The Many Spirits of Holiday Theater

By Michael Berick

theater in los angeles

Experience marionette magic at Bob Baker’s “Holiday Spectacular.” PHOTO COURTESY BOB BAKER’S MARIONETTE THEATER

When the winter holiday season makes its annual visit, you can expect to find Sugar Plum Fairies and Scrooge on many Los Angeles stages. This year brings more than a dozen productions of “The Nutcracker” and a handful of “A Christmas Carols.” However, there is also a nice variety of theatrical options if you are looking for something beyond Tiny Tim and Tchaikovsky.  

Beauties and Beasts 

Two of this season’s most popular characters, in fact, are Beauty and the Beast, with three different incarnations of this favorite fairy tale planned for December. The silliest version comes from the zany folks at Lythgoe Family Panto. For the past few years, they have taken a famous fable and given it the Panto treatment – meaning they’ve created a delightfully light-hearted mash-up of slapstick comedy, dancing and contemporary music. This year’s offering is Beauty and the Beast – A Christmas Rose, which has a 15-show run at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium (300 E. Green St.; Dec. 13-24. Arrive early and take part in a free pre-show celebration with crafts, games, Santa Claus (on select days) and photo opportunities. $29-$118. 

Casa 0101 (2102 E. First St., Boyle Heights;, which recently produced a bilingual take on “Disney’s Aladdin,” is offering Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Dec. 8-Jan. 21. Boasting a multicultural cast of 25, this production will be the traditional Broadway hit version with beloved tunes such as “Be Our Guest,” “Belle,” and the Academy Award-winning title track. $25-$35.  

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You can learn “All About Santa” at the Santa Monica Playhouse. PHOTO BY CYDNE MOORE

The third “Beauty and the Beast” production is The Toad Prince, which is based on a Chinese version of the “Beauty and the Beast” story. Portland-based Tears of Joy Theatre will present its “The Toad Prince” puppet show at Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz (10361 W. Pico Blvd. LA; on Dec. 6. Tears of Joy created this production of “The Toad Prince” in the late 1970s, and it ranks as one of the signature works for this highly regarded puppet theater troupe. $10-$15. 

Wickedness and Wizards 

Fairy-tale fans should note that, on Dec. 3, Hansel & Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat is returning to the Valley Performing Arts Center (18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge;, where it debuted in January. Co-created by Ernie Nolan and Grammy-nominated children’s musician Justin Roberts, this hour-long musical is highlighted by Roberts’ clever rock-style original tunes and colorfully animated set designs. $23-$63. 

Another family favorite, The Wizard of Oz,” will materialize at Theatre 360 (75 N. Marengo Ave., Pasadena; during the second and third weekends of December. This show is the 60th production from the well-regarded youth theater company, which has won four Pasadena Weekly “Best Production” awards along with the Pasadena Arts Council’s Gold Crown Award. Theatre 360’s young cast performs this stage adaptation based on the iconic MGM musical, featuring the characters, songs and storylines people have loved for generations. $16. 

For years, Angelenos have made their way to the quaint Bob Baker Marionette Theater (1345 W. First St., L.A.; near downtown L.A. The troupe continues its tradition of presenting Holiday Spectacular,” with performances through Jan. 7. In this whimsical story, the Wizard of Fantasy and his sidekick, Demi Star, take a holiday-themed trip where they celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah and visit Santa’s Workshop. Populated with more than 100 handcrafted marionettes, the show helps to instill a sense of seasonal joy and merriment. $10-$20. 

Music and Mystery 

There’s a bit of mystery – and no Santa – at the heart of All About Santa,” performed at the Santa Monica Playhouse (1211 4th St.; on weekends Dec. 2-17. In this jolly musical, Santa has disappeared and Mrs. Claus must step in to make sure Christmas still happens. Audiences can join in the fun by assisting the characters in this interactive family show. $12.50-$15. 

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Moscow Ballet brings the “Great Russian Nutcracker” to the Wiltern Dec. 15-16. PHOTO COURESTY MOSCOW BALLET

“All About Santa” isn’t the only Christmas mystery on local stages this month. At the Haugh Performing Arts Center at Citrus College (1000 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora;, Naughty Vs. Nice: The Case of the Missing List will be performed Dec. 2-3. In this yuletide tale, made for children and enjoyable for all, Santa’s Naughty & Nice List goes missing just days before Christmas. The elves frantically try to find the list before Santa discovers it is gone. The Haugh also is presenting its annual holiday spectacular, Christmas Is, Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17. This year’s show is set in Elflandia, where a young elf learns the lesson of staying true to your dreams, and features a live orchestra and plenty of holiday songs. “Naughty Vs. Nice” tickets are $10, while tickets for the Haugh’s holiday spectacular run $10-$30. 

