This Thanksgiving weekend, "A Philadelphia Nutcracker" will grace the stage in the Kurtz Performing Arts Center at the William Penn Charter School. This Philadelphia Dance Theater production will run with show times at 7 p.m. Friday, November 23rd, and at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, November 24th. We saw their production last year, and it was FANTASTIC! Here's a re-cap of our 2011 review:

I grew up in the Philadelphia area, and when I was young, the big treat each holiday season was my trip to Wannamaker's (yes, I'm that old) light show and then to see the Nutracker. You know, THE Nutcracker. Downtown. Pennsylvania Ballet. Ballanchine.

That little intro. is to let you know that I have high standards when it comes to this particular production. But I also know the alternative. I danced (poorly) for years at a local dance school and workred my way up from a peppermint candy (non-dancing role) to a snowflake. I had some decent teachers, but our productions were ones that only family and friends could love. Unless of course, you were my little brother, forced to wear tights to play a mouse-fighting soldier. He does not look back fondly on our rinky-dink performances.

So I've seen both sides of the Nutcracker coin (nut?), but I grew up absolutely captivated by the downtown version. The dancers, the sets, and the theater were simply a visual feast... tough to compete with. But I was blown away by the Philadelphia Dance Theatre's production last year. The location, the dancing, and the sets and costumes were wonderful. After a very quick drive to Penn Charter, we entered the beautiful Kurz Perfoming Arts Theatre. It's a gorgeous theater and definitely added to the experience.

We attended the Friday night show, with Maddy Doloway as Clara. She was lovely in her role! The choreography of Joy Delaney Capponi, combined with the expertise of the dancers, was impressive. It had all the build-up and grace of professional productions, and was such a far cry from my own experience dancing in local productions, I was pleasantly surprised. The costumes were a treat for the eyes... many of them were new last year.

Speaking of new last year, the gorgeous scenery for the production was newly crafted by Mt. Airy artist, Christopher Fox. Using local venues from the 1880's, the traditional party scene in Act I was set in the Thomas Mansion on Wissahickon Avenue. The Land of the Snow Queen was the famous "Tommy's Hill," the Northwest's favorite sledding spot in Fairmount Park. And Act II sets treated the audience to several Germantown Avenue merchants where Clara and her Prince will sampled delicious sweets from local bakers and candy makers. It was a treat to see this local twist on such a classic tale.

I went with a group of 4 to 12 year old kids and parents. None of us knew any of the dancers before the show; we all went to see The Nutcracker, not a friend or a family member dance. We had front row seats, and the kids were captivated. We were all raving about the production afterwards. Before we went, I thought it would be "cute", but it far exceeded our expectations. On the wide spectrum from my childhood local productions to the downtown experience, this version was definitely much more like the downtown experience. And parking was free!

Northwest Philly Parents is a partnership between Germantown Avenue Parents and Newsworks.