NIGHTTIME building work on the £150 million Victoria Gate shopping development makes for a somewhat fraught, detoured walk to the Leeds Grand Theatre. Once inside the auditorium, however, you can feel the magic of The Nutcracker seeping through you...and that's merely the pre-show chatter of expectation.

Northern Ballet artistic director David Nixon has enjoyed a relationship with Tchaikovsky's ballet for more than 40 years, and every few years he revives his gorgeous 2007 production as the perfect winter festive treat to see out the old year.

Outside is the warmest December in years, but snow is falling on the stage front cloth to set the atmosphere for Nixon's elegant Regency England setting of the late-19th century Christmas ballet.

Charles Cusick Smith's grand designs take the breath away, each surpassing the last in his winter wonderland as he transports the audience from castle drawing room party to toy battlefield, snowy fairyland and a world above the clouds. The "transformation" scene at the close of the first act, as snow falls anew, is more beautiful than ever, not least thanks to Mark Jonathan's lighting.

David Nixon and Christopher Giles's Regency couture adds to the splendour, but the joy above all else is Nixon's sublime choreography to Tchaikovsky's cherished music: not only enchanting, beautiful, spectacular and charming, but also full of humour and even a little mischief. What's more, it elicits so many wonderful performances, led by Javier Torres's Cavalier and Lucia Solari's Sugar Plum Fairy, while Rachael Gillespie's Clara is feather-light and dances exquisitely with Ashley Dixon's Nutcracker Prince. The second-half pageant of national dances is even better than last time, commanded with aplomb by Matthew Topliss's Herr Drosselmeyer.

Preview YORK company Real People Theatre will hold auditions for This Changed My Life, next year's York International Women’s Festival production, on January 9 at Brigantes, in Micklegate, from 11am to 1pm.

"Our aim is to create a collage of drama, poetry, song, dance, images and music to express women’s life-changing experiences and share with the audience how resilient we humans have to be in order to deal with whatever happens to us on a daily basis," says director Sue Lister, who can be contacted on 01904 488870 if you want to participate.

"I'm looking for women with stories to tell," Sue continues. "We’ll be rehearsing on Saturday mornings through January and February, with York St John University hosting our two performances for the 17th consecutive year on Monday, March 14 and Tuesday, March 15 at 7.30 pm.

"Women are welcome to ring me to discuss possibilities and to let me know they’re coming. If there are access problems, we can arrange to audition elsewhere as the rehearsal space is fully accessible."

The Nutcracker, Northern Ballet, Leeds Grand Theatre, until January 2. Box office: 0844 848 2700 or