a lie is to challenge the word "irreversible." No doubt he'll explain how when he comes to Borders Books and Music (30121 Detroit Road, Westlake) to sign copies from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Free. Call 440.892.7667 or go to borders.com.

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