Maine State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” returns to Merrill Auditorium in Portland with the largest cast of performers in the show’s history. Almost 300 dancers from Maine State Ballet and other dance schools will present seven performances beginning Saturday.

“The Nutcracker” features live music by the Maine State Ballet Orchestra, the Musica de Filia Girlchoir and the Westcustogo Youth Chorale.

This year marks Linda MacArthur Miele’s 35th year as artistic director. There are new faces in major roles. Two teenagers from Falmouth, Michael Holden and Elise Bickford, play the Nutcracker Prince and Clara. Holden, a junior who has been accepted at the School of American Ballet in New York City, has been with the Maine State Ballet since he was age 3.

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Nov. 27; 7 p.m. Dec. 2; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 3; and 2 p.m. Dec. 4.

Tickets cost $15 to $55 through Porttix and the Merrill box office: 842-0800 or For information, call 781-7672 or visit

The Portland Symphony Orchestra celebrates the season with “Magic of Christmas,” featuring the feats of acrobats and Christmas carols beginning Dec. 9, also at Merrill Auditorium. Music director Robert Moody will lead the PSO in a program of classical and popular holiday hits. This year, Moody will lift his own voice in “The Rose,” a song made famous by Bette Midler.

Cirque de la Symphonie, which was performed with the PSO in 2009, joins for Tchaikovksy’s “Waltz of the Flowers,” “The Rose” and “Rocket Sleigh” by Boston-based composer Delvyn Case.

“Magic” will run for 11 performances from Dec. 9-18. Tickets are available at For the Dec. 9 preview, all seats cost $25. Tickets to all other shows cost $25 to $55. 

Portland Stage begins its holiday shows this week. Dustin Tucker returns to the studio theater with “The Santaland Diaries,” a cynical but spirited riff on Christmas by humorist David Sedaris. Tickets cost $17 and $20, and generally sell out quickly. The show previews at 7:30 p.m. Friday and continues at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and thereafter at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 18, with an additional performance at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8. Call 774-0465 or visit