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Holiday Theater Guide: 'Tis the Season for Good Times

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'Golden Girls Live' (Mr Pam)

If you like to see theater, comedy or dance, the Bay Area is a fantastic place to be during the holiday season. There are Christmas Carols and Nutcrackers aplenty to keep up your holiday spirits and visiting aunties from Omaha happy — from A-list productions in San Francisco by the American Conservatory Theater and the San Francisco Ballet, to smaller-yet-equally-worthy efforts from companies like San Jose’s Northside Theatre Company and the Oakland Ballet.

But if it turns out the Omaha aunties are more adventurous than you thought, then you get to give them a taste of the real local holiday flavor. For whether your relations are into seeing Jewish comedians perform in a Chinese restaurant, hearing the witty seasonal memories of Depression-era journalists, or witnessing spectacular circus feats under the mistletoe, they won’t be disappointed.

Here are a few more holiday-themed performing arts events to induce the holiday spirit in even the most stubborn members of your family in the coming weeks.

Smuin Christmas Ballet
Smuin Christmas Ballet (Photo: Chris Hardy/Smuin Ballet)

The Christmas Ballet

Now through Sunday, Dec. 27
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The Smuin Ballet has been presenting this holiday tradition for more than 20 years. What keeps people coming back — other than the chance to enjoy a dance show that isn’t The Nutcracker or some derivative of The Nutcracker at this time of year — is the athleticism and fun of the choreography, the colorful creativity of the mise-en-scene, and the fact that there are always new, bite-sized items on the menu to stop things from feeling too much like party leftovers. This year’s production include a couple of fresh segments — a take on the beloved Christmas carol “Joy to the World” by company member dancer Nicole Haskins and choreographer-in-residence Amy Seiwert’s setting of “Home for the Holidays.”

The 30th Annual Christmas Revels: 'A Venetian Masque'
The 30th Annual Christmas Revels:
‘A Venetian Masque’ (Courtesy: California RevelsThe 30th Annual Christmas Revels: A Venetian Masque)

Christmas Revels: A Venetian Masque

Friday, Dec. 11 – Sunday, Dec. 20
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For the past 30 years, the California Revels has injected a fat dose of folk culture into the local holiday season — and has become as beloved a fixture as a favorite tree ornament in the process. This year’s event, which brings together pros like Jeff Raz and Robert Sicular with amateur performers from all over the community, takes its cue from the Commedia dell’Arte performance traditions of the early 17th century. The schtick revolves around a bunch of ragtag comedians as they attempt to sabotage a classy masque thrown by the Doge of Venice. Expect a riotous combustion of high and low art, voluminous costumes and plenty of audience participation.

Music and dance abound at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party
Music and dance abound at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party (Photo: Rich Yee)

Dickens Fair

Now through Sunday, Dec. 20
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Christmas Eve goes on for a full five weeks in this annual holiday favorite where Bay Area residents don hoop skirts and top hats and make believe that Cow Palace in 2015 is Merrie Olde Englande circa 1850. The event is a great place to pick up holiday gifts and pig out on cakes and ale. But it’s the theatricality of the thing that makes this fair stand out from other similar holiday pageants. If the hoards of actors wandering about dressed up as characters from Dickens novels aren’t enough to take you back to Christmas past, participating in an English country dance, watching the Stark Ravens Players’ original musical version of Pinocchio, or — if you’re a grownup — getting your kicks at the titillating Dickens After Dark revue, surely will.

Alex Rodriguez as Mr. Paravincini in 'The Moustrap'
Alex Rodriguez as Mr. Paravincini in ‘The Moustrap’ (Photos: Pak Han)

The Mousetrap

Now through Sunday, Jan. 10
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For anyone who’s already had their fill of red-nosed reindeers, sugarplum fairies and their ilk this holiday season, the Berkeley-based company Shotgun Players has the perfect antidote in the shape of theater history’s most famous murder-mystery — and longest running show of any kind — The Mousetrap. Agatha Christie’s comedic 1952 potboiler investigates the fallout of a gruesome crime committed on the premises of a remote guest house. The fantastical whodunnit famously ends with a far-out twist — one which audiences are traditionally asked to keep to themselves. Shotgun Players revels in presenting holiday programming that’s just enough outside the realms of the typical fare to broaden the audience’s palette without putting them off their Christmas hams entirely. And this show, helmed by the company’s artistic director, Patrick Dooley, appears to fit the mandate.

A few more suggestions:

Now through Sunday, Dec. 20: Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes at Victoria Theatre, San Francisco


Friday, Dec. 18: Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts, Cupertino

Now through Sunday, Dec. 20 Fiddler on the Roof at Hillbarn Theatre, Foster City

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