Related Articles: Arts, All

Holiday Arts Preview

The carols have been playing since Halloween, but the holiday season is not officially in full swing until Thanksgiving is over. Muzak, decorations, the smell of pine needles, the holiday movie season, as well as delayed plane flights, last-minute rushes to Target, and the ever-present inedible fruitcake — are you ready?

Thank goodness for the arts scene in the Bay Area — we can always count on it to bring enough fun and feistiness to the holidays to rival the antics of Clark and Ellen Griswold. Between the old favorites and a few brilliant newcomers, residents and visitors alike will have some excellent events to help them get into the spirit.

Looking for family-friendly fun? Options abound this year, starting with Unique Derique’s Fun-derful Holidaze at the Marsh Theater. Dancing, juggling, and general clowning populate this performance, promising enjoyment for everyone. Along similar lines is the annual Christmas Revels, organize by California Revels at the Scottish Rite Theater in Oakland. This year the Revels will be exploring the roots of modern holiday traditions in 19th century Bavaria in their characteristically entertaining manner.

Still great for families, but not exclusively holiday-themed, is Aurelia’s Oratorio at Berkeley Repertory Theater. Filled with illusion and acrobatics, as well as some puppetry and general oddities, Aurelia’s Oratorio is a 70-minute circus-type performance put on by some of the players who inspired the world-famous Cirque du Soleil. Both children and adults are bound to be thrilled by the spectacles.

On the more non-traditional and gut-busting side is Every Christmas Story Ever Told, presented at the Front Row Theater in San Ramon. A compilation of all of those well-loved (and sometimes well-worn) classic holiday stories, Every Christmas Story Ever Told sounds a bit like the reduced Shakespeare productions, combining numerous tales with bizarre costumes and amusing antics into a rollicking 90 minutes.

The 17th Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy is exactly what it sounds like — a Jewish comedy show held over Christmas at a Chinese restaurant. Guests are invited to enjoy a night of hilarity and Chinese food favorites with Jonathan Katz, of Dr. Katz comic strip fame, headlining. Cocktail and dinner shows are available.

If music is what you are looking for, you needn’t look far, whether you are in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, or anywhere in between. In Coverlettes Cover Christmas, at the Aurora Theater in Berkeley, the Coverlettes will be bopping in their beehives, covering some great girl-group hits along with various holiday tunes. Loraine Hansberry Theatre’s production of Black Nativity: A Gospel Celebration of Christmas at Marines Memorial Theater in San Francisco is another musical event that guarantees an impressive start to the holidays. Although it’s an annual affair, this “handclapping toe-tapping gospel celebration of Christmas” introduces new tunes and staging every year, so it should be engaging even for those who think they’ve heard everything.

And of course, San Francisco Symphony and Davies Symphony Hall have numerous musical events sure to appeal to the most diverse of audiences. Check out some traditional Mexican holiday music with Mariachi Sol de Mexico on December 3, or come hear the magnificent pipe organ on December 13 with Holiday Pipe Dreams.

Little lovers of music will surely be inspired by San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra’s performance of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf narrated by Linda Ronstadt in two performances on December 12th and 13th. Peter and the Wolf and Cirque of the Season with the San Francisco Symphony, an exciting, nail-biting acrobatic performance offered on December 5th, both offer half-price tickets for those 17 years old and younger.

And it is just not December without The Nutcracker. The glittering costumes and plethora of pirouettes, combined with dream-like vignettes centering around the young Clara, form a staple of the season for many. However, in addition to the regular performances put on by the San Francisco Ballet, The Nutcracker will also be appearing at The Zeum Theater this year, providing a new venue for the old favorite.

That other indispensable spectacle of the season, A Christmas Carol, inhabits its regular spot at American Conservatory Theater. But for those of you whose holiday is not complete without the miserly Scrooge and ever-optimistic Tiny Tim, yet don’t want to make the trip in to the city, the Dickens classic will also be at the Northside Theater Company in San Jose, the Sonoma County Repertory Theater in Sebastopol, and Lesher Center for the Art in Walnut Creek. A broken bridge is no longer an excuse for missing this tale of parsimony and redemption.

Whether you are looking for something to put you in the mood or something to provide a little comic relief from the holiday stress, the Bay Area presents numerous offerings. So set aside your shopping lists and stress headaches and see a good show.