If you really like Christmas musicals, then you should be aware that you can find White Christmas at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center (6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach; Dec. 1-3 and 8-10. Based on the 1954 film musical that starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, this Broadway version retains all of the movie’s well-known, Irving Berlin tunes, including “I Love a Piano,” “Sisters,” “Count Your Blessings” and the title track (which actually was first used in the film “Holiday Inn”). $20-$95. 

Holiday Spirit and Spirits 

The holiday season is a time for giving, and the idea of helping those less fortunate resonates within Pang!, which will be performed at the 24th St. Theatre (1117 W. 24th St., L.A.; www. Dec. 2-3. On a stage filled with a mass of microphones, musical instruments, sound effects and props, award-winning performance artist Dan Froot and his collaborators present a trio of live radio plays based on the life stories of three families living with hunger in Miami, Cedar Rapids and South Los Angeles. The performance, recommended for ages 8 and older, aims to stimulate awareness and cross-class dialogue about living below the poverty line and decrease the stigma surrounding it. $10-$24. 

Poverty mixes with spooky spirits in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which will populate stages throughout Southern California. See it at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory (655 Town Center Dr; through Dec. 24, Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre (1006 E. Main St.; Dec. 7-24, Pasadena’s A Noise Within (3352 E. Foothill Blvd.; Dec. 1-22 and Thousand Oaks’ Scherr Forum Theatre (2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd.; Dec. 7-10. Ticket prices vary by production, and range from $24-$75. 

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On Dec. 3, you can enjoy “a wickedly delicious musical treat” with Hansel and Gretel at the Valley Performing Arts Center. PHOTO BY LUIS LUQUE/VALLEY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

There are also less traditional ways to experience a Dickensian Christmas. Tam O’Shanter Restaurant (2980 Los Feliz Blvd., L.A.; will serve up its yearly Dickens Dinner on Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 2. This three-hour feast costs $59-$99 and includes a meal of English-inspired cuisine and a live performance of “A Christmas Carol.” Because of limited seating, advance reservations are required.  

On Dec. 9, the International Printing Museum (315 W. Torrance Blvd., Carson; hosts its annual Dickens Holiday Celebration. A variety of Dickens characters will be strolling the museum. You can get pick-pocketing tips from Fagin and see Micawber use an electrostatic generator. Dickens himself will be there, too, and he’ll select some visitors to join the cast for a performance of “A Christmas Carol.” Reservations are required to attend the play, and tickets cost $25 per person or $80 per family of four. 

And Now, Nutcrackers 

This season’s most popular theater event, not surprisingly, is The Nutcracker. While every production has its magical moments, several offer distinctive elements. The Los Angeles Ballet (, which will perform at Glendale’s Alex Theatre (216 N. Brand Blvd.), UCLA’s Royce Hall (340 Royce Dr.), Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre (6801 Hollywood Blvd.) and the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center (1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd.), has reimagined the story in 1912 Los Angeles. Tickets at all venues cost $29.50-$124. The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center will also host Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker ( Dec. 7-10. Set in 1920’s New Orleans, the production features an eclectic score with music by Mariah Carey and Arturo Sandoval. Those tickets are $50-$110. 


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You can see “The Toad Prince” at the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz. PHOTO COURTESY TEARS OF JOY THEATRE

Life-size matryoshka dolls, a growing 50-foot Christmas tree and a dove of peace with a 20-foot wingspan are part of the lavish staging that the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker brings to the Wiltern (3790 Wilshire Blvd., L.A; Dec. 15-16. The Long Beach Ballet will stage its 35th “Nutcracker” Dec. 16-17 and 23-24 at the Long Beach Terrace Theater (300 E. Ocean Blvd.; with a flying sleigh, a live horse, pyrotechnics and guest dancers from the San Francisco Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Tickets for these lavish productions range from $28 to $253. 


The L.A. Youth Ballet ( premieres a new Nutcracker from award-winning choreographer Andrea Paris-Gutierrez Dec. 22-23 at Glendale’s Alex Theatre. The production stars Joffrey Ballet principal dancers Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez, as well as 13-year-old Darrion Sellman, a rising star in the ballet world. $25-$55. 

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; hosts the world premiere of the Miami City Ballet’s new production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Dec. 7-10. Balanchine’s classic choreography will be paired with new sets and costumes from acclaimed fashion and design duo Isabel and Ruben Toledo and original projections from award-winning stage designer Wendall K. Harrington. $34-$160. 

Along with the nearly two dozen productions listed here, you can find additional holiday music and theater fun in our calendar in print in this issue, and online at 

Michael Berick is Calendar Editor of L.A. Parent. 

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