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Seasonal Theater for the Entire Family

Get Into the Holiday Spirit

For the Traditionalists:
‘Tis the season for holiday fare, and would Christmas really be complete without paying homage to the god of the dancing nutcracker? The San Francisco Ballet version of "The Nutcracker" is particularly special, since the War Memorial Opera House was the first American venue in which the beloved piece was performed, back in 1944. And to this day, both venue and performance still dazzle. Spectators can shelve their holiday cynicism for a couple hours and get sucked quite effortlessly into this strange fable of love and holiday hocus-pocus. Sure, the choreography can be a little predictable and stilted at times, but the sets are superb, the dancers are buoyant, and it all adds up to an engrossing, grand spectacle that never seems to get old, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Through December 30th.

At the War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco
http://www.sfballet.org
415.865.2000

For the Traditionalists Bored by "The Nutcracker":
In 1995, choreographer Michael Smuin created a holiday piece that remains the Bay Area's most popular antidote to "The Nutcracker". The Smuin Ballet’s beloved "Christmas Ballet" features a colorful cast of characters -- from seductive vamps to bayou babes -- and blends traditional Christmas fare with riotous ingenuity. The performance includes a Classical Christmas segment with the accompaniment of composers like Palestrina and Handel, and a Cool Christmas segment, replete with pouty boa-wearing dancers, dazzling drummer boys, and plenty of cheeky fun. The show seamlessly blends elegant solemnity with cheeky razzle-dazzle, making it appropriate for everyone, ranging from stringent dance aficionados to those who are choreographically clueless. This year’s performance also includes complimentary sweets and beverages for “the young and young and heart.” Through December 23rd.

At Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco
http://www.smuinballet.org
415.978.2787

For the Hipsters:
Mark Morris Dance Group’s "The Hard Nut" retains a special place in the realm of Bay Area holiday performance. Morris is known for his delicious sendups of classical theatrical idioms, and this campy parody of "The Nutcracker" is no different. Melding imaginative sets and costumes, this version is primarily set in a cheesy, retro-70s suburban home, where the Stahlbaum family is entertaining for the holidays. Giant Barbie dolls and GI Joes, remote-controlled rats, and drunken housekeepers all hobnob together, beating out the pas-de-deuxes in terms of pure spectacle. Purists might scoff, but the beautiful narrative touches and deliberate commentary on gender roles make Morris’s piece more thoughtful than kitschy. Through December 18th.

At Cal Performances (U.C. Berkeley campus)
101 Zellerbach Hall, #4800
Berkeley
http://www.calperfs.berkeley.edu
510.642.9928

For the Christmas Curmudgeons:
We know, we know -- you belong to the legions of people who roll your eyes when it’s time for all the gooey, affected holiday classics to choke all the television stations. But there's nothing like a little Christmas-inspired misanthropy to clear the noggin. “The SantaLand Diaries” is the brainchild of master autobiographer and chronicler of mundane details, David Sedaris. Sedaris isn’t afraid to go all out and sic the holiday spirit, and Joe Mantello’s stage adaptation of Sedaris's lowdown on department store Santas cuts all sentimental feelings to the quick. “The SantaLand Diaries” is based on Sedaris’s former life as a seasonal department store elf, catering to the demands of bratty kids and their apathetic parents. Brassy, sharp, and endlessly witty, this hour-long compendium of holiday misgivings will openly allow you to embrace your inner Scrooge. The show plays through December 30th.

At Eureka Theatre
215 Jackson Street
San Francisco
http://www.cafearts.com
866.811.4111

For the Kids at Heart:
There are no two ways about it. ETA Hoffman’s beloved "The Nutcracker", memorialized by Tchaikovsky’s ballet version, is damn strange, even if it is a holiday favorite. The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band dispenses with old-hat productions with their "Dance-Along Nutcraker: Ratified!" There’s a reason this version is a seasonal favorite -- with all the whimsy and music of the original ballet, it’s the chance to dress up and promenade around the stage that keeps families coming back for more each year. This year, the story has a little twist: the nutcracker’s rat enemies get to put it all in perspective and give you their take, which means spectators are salvaged from the boring love story of Clara and her wooden lover. What with all the marching musicians and potentially graceless (audience) actors, the show will make a regular holiday ballet seem pretty boring in comparison. December 8th and 9th.

At Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco
http://www.sflgfb.org
415. 255.1355