G. Riley Mills and Ralph Covert's updated, somewhat dark version of The Nutcracker owes more to E.T.A. Hoffmann than to Tchaikovsky. In fact they use almost none of Tchaikovsky's music and jumble the story around, focusing not on the young girl, Clara, but on her brother Fritz. He's an out-of-control video-game addict who accidentally unleashes the Mouse King--the villain of his current game--then defeats him with the help of a female nutcracker. If the songs are on the forgettable side, the story is entertaining enough. But what really makes this Emerald City Theatre Company production is Dado's intense, energetic ensemble, led by Andy Rothenberg as the superbly evil Mouse King. Through 12/31; see www.chicagoreader.com for complete schedule. 12/2-12/18: Thu-Fri 10:15 AM, Sat-Sun 10:30 AM and 1 PM, Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln, 773-935-6100, $9-$12.