Looking for something to do this holiday season? WHYY’s Robin Bloom has some recommendations on what’s happening in the Philadelphia region. Here are her picks:
The Nutcracker, the annual holiday tradition
The Pennsylvania Ballet performs the annual spectacular, “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” December 7-29, featuring the Philadelphia Boys Choir and dozens of local dance students along with the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra at the Academy of Music, Broad Street, Philadelphia. New this year is the first-ever Nutcracker Market gift fair, featuring 50 select exhibitors offering a variety of hand-crafted works like ornaments and jewelry, along with activities including origami lessons, a candy shop, performances, workshops and more at the Kimmel Center, December 6-8. Bring coats, mittens, gloves and scarves to donate at performances December 6-8 at the Academy or to the Market at the Kimmel. Special programming includes Tea with the Sugarplum Fairy, Sunday, December 8, 2:30pm and Saturday, December 21, noon and Nutcracker Magic Children’s Party, Saturday, December 14, noon.
For more about this holiday tradition, see “Behind the Scenes of the Nutcracker,” on view through January at the Philadelphia History Museum. Designed by Drexel University students, the exhibit offers a behind the curtain look at the production’s history in Philadelphia through artifacts from past Pennsylvania Ballet performances, archival programs, and a video by Alexander Iziliaev at 15 South 7th Street, Philadelphia.
Other Nutcracker performances in the region:
The Brandywine Ballet Company’s 34th annual production of “The Nutcracker” returns with performances December 13-22 at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 700 S. High Street, West Chester, PA. The Company offers the popular “Nutcracker Tea,” with the opportunity to join Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy and other characters for a special brunch on December 14, 21, and 22 at 2:30pm.
The Atlantic City Ballet performs “The Nutcracker” Friday, December 13, 7pm and Saturday, December 14, 1pm and 5pm at Stockton Performing Arts Center, Galloway, NJ; Sunday, December 15, 4pm, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ; Saturday, December 21, 7pm, Garden State Philharmonic Strand Theatre, Lakewood, NJ.
The MidAtlantic Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” is Friday, December 13, 7pm and Saturday, December 14, 12:30pm (children’s matinee) and 4pm in the Mitchell Hall Theater, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.
Pig Iron Theatre Company offers an alternative to the usual holiday fare with a return of their 2011 Fringe hit “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” onstage through December 22 at FringeArts new waterfront headquarters, 140 N. Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia. The new take on the Shakespeare comedy features dueling musicians, debauchery, misunderstandings, practical jokes, gender confusion and mistaken identity and features original cast members Dito van Reigersberg, Alex Torra, James Sugg and Birgit Huppuch, accompanied by live music from members of the West Philadelphia Orchestra. The original sold out world premiere performance won four Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. Directed by Dan Rothenberg, with music by Rosie Langabeer and set design by Maiko Matsushima.
Follow Bill Gates and Steve Jobs from 1970s garage inventors to Silicon Valley mega-billionaires in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s production of “Nerds,” onstage through December 29. The play made its world premiere in 2007 at Philadelphia Theatre Company, where it won Barrymore Awards for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Original Music. The popular comedic musical is directed by Casey Hushion with choreography by Joshua Bergasse, and a brand new cast including Stanley Bahorek as Bill Gates, Matt Bradley as Steve Jobs, Briana Carlson-Goodman, Benny Elledge, Lexy Fridell, Raymond J. Lee, Alyse Alan Louis, Robert Morrison, Kevin Pariseau, Catherine Ricafort, and Blake Segal, at Broad and Lombard Streets, Philadelphia. Related programming includes Meet-the-Artists Talk Backs, Backstage Tour, panel discussion, Talk Nerdy to Me: The Social Dialect of the Tech Generation, and more.
