Cleveland's Holiday Arts and Entertainment: My 2013 Top 10

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Holiday Arts and Entertainment: Great Lakes Theater's A Christmas Carol (now through December 22); photo by Roger Mastroianni

Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol (now through December 22); photo by Roger Mastroianni

It’s time for one of my favorite blog posts of the year — my wrap-up of holiday arts and entertainment coming to Cleveland. From the return of popular classics to new takes on old tales, here are my 10 picks for what to see around Cleveland this December.

Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol (through December 22)

This December, Great Lakes Theater celebrates a milestone for their annual holiday production — the 25th anniversary of A Christmas Carol! Through December 22, take the family to see their twist on the Charles Dickens classic. It’s Christmas Eve, twenty years after Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. The Cleaveland family sits down to read the story as it comes alive onstage, seen through the imagination of the family’s youngest child.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Cleveland Magazine has put together a special publication about Great Lakes’ A Christmas Carol, and Aled Davies, Great Lakes’ Scrooge, was featured in the New York Times’ A Season of Scrooges graphic.

Cleveland Play House’s A Christmas Story (through December 22)

In honor of the film’s 30th anniversary, the Cleveland Play House is bringing back one of their most popular shows in an all-new production. A Christmas Story is at the Allen Theatre through December 22: “One boy. One holiday wish. And a world that seems to be conspiring to make certain it doesn’t come true.” Don’t forget that pink bunny outfit!

Another Cleveland Play House tradition is also making its return. The CPH Festival of Trees is back with its downtown debut through December 30. Stop by the Allen Theatre Complex to enjoy dozens of professionally decorated holiday trees.

Cleveland Play House's A Christmas Story (now through December 22)

Cleveland Play House’s A Christmas Story (now through December 22)

Other PlayhouseSquare Holiday Highlights (dates vary)

In addition to A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story, PlayhouseSquare is filled with many other holiday productions and concerts. Cleveland Public Theatre is producing David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries on the PlayhouseSquare Second Stage – for mature elves only (now through December 22).

Or enjoy the sounds of the season with music from the North Coast Men’s Chorus: Keeping the Yuletide Gay (Hanna Theatre, December 14-15), Straight No Chaser (Palace Theatre, December 14), and Debbie Gifford and Maria Jacobs with 4Get the Girl (Kennedy’s Theatre, December 14).

Finally, Wicked fans will want to check out A Wicked Wonderland on December 16 at the Hanna Theatre. The cast of Wicked (which is now at the Palace through January 5) will step out of their roles in the musical to perform some of their favorite non-Ozian holiday songs. All proceeds from the event will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

Cleveland Cinemas Presents A Christmas Story (December 12 and 14)

Before you see the stage production at Cleveland Play House, enjoy the original A Christmas Story movie with Cleveland Cinemas. The movie will be showing at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights (December 12, 7pm) and the Capitol Theatre in Gordon Square Arts District (December 14, 10am).

Cleveland Orchestra’s Holiday Concert (December 13 through 22)

The Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus are joined by conductor Robert Porco, the Cleveland Orchestra Children’s and Youth Choruses, Cleveland State University Chorale, and members of the Wooster Chorus for the Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Christmas concerts. Performances run December 13 until December 22 and feature Christmas music, sing-alongs, and a surprise visitor – all in Severance Hall’s festive splendor.

Cleveland Public Theatre's The Loush Sisters DO The Nutcracker (now through December 21)

Cleveland Public Theatre’s The Loush Sisters DO The Nutcracker (now through December 21)

CPT’s The Loush Sisters DO The Nutcracker (through December 21)

Back by popular demand, The Loush Sisters return to Cleveland Public Theatre. Fueled by booze, fairies, and “holiday cheer,” the sisters relive their cherished holiday memories, with the help of their family and The Nutcracker. The Loush Sisters DO The Nutcracker runs through December 21 at CPT’s Gordon Square Theatre. Don’t forget about FREE BEER FRIDAY: Stay after the show on any Friday performance to mingle with the cast and crew and enjoy a free drink or two on CPT.

Ohio Dance Theatre’s The Nutcracker (December 20-22)

From battling mice to the Dew Drop Fairy, Ohio Dance Theatre presents a fully staged production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker December 20, 21 and 22 at Elyria’s Stocker Arts Center. This production features a very special guest — New York City Ballet’s Principal Dancer Daniel Ulbricht. An opening night gala will honor Ulbricht whose dancing has been compared to Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Karamu’s Christmas Is Comin’ Uptown (through December 29)

Karamu transplants Dickens to Harlem in their musical update of A Christmas Carol. In Christmas Is Comin’ Uptown, Scrooge is a Harlem slumlord about to foreclose an apartment house, a recreation center and a church when his late partner and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future take him on their rounds. Karamu House’s production, which plays now through December 29, includes a rousing gospel number in a Baptist church.

Dobama Theatre's The Big Meal (now through January 5)

Dobama Theatre’s The Big Meal (now through January 5)

Dobama Theatre’s The Big Meal (through January 5)

The holidays are a time for gathering around the table with your family. Set at a single restaurant table and spanning over 80 years, Dobama Theatre’s The Big Meal tells the story of five generations through one unending metaphoric meal, starting from a young couple’s first meeting and ending with a visit from their young great-grandchild. Life’s large and small moments are seen over the course of this play about the resilience of families. The production plays through January 5, with pre-show talks on December 6, 7, 15, 20, 21, 26, and 29, as well as January 3 and 4.

Beck Center’s Annie and Law and Order: Fairy Tale Unit (dates vary)

The Beck Center for the Arts has not one, but two holiday shows for Cleveland families.  The sun comes out again as Annie returns to their Mackey Main Stage. One of the world’s best-loved musicals and winner of seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Book and Score is onstage now through January 5.

And December 13 through 22, Beck presents Law and Order: Fairy Tale Unit: “In the fairy tale criminal justice system, the characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes are represented by two separate yet equally ridiculous groups: the fairy tale police who investigate fairy tale crime, and the fairy tale district attorneys who prosecute the fairy tale offenders. These are their stories.”

Disclosure: I was invited to attend A Christmas Carol’s Social Media Night, but could not due to a scheduling conflict. I am also a member of PlayhouseSquare’s young professional group. My opinions and the choice of events I’ve included in this list are 100% my own.
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