'Nutcracker' is a sweet treat at Buhach Colony High in Atwater

The theater at Buhach Colony High School will take on a sugary-sweet Christmas atmosphere tonight and tomorrow with “The Nutcracker.”

The Merced Academy of Dance will perform the classic, featuring dancing gingerbread men, candy canes and sugar plum fairies, in three shows this weekend at Buhach Colony High School, 1800 Buhach Road.

Today’s showing is at 7 p.m., and Saturday’s shows are at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets, available at the door, are $15 for children and seniors and $18 for adults.

During performances this week for Buhach students, director Jane Vann Bryan asked, “How many of you here have never seen a ballet?” Hands shot up across the theater. “This is my favorite kind of audience,” Vann Bryan said, referring to the newcomers.

The mostly high school- and college-age dancers will be leaping and pirouetting across the stage in costumes with hints of Spanish, Chinese and Middle Eastern influences.

Buhach students on Thursday got a taste – just one act – but the remaining shows of the Christmastime favorite will be full-length performances.

“The Nutcracker” is a ballet scored with iconic Christmas music by Peter Tchaikovsky. It tells the story of a girl who may or may not be dreaming when a nutcracker transforms into a man. Before taking the girl to the “Land of Sweets,” the nutcracker must battle the Mouse King, who has led an onslaught against gingerbread soldiers.