A world premiere adaptation of the Dylan Thomas poem “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” takes to the stage at Lantern Theater Company. Co-created by Lantern Artistic Director Charles McMahon and Philadelphia interdisciplinary artist Sebastienne Mundheim, well-known for her puppet sculpture work, the family-friendly production is geared for children 8 years and older and is a nostalgic reflection on simpler Christmases past. The ensemble cast of four artists includes Charlie DelMarcelle, Doug Hara, Genevieve Perrier, and Amy Smith. Special events include A Sip Down Memory Lane with Wine School of Philadelphia Founder and President Keith Wallace, December 20, and Puppet Workshops for Kids with Charlie DelMarcelle, following the 2pm performances on December 27, 28, 31, and January 4, St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th and Ludlow Streets, Philadelphia.
Want more? The Princeton Singers perform their popular holiday concert “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” Friday, December 13, 6pm and 8pm, at Trinity Church in Princeton, NJ, with musical accompaniment to the story narrated by actor Christopher Coucill.
The world premiere of “Clever Little Lies” is onstage at George Street Playhouse, by Tony Award winning playwright and author Joe DiPietro. Marlo Thomas (pictured) leads the cast of four, directed by Artistic Director David Saint, through December 22, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ.
Broadway veteran Graeme Malcolm reprises his role of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” at McCarter Theatre Center, December 6-29. Michael Unger directs the critically-acclaimed production that offers a variety of events in conjunction with the performances, as well as special services for patrons with visual and audio impairments at no additional charge on December 14-15.
Journey to the darker side of the holiday season with “Santaland Diaries,” the autobiographical, comical account of David Sedaris’ time working as a Christmas elf in “Santaland” at Macy’s department store. Cape May Stage presents the quick-witted, quirky one-man show starring Brady Adair (pictured), through December 29, directed by Roy Steinberg, at Congress Hal, downtown Cape May, NJ.
Spotlight Theatre hosts a performance of “Santaland Diaries,” performed by Associate Artistic Director Thomas Robert-Irvin and directed by Cindy N. Walton, Saturday, December 7, 7pm, at Swarthmore United Methodist Church, 129 Park Avenue, Swarthmore, PA.
Flashpoint Theatre Company celebrates 10 years of performing “Santaland Diaries,” December 11-22, starring Keith Conallen as the lovable, curmudgeonly elf at Off-Broad Street Theatre, 1636 Sansom Street, Philadelphia.
Did you know that David Sedaris first read the essay “The Santaland Diaries” on NPR’s Morning Edition on December 23, 1992? Listen to the original at NPR’s website.
“Craft Forms 2013” opens at the Wayne Arts Center this Friday, December 6, in its 19th year, featuring works of fine contemporary craft made from ceramic, metal, glass, fiber, and mixed medium. A Preview Party will be held Friday, December 6, 6pm-10pm, with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and jazz. “Nature in Craft,” a companion show, will run alongside the craft show, focusing on mixed mediums and how the artist incorporates nature through material, concept and execution, featuring over 40 international artists, through January 25, 413 Maplewood Avenue, Wayne, PA.
The “Handmade in Philadelphia” holiday exhibition and sale opens with a reception Friday, December 6, 5pm-7pm and Saturday, December 7, 10am-4pm, offering ceramics, textiles, jewelry and more at the Ethical Society Building, 1906 Rittenhouse Square (Southwest corner), Philadelphia.
University City Arts League (UCAL) 14th Annual Craft Show and Sale kicks off December 6-22 with handmade, one-of-a-kind creations in pottery, hand-blown glass, jewelry, wearable art, and much more, by 30 local artists. Preview for members on Friday, December 6, 6pm-8pm, and opening free reception for the public is on Saturday, December 7, 6pm-8pm, at 4226 Spruce Street, Philadelphia.
“Deck the Alley” returns Saturday, December 7, 3pm-7pm, featuring tours of the private historic homes on Elfreth’s Alley, our nation’s oldest continuously lived on street, as residents open their homes to the public for tours. Admission includes seasonal refreshments, colonial carolers, holiday stories, upside-down Christmas tree, a visit by Benjamin Franklin, and authentic 18th century mummery with a special appearance by colonial Pennsylvania’s own “cranky Santa” Belsnickel, 126 Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia.
