This year’s “Magic of Christmas” by the Portland Symphony Orchestra and guest artists, at a well-decorated Merrill Auditorium, is a virtual reprise of the 2009 show, in a new more streamlined form.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Last year’s “Magic,” the first under music director Robert Moody, was one of the best on record. A shorter version puts less strain on young attention spans, and there are some arresting new developments, such as the opening tongue-in-cheek “Jingle Bells Forever,” which pits John Phillip Sousa, Handel and the seasonal gang against “Jingle Bells” in a clever and good-natured orchestral parody.

Tenor Joe Cassidy reappears in vocals and as the voice of Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” The condensation of the Dickens’ classic was even better than last year’s, more concise and understandable, and just as tear-jerking.

The ghostly puppets of Figures of Speech Theater, always show-stoppers, were augmented in this performance by the jovial Christmas celebrants, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig.

The Saco Bay Children’s Choir, under the direction of Camille Saucier, made a notable first appearance in “Somewhere in My Memory,” from “Home Alone” and a charmingly medieval-modern version of “This Little Babe” by Benjamin Britten. The harp accompaniment, by Jara Goodrich, captured the feeling of a 13th-century shepherd’s tambour.

Soprano Suzanne Nance was a welcome addition as soloist in “O Holy Night” and “Angels From the Realms of Glory,” with the Magic of Christmas Chorus. Nance has a distinctive, well-articulated voice, capable of hitting high notes without strain and powerful enough to stand out in descants above the orchestra and chorus. The Magic of Christmas dancers illustrated the songs as angels.

I have to confess that I have never heard all the verses of “Angels From the Realms of Glory” before.

Continuing last year’s topical spoof, “Nutcracker, The Oratorio,” Moody, with Nance and Cassidy, sang a patter song to the famous “March of the Toy Soldiers.” Nance was adept at singing syllables as rapid as Rossini’s Largo al Factotum, but sometimes it was hard to understand the jokes. Supertitles, anyone?

Cassidy appeared with a guitar and the accompaniment of principal flautist Lisa Hennessy in a fine version of John Denver’s “A Baby Just Like You.”

Following the traditional singalong, the dancers and chorus performed “Santa Claus Is Dancing to Town.” The popular chorus line of Santa’s was even better than in its debut last year.

During the finale of “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” an expressionist rendering of Santa and two of his reindeer was projected on the side of the proscenium. This was the most athletic and dynamic St. Nicholas and his sleigh ever seen. Is somebody thinking of a new line of action figures? Don’t miss it.

Christopher Hyde’s Classical Beat column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at:

[email protected]