The Bay Area is awash in holiday cheer. And while there is plenty of unpleasantness with the start of the holiday season, getting to that happy place in a sea of traditional and non-traditional fare in the Bay isn’t hard. Here are some highlights of a Bay Area theatre December and beyond:
TCHAIKOVSKY GETTIN’ PAID!
This is Pyotor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s big money month, as multiple productions of his ubiquitous ballet “The Nutcracker” are performed in companies big and small. The best resource on the interwebs for all of the productions is at SFKids.org, which has this complete list of Bay Area Nutcrackers. My six-year-old daughter and I will find ourselves at San Jose’s Mexican Heritage Plaza this Saturday to see the San Jose Youth Ballet production. Under the direction of artistic directors Xavier and Maggie Ferla, SJYB is performing their 10th production of the ballet. Next year in April, Dance Theatre International, the Ferla’s company located in Evergreen Valley, which sponsors the show, will be celebrating its 19th year.
DECEMBER IS PERFECT “SHORTS” WEATHER
After a fun run in 2011 with its production of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told,” City Lights Theater Company has returned with “Christmas Shorts,” five different plays with five different directors. Written by Matt Hoverman, the show is being billed as “five fun, dirty little comedies.” Through Dec. 23rd. www.cltc.org
SHOTGUN PLAYERS CAN’T SMILE WITHOUT YOU
The Bay Area is going through a little Barry Manilow mania with his big HP Pavilion date in San Jose tonight. Don’t fret if you miss out, because The Shotgun Cabaret’s reading series, First Person Singular, is presenting a one night only extravaganza. “Schmaltz! A Barry Manilow Holiday Sing-Along” is a tribute to the man, the myth and the key changes. The show takes place at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley on Monday, Dec. 17th. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling (510) 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org
A “RECKLESS” CHRISTMAS EVE
San Jose Stage jumps into the holiday season with “Reckless,” writt
en by Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza, Prelude to a Kiss). The show follows the character of Rachel, who learns on Christmas Eve that her husband has taken out a contract on her life. After escaping, she encounters a series of trials and tribulations that force her to examine life. Through Dec. 16th. www.sjstage.com
BAH HUMBUG US ALL, EVERYONE
Much like Tchaikovsky, Charles Dickens gets plenty of love with “A Christmas Carol,” an allegorical tale of the dangers of not embracing holiday traditions. The productions throughout the Bay Area are big and small, with two of the biggest regional theatres making the show their holiday
anchor. A long-standing tradition happens at American Conservatory Theater featuring stalwart James Carpenter as Ebenezer Scrooge. San Jose Repertory Theatre returns for the second consecutive year of their production, and Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont boasts the longest running production in the Bay, a huge musical version which is free, except for a gala evening. There’s also a popular production at Northside Theatre Company in San Jose.
A FINAL RETRO HOLIDAY SEASON?
The folks who are fans of San Jose’s Retro Dome were dealt a huge blow when word came that the lease at the old movie house on Saratoga Avenue was set to expire on January 31st of 2013, not to be renewed. It’s spaces like the Retro Dome that give cities a cultural fabric, and it has proven to be one of the more unique places to see a movie or a show. I have reviewed two productions there in the past, in addition to previewing others and it is sad to see that the end is near.
An email that went out today from the Guggenheim family was hopeful, stating that there are some possibilities to keep the company alive at another venue, but there is nothing new to report.
In the meantime, the Dome keeps cranking out holiday entertainment, with a full slate of holiday films and live productions. The production “Santastic,” a 45-minute holiday revue, the Jewish holiday show “The Meshuga Nutcracker,” and South Bay funny folks Comedysportz San Jose highlight the final live holiday season at the Dome. www.theretrodome.com
ENOUGH OF THE CHRISTMAS GOOSE, GIMME SOME STEAK!
If holiday theatre stuff isn’t for you, some other shows may fit your fancy:
TheatreWorks has been placed firmly on the Broadway map with “Memphis,” and now one of those original performers returns home for the holidays. Hayward native and resident James Monroe Iglehart returns to the company playing Jim in “Big River,” the musical version of Mark Twain’s novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Check out this feature on Iglehart. Through Dec. 30th www.theatreworks.com
Disney’s “The Lion King” continues its run at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco. Read my review here. In short, the show features a beautiful color palate that showcases the creativity and the mind of director and creator Julie Taymor. Through Jan. 13th www.shnsf.com
San Francisco’s 42nd Street Moon is checking in with the Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers classic “Pal Joey.” The story of the master of ceremonies in a South Side Chicago night club and his relationship socialite Vera, the show features classic hits such as “I Could Write a Book” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” The show was originally produced on Broadway in December of 1940. Through Dec. 16th. www.42ndstmoon.org
See you at the theatre!