We’ve come to the season when sugar plum fairies, Scrooge and Santa populate Southern California theaters. Here’s where to find them – plus Snow White, Peter Pan and other holiday surprises.
A TOUGH NUT TO CRACK
Local productions of “The Nutcracker” are too numerous for a complete listing here (check our Calendar for more), but notable shows run the gamut from traditional to totally re-imagined.
American Ballet Theatre will present four different sets of princesses and nutcracker princes (among them world-famous ballerina Misty Copeland, who grew up in Southern California) when it performs its grand “Nutcracker” a dozen times between Dec. 13 and 22 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa (www. SCFTA.org). $29-$179.
The “Great Russian Nutcracker” by Moscow Ballet (www. nutcracker.com) is faithful to the ballet’s Russian roots, but displays a modern sense of the spectacular with life-size Russian nesting dolls, a 15-foot rat king and a huge dove of peace. The company appears at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium Dec. 4 ($29-$120) and the Wiltern Dec. 21-22 ($40-$120).
Not to be outdone, Long Beach Ballet will pack its “Nutcracker” extravaganza (www.longbeachnutcracker.com) with a cast of more than 200 (including a horse), a full orchestra, flying sleigh and on-stage pyrotechnics. Performances are at the Long Beach Terrace Theater Dec. 14-15 and 20-22. $34-$78.
While The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet keeps its “Nutcracker” in the Victorian era, the acclaimed troupe integrates traditional Spanish and Chinese dance (along with Los Angeles Ballet Academy’s young dancers) into the Tchaikovsky classic when the troupe makes its local debut at The Soraya (www.thesoraya.org) in Northridge Dec. 7-8. $49-$109.
The Los Angeles Ballet (www.laballet.org), meanwhile, relocates “The Nutcracker” to L.A. and moves the year to 1912, instilling a nostalgic mood. LAB’s busy performance schedule includes stops at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts Dec. 1, Glendale’s Alex Theatre Dec. 7-8, UCLA’s Royce Hall Dec. 13-15, Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre Dec 20-22 and 24 and Redondo Beach’s Performing Arts Center Dec. 28-29. $39-$164.
Families can have a sweet time enjoying “Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” (www.thehotchocolatenutcracker.com) Dec. 5-8 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Created by Debbie Allen and now in its 10th year, the multicultural show features a modern score with original songs by Mariah Carey to accompany young Kara on her journey to places such as Jazzland, the Rainforest, Candy Cane Land and the Land of the Kimono Doll. $50-$110
Described as the world’s first immersive “Nutcracker,” a one-hour production by American Contemporary Ballet (www.acb-dances.com/calendar) places the audience right on the dance floor, creating a close-up experience with the dancers and musicians. This popular show runs at Metropolis Los Angeles in Downtown L.A. through Dec. 24. $55-$137.
The Pasadena Playhouse (www.pasadenaplayhouse.org) again plays host to “Bob Baker’s Nutcracker” on several dates between Dec. 1 and Dec. 29. Created 50 years ago, this production, with its promenading cakes and waltzing flowers, is an especially amusing (and economical) way for little ones to experience “The Nutcracker.” $20.
CAROLING AND BEYOND
While ballet fans have a crack at “The Nutcracker,” theatergoers can look forward to a choir’s worth of Charles Dickens’ “A Christ-mas Carol” – and some other notable productions.
Perhaps the most preeminent local production of “A Christmas Carol” is by South Coast Repertory (www.scr.org). This year’s show, taking place Nov. 30-Dec. 24, marks the production’s 40th anniversary, but also Hal Landon Jr.’s 40th (and last) year portraying Ebenezer Scrooge. This production is recommended for ages 6 and older. $32-$86 adults, $27-$76 ages 6-12.
Pasadena’s A Noise Within (www.anoisewithin.org), meanwhile, will put families in a festive holiday mood with its spirited, musical production of the Dickens classic Dec. 4-23. $25-$72.
Actor David Mynne gives a uniquely memorable performance in “Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (www.thewallis.org) in Beverly Hills Dec. 4-8, because he plays every role! $25.
The production of “A Christmas Carol with Charles Dickens” by Independent Shakespeare Co. (www.iscla.org) stars David Melville as the legendary author, who will recite his story and bring his colorful characters to life at the company’s Atwater Village studio Dec. 5-22, while Kalean Ung provides dramatic interjections, sound effects and live music. $25-$25.
Those punny, funny folks at the Troubadour Theater Company (www.troubie.com) serve up a most irreverent Dickens adaptation with “A Christmas Carole King,” a lighthearted musical romp that injects Carole King songs into Dicken’s timeless tale. Performances will be at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood Dec. 13-22. $50-$75.
The Lythgoe Family Pantos (www.americanpanto.com) deliver more quirky fun, combining physical shtick, contemporary tunes and general kookiness in the 10th-anniversary production of “A Snow White Christmas” at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium Dec. 13-22. The show stars the Disney Channel’s Olivia Sanabia as Snow White, with Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child as the wicked queen. $28-$98. For an extra helping of LFP’s comedy, music and magic, check out “Peter Pan And Tinker Bell: A Pirates’ Christmas” Dec. 4-29 at the Laguna Playhouse. $41-$76.
Families can help Mrs. Claus and the elves find a suddenly missing Santa in “All About Santa,” the annual holiday treat from Santa Monica Playhouse (www.santamonicaplayhouse.com), Dec. 1-16. $15 adults, $12.50 children.
Christmas is such a big holiday at Citrus College that it offers two yuletide productions at the Haugh Performing Arts Center (www.haughpac.com). “Once Upon A Time” is the theme for this year’s “Christmas Is” show Dec. 14-15 and 21. This jolly, adventure-packed holiday musical gives a fresh twist to familiar fairy tales, and tickets are $32. The other Christmas production, “Candy Cane Corners and the Almost Un-Christmas,” takes place Dec. 7-8 and costs just $10. The lighthearted, family-friendly play offers heartfelt messages about inclusivity and open-mindedness.
Open-mindedness and inclusivity also are themes found in “Eight Nights,” which is making its world debut at Glendale’s Antaeus Theatre (www.antaeus.org/shows/eight-nights) Dec. 1-16. Recommended for ages 12 and older and set around the eight nights of Hanukkah, this drama mixes moments of heartache with life-affirming humor as it follows a Holocaust survivor over eight decades of her life. $35 adults, $25 students, $15 ages 18 and younger.
Now you know that many a local stage has holiday treats in store for your family. Mark your calendars for some sweet seasonal memories.
Michael Berick is Calendar Editor of L.A. Parent.