The annual Christmas Village in Philadelphia returns to LOVE Park in Center City through January 1, an outdoor holiday market with vendors in more than 60 wooden booths offering international seasonal arts and crafts, gifts, ornaments, food and more as well as live performances of local choirs, orchestras and bands. Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8 is German American Weekend, JFK Plaza, 1500 Arch Street. Free admission.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art celebrates the holiday season with special events, musical performances, and activities including caroling in the galleries, art activities, The Christmas Story in Art tour, holiday film favorites, First Person Arts StorySlams, and Art After 5: Friday, December 6 is “Festival of Lights;” Christmas in Mexico, December 13; Matt Wilson’s Jazzy Christmas Tree-O, December 20; and the Mistletoe Hop, December 27. See the Great Stair Hall lit and decorated for the holidays. Plus, tour the historic homes of Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove. Daily activities planned December 26 through January 1, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia.
The Kimmel Center hosts holiday events including PHILADANCO performing their annual winter show with four performances, Friday, December 6 through Sunday, December 8, celebrating the artistry of famed African-American choreographer Christopher Huggins, Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater; “Nutcracker 1776 – Not Just Another Nutcracker,” performed by The Rock School, Saturday, December 7, 1pm and 4pm, Merriam Theater; “Holiday POPS!” returns December 6-21, with conductor David Charles Abell, soprano Angela Brown, The Philadelphia Boys Choir, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir, and Wanamaker organist Peter Conte, Verizon Hall; Broad Street, Philadelphia.
The American Swedish Historical Museum’s annual Lucia Fest and Christmas Market is Saturday, December 7, 11:30am-4:30pm, with family activities, Lucia processions with traditional songs and dances, and more, at 1900 Pattison Avenue, FDR Park, South Philadelphia. Originally celebrated by the Norse as the winter solstice, the festival of St. Lucia marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavia.
Philly Winter Holiday Events
Waterfront Winterfest is open through January 5 with ice skating at the Blue Cross RiverRink, refreshments, holiday market, holiday light show, winter landscaping and daily entertainment. Friday, December 6 at 7pm is the tree lighting, with Santa, ice carvers, bands, actors, jugglers, and other family entertainment, at the Blue cross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing, 101 South Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia.
Winterfest returns to Sister Cities Park this Saturday, December 7 from 11am-2pm. The Center City District hosts a variety of kid-friendly activities with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and Walnut Street Theatre, including crafts, food, a visit with Santa, and more, Logan Square, 18th Street and The Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia.
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education hosts the 3rd annual “Winterfest,” Saturday, December 7, 12pm-5pm, with nature-inspired crafts, guided walks, workshops, live animal shows, food, and more, 8480 Hagy’s Mill Road, Philadelphia.
South Street Headhouse District hosts the annual “Winter Wonderland,” with dance performances, ornament-making, free horse and carriage rides, a holiday market, and the lighting of the holiday tree (pictured), Sunday, December 8, 4pm-7pm, Historic Headhouse Square Shambles, 2nd Street between Pine and Lombard Streets, Philadelphia.
“Yuletide at Winterthur” returns with a glimpse at winter holidays past, exploring how Americans have celebrated the winter social season from the 1800s to the present and designed to inspire visitors to create their own celebrations. Look for the dried flower tree, Winterthur’s signature showpiece. Also, many seasonally themed activities like floral design workshops, crafternoons, a live performance of A Christmas Carol, Yuletide Jazz and Wine, and more, through January 5, Winterthur, DE.
The DePue Brothers Band performs “A Magical Grassical Christmas,” combining the group’s classical roots with blue grass, jazz, rock, fusion, and more, Thursday, December 12, 7:30pm, at Temple Performing Arts Center, Broad Street and Polett Walk, Temple University’s Main Campus, Philadelphia.
