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Drosselmeyer? Here. Rat King? Yo. Customers? You have to ask?

It's no accident that Carolina Ballet's production of The Nutcracker is decidedly a non-subscription event: Ballet companies across America traditionally fund the rest of their seasons on the proceeds of this one show. But Robert Weiss' choreography isn't exactly empty calories, and the special effects in this production (including a pneumatic three-story Christmas tree) are truly special.

Jeff Jones' sparkling set and Judanna Lynn's sumptuous costumes deserve equal billing, the North Carolina Symphony's in the house, and children actually sit still for the whole thing: holiday magic, in short, in a (cracked) nutshell. If you miss this weekend's shows (Friday through Sunday at 2 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8), they resume Dec. 20-29. Call 834-4000.

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