We purchased this to prepare our two sons to see a local live production of the Nutcracker. We love it! The quality of the production is just beautiful, especially in HD. It makes explaining the story to children much easier. (There is also a synopsis on the DVD, which is very helpful) This production includes the applause of the audience, which helps to make it feel like a real performance and not a silent stage set. It is a bright, lively performance.
The DVD is organized in chapters, which makes it easy to navigate from scene to scene. Our four year old has asked to watch it again three nights in a row, and we can easily skip from one favorite part to another. (Right now, he likes the Children's March and the battle scene the best.) My favorite is the Snow scene, which is absolutely gorgeous.
The storyline doesn't stray too far from the familiar tale, but there are some interesting twists. Drosselmeyer is mysterious, but not scary, and we enjoyed watching the opening bit in his clock shop. The stage magic is entertaining and fun. The young Clara transforms into an older version of herself in Act 2. There are some fun surprises in Act 2, with little twists on the usual dances. Even the Arabian dance, usually my least favorite, is fun to watch.
Whether you are looking for a first Nutcracker, or you want to add to a collection, this is a great performance to buy. (Parents and teachers: The San Francisco Ballet has a wonderful teaching guide on their website, with additional background and activities.)