Regional Dickens celebrations
Dickens Festivals are celebrated this week throughout the region. In Medford, NJ, downtown Main Street closes and transforms visitors back to England in the days of Charles Dickens, with a visit from Santa in a horse-drawn carriage along with musical entertainment, crafts, food and the lighting of the holiday tree at the gazebo, 6pm-10pm. On Sunday, December 8 in Narberth, Pa. from noon-4pm, with activities for all ages, including a scavenger hunt, horse and carriage rides, music, carollers, crafts, and more. Cape May hosts the annual Dickens Christmas Extravaganza (see next listing for more). The Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion hosts a Dickens Christmas Party, December 14, 2pm-5pm and “An Evening with Charles Dickens” with Edward G. Pettit at 7pm. Without a Cue Production’s interactive comedy “A Dickens of a Murder Dinner Theatre” is December 7, 15, and 21 at Resorts on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ.
Cape May celebrates the holiday season with the 40th annual Christmas Candlelight House Tour, a self-guided tour of homes, inns, hotels and churches decorated for the holidays along with carolling, strolling musicians, refreshments and more, Saturday, December 7, 14, 28. See the “Old Fashioned Christmas Exhibit” of holiday traditions through the years complete with the Dickens village and holiday trains beneath the giant Christmas tree at the Carriage House Gallery, Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington Street, on display through January 1; Plus – A Dickens Christmas Extravaganza, December 8-10; Lamplighter Christmas tours, Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides, “Christmas with Harte and O. Henry,” at East Lynne Theater Company, “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” at Cape May Stage through December 29, and much more, throughout December, Cape May, NJ.
Old-Fashioned holiday celebrations in the region
Tyler Arboretum hosts the Woodland Winter Wonderland celebration, Saturday, December 7, 10am-1pm. Activities include hayrides, ornament-making crafts, reindeer scavenger hunt, hot beverages, tours, portraits and more, 515 Painter Road, Media, PA.
Glencairn Museum hosts “Glad Tidings: A Celebration of Christmas,” including live music, family activities, and more, Sunday, December 8, 12-4:30pm, with the opportunity to see “Follow the Star: World Nativities,” exhibitions of dozens of crèches from around the world as well as “Christmas in the Castle,” 45 minute guided tours exploring how Christmas was celebrated in the Romanesque-style castle when it was the private home of the Pitcairn family, at 1001 Cathedral Road, Bryn Athyn, PA.
The Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights Preserve presents an Old-Fashioned Holiday, Wednesday, December 11, 6pm-9pm, and Saturday, December 14, 1pm-4pm. Enjoy hot chocolate, trains, story time with readings of The Night Before Christmas and The Polar Express, Victorian and train-inspired holiday crafts and activities, and a photo exhibit, “Snow Travelers: Experiencing Winter at the Dawn of the Automotive Age,” 3000 Creek Road (Rt. 82), Yorklyn, DE. The Museum boasts the world’s largest operating collection of Stanley steam cars.
Cairnwood Estate hosts “Cairnwood by Candlelight,” an evening of candlelight and music at the 118 year old Beaux Arts-style mansion, Thursday, December 12, 7:30pm, with self-guided tours of all three floors of the mansion, the servant’s quarters, and the tower, live music, a display of Victorian gowns, Yuletide desserts, and holiday décor including the two-story Christmas tree adorned with 2000 lights and 300 pieces of sugared fruit (pictured), 1005 Cathedral Road, Bryn Athyn, PA.
Step back into the nineteenth century and enjoy the Christmas traditions of the German settlement in Philadelphia with an exhibition of children’s toys and holiday decorations from the collection of the Germantown Historical Society, on view at Woodmere Art Museum through January 5. Highlights include a nineteenth-century sculpture of Belsnickel, the predecessor of the modern Santa Claus, the holiday tree decorated according to the style of the time with historic and period-inspired ornaments, and the gallery filled with toy trains, wooden toys, puzzles, dolls, a doll house, and other objects that transport visitors back into a traditional Christmas of Philadelphia, 9201 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill.
Yifei Kong contributed reporting to this week’s Guide.
To submit an event to be considered for the Weekly Entertainment Guide email Robin Bloom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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