You might've seen The Nutcracker before - but you've never seen it quite like this. Sure, BalletMet's take on the Christmas classic includes familiar characters and Tchaikovsky's well-known score. But there's also a fun sense of humor that's unique to the Columbus version.

You might've seen The Nutcracker before - but you've never seen it quite like this. Sure, BalletMet's take on the Christmas classic includes familiar characters and Tchaikovsky's well-known score. But there's also a fun sense of humor that's unique to the Columbus version.

Just because it's classic doesn't mean it's static.

"To me the tradition of The Nutcracker is very important, but it is just as important to keep the ballet relevant to our current audiences," said Gerard Charles, BalletMet's artistic director.

The Nutcracker runs Dec. 11-23 at the Ohio Theatre. Tickets start at $29, and a limited number of $15 rush tickets will be available to students with a valid ID two hours before show time.

"It is a much-loved ballet that held many happy memories for me, and I wanted to create a ballet that unified all I loved about the versions I knew," Charles said of the version he first staged five years ago. "The overall concept for the piece remains the same, but we constantly are reevaluating elements of the work and making improvements where we can."

Though the story of young Clara, her Nutcracker prince and that pesky rodent brigade didn't change much, his take is characterized by lively choreography, vibrant costumes and an emotive, lyrical vibe. There's even a slight comedic side, the result of collaborating with noted dancer and physical comedian Robert Post.

Each year, he and company members tweak choreography to improve focus, change steps to showcase a dancer's progress and add new costumes. The result is a ballet that evokes a warm nostalgic aura and stands as a unique work of art.

It takes a cast of nearly 200 to stage, and resident dancers are joined by students in the organization's Dance Academy.

"One of the things that make our version unique is that it's a lot of fun," said Jackson Sarver, who will again dance the role of the Nutcracker prince. "As an audience member, it's really easy to watch."

Annie Mallonee, dancing the role of Clara for the first time with BalletMet, agreed that the version beloved in Columbus is something special.

"I grew up in Sacramento, so I got to do it a lot as a kid," she explained. "It's funny: Having done it so many times, I always thought I'd get sick of it at some point. I haven't at all."