NOTHING against the frantic pace, noise and nonsense of pantomime, but Leeds Grand Theatre’s preference for a festive ballet this Christmas is a delightful contrast/alternative/escape.

The Nutcracker has played its part in Northern Ballet artistic director David Nixon’s life for 40 years now, and he knows it is the perfect choice to end the year, even if it is lashing rain rather than snow that accompanies the walk to the theatre.

The snow instead is to be encountered in glistening, twinkling, heavy-falling form on the stage front cloth, just as it greeted you when Nixon last revived his beautiful Regency setting of the late-19th century Christmas ballet in early December 2010.

If you enjoy Charles Cusick Smith’s designs for the York Theatre Royal pantomime, then you can re-double that joy for The Nutcracker, where his grand designs are truly a magical winter wonderland, whether for the castle, the snowy fairyland or the beautiful garden of Act II. Christropher Giles’s contribution as costume design assistant is vital too: the Regency couture is as spectacular as the scenery, and everything is shown off to maximum effect in Mark Jonathan’s lighting.

Nixon’s choreography to Tchaikovsky’s familiar music is enchanting, charming, humorous and often as dazzling as the centrepiece Christmas tree. It gives opportunities for so many of the company to shine, especially in the amusingly competitive pageant of national dances – Arabian, Russian Cossack, French, Chinese and more – so that not only Michela Paolacci’s Clara, Isaac Lee-Baker’s Mouse King, Isabella Gasparini’s Sugar Plum Fairy and Hiranao Takahashi’s Cavalier stand out.

Tickets are selling very fast: you better crack on with making a booking now as you would be nuts to miss out.

The Nutcracker, Northern Ballet, Leeds Grand Theatre, until December 30. Box office: 0844 848 2700 or