PORTLAND – The tree is trimmed, the gifts (mostly) bought. The menu is planned. All that’s left is the celebrating.

Not so fast.

There are still holiday events worth attending, even though the Christmas clock shows less than 48 hours.

At 2 and 7 p.m. today, Portland Ballet will present its annual version of “The Victorian Nutcracker” at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. Portland Ballet sets its story in Victorian-era Portland. The Morse family hosts a lovely party at the Victoria Mansion, during which young Olivia receives a nutcracker that comes alive.

Magic ensues.

“We like this show because it keeps the traditional storyline intact, but we give it local connections,” said Leslie Gibbons, development director for Portland Ballet. “The set and costumes are inspired by the Victoria Mansion and the Victorian era here in Portland. But we keep it true to the original story.”

Portland Ballet has presented its version of “The Nutcracker” since 1992. It’s proven popular. People like hearing local names, like Kotzschmar, Baxter and Brown.

“I think it connects us to our place,” said Eugenia O’Brien, the company’s artistic and executive director. “It’s an added nuance of comfort. If you go home for the holidays, why not on stage, too? It’s fun to celebrate the icons who still have names on buildings on Congress Street.”

The sets are based on rooms at the mansion, and the costume designs are derived from portraits hanging in the house.

This year’s performance should be particularly engaging. Portland Ballet has enlisted its A-cast for this show, which will feature Katrina Smedal as the Snow Princess and Joseph Jeffries as the Snow Prince. Jeffries, who lives in the Boston area, is performing with Portland Ballet throughout the current season.

A former member of all-male Trockadero dance company, Jeffries is accustomed to dancing roles for either gender. In this piece, he will dance a male role.

“His dance training is fabulous and his dance performance is fabulous,” Gibbons said. “Because he has danced en pointe and female roles, he knows what it’s like to be a female during partnering. And because he has played male roles, he has had to lift men and partner with men. So he is really strong, which makes it nice for a ballerina. She feels secure. He (executes) fabulous lifts and throws.”

Megan Buckley reprises her role as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Portland Ballet tweaked a few elements of the program. The flower scene has been streamlined a bit, and the fight scene between the mice and soldiers has been given a bit of levity.

“We like to view this show as a holiday treat. It’s our little gift to the community that keeps getting better,” O’Brien said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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