When American Ballet Theatre’s new production of The Nutcracker premieres at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on December 22, audiences will encounter a vision of the holiday classic like no other. The staging—with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, spectacular sets and costumes by Richard Hudson (well-known for The Lion King and his designs for opera and dance), and Jennifer Tipton’s evocative lighting—follows the ballet’s traditional outline, based on the story by E.T. A. Hoffmann, The Mouse King and the Nutcracker Prince. But it also bursts with fresh dramatic theatricality. Ratmansky creates ballets that are emotionally rich, kinetically responsive to music (and what music: a Tchaikovsky masterwork), full of wit and imagination.

Here, the mouse king is a force to be reckoned with. Not warm and cuddly, he has seven heads and, with frock coat and white breeches, seems reminiscent of Napoleon. Bumblebees buzz around brightly costumed ballerinas (think fuchsia peonies) during the sweeping “Waltz of the Flowers.” The Land of Sweets—the world to which Clara and her Nutcracker Prince travel—comes to life like a multihued confection with chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, and tea from China.

This Nutcracker is a delight for the eye and good for the soul. If you're in New York City during the holidays, don’t miss it. The production runs through January 2.

Mario R. Mercado is the arts editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Fabrizio Ferri.