Holiday happenings: music, dance, and theater make the yuletide gay

  • by Philip Mayard
  • Tuesday November 22, 2022
Share this Post:
'Dear San Francisco' holiday performances (photo: David Allen)
'Dear San Francisco' holiday performances (photo: David Allen)

When the holiday performing arts season comes around, you'd be hard-pressed to find another city that offers more programs by and for us gays. From campy drag to chorus boys, classical music to "A Christmas Carol" — not to mention eight different "Nutcrackers" to choose from — if you're gay in Bay, there's something that's sure to bring joy, laughter, and inspiration to your holiday season. Here are just a few highlights.

Peaches Christ and conductor Edwin Atwater in San Francisco Symphony's 'Holiday Gaiety' (photo: Cabure Bonugli)  

San Francisco Symphony Holiday Gaiety

December is a busy month at Davies, packed with holiday concerts and special appearances by superstars from across the musical spectrum. "The Colors of Christmas" (Dec. 6-7) features Oleta Adams, Peabo Bryson, Ruben Studdard, and Jody Watley. You can spend Christmas Eve with Harry Connick, Jr, or New Year's Eve with Seth MacFarlane.

But the gays will be out in full force for the return of the Symphony's popular "Holiday Gaiety" program. Conducted by Edwin Outwater and hosted by Peaches Christ, this year's show features drag artist Monet X Change, comedian Marga Gomez, mezzo-soprano and aerialist Nikola Printz, Sister Roma, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, and the return of the extraordinarily gifted vocalist Jimmie Herrod. At last year's "Gaiety," Herrod —a finalist on "America's Got Talent"— blew the roof off Davies. It's worth the ticket price just to hear Herrod sang. $35-$109, Dec. 15, Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.

A Chanticleer Christmas
Hailed by "The New Yorker" as the "world's reigning male chorus," Chanticleer tours the globe year-round, but they're back home in the Bay Area this holiday season, with performances from Petaluma to Carmel and all places between. Their San Francisco engagement will be at the magnificent St. Ignatius Cathedral. Expect stellar renditions of classical, jazz, pop, and spiritual tunes, as well as innovative new takes on holiday favorites by San Francisco's "Orchestra of Voices." $36-$80, December 11-23, locations across the Bay Area.

Vienna Boys Choir: Christmas in Vienna
The [Berkeley] hills will be alive with the sound of music on Thanksgiving weekend, as the world-renowned Vienna Boys Choir returns to the Bay Area for a program of Austrian folk songs, classical masterpieces, and Christmas hymns and carols from around the world. The choir is comprised of boys aged 9—13 from more than a dozen countries, who continue the tradition of a six-century Viennese choral legacy. $40-$118, November 26, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley campus.

Candlelight Concerts
This isn't exactly a holiday program, but if you're burned out on Christmas carols you can "Go Your Own Way" and experience the music of Fleetwood Mac like you've never heard it before, with a Candlelight Concerts performance at St. Ignatius Cathedral (Dec. 2). This uniquely entertaining pop chamber ensemble stages intimate, candlelit performances in unexpected venues, including the spooky Old Mint Building. Later in December they'll present several performances of a more traditional holiday program, and in January, look out for Radiohead, Taylor Swift, Beatles, and Radiohead tribute nights. $40-$80, various SF locations. www.san-francisco/candlelight

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Holiday Spectacular  

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Holiday Spectacular
You can't call yourself a true San Franciscan until you've experienced San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus "Holiday Spectacular." Beyond the ensemble's stellar voices, there are always ridiculously funny stage antics, outrageous costumes, and this year we hear there will be a holiday-themed Cher medley. Indeed, where else but SF? If you're not going to be around for the Chorus' annual Christmas Eve performance at the Castro Theatre, you can catch them in Berkeley, or plan a getaway to Sonoma and experience SFGMC at the spectacular Green Music Center in Rohnert Park. $25-$145, various Bay Area locations.

San Francisco Ballet's 'The Nutcracker' (photo: Erik Tomasson)  

San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker

Of the (at least) eight productions of "The Nutcracker" around the Bay Area, San Francisco Ballet's opulent version is the juggernaut. SF Ballet was the first American ballet company to produce a full-length "Nutcracker" in 1944 at our own War Memorial Opera House.

The company's current production, set in San Francisco during the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, is undoubtedly one of the most lavish in the world. The conclusion of Act I ("Journey through the Snow") is guaranteed to take your breath away. Yes, there will be lots of kids in the house, but this "Nutcracker" makes for a great night out for grown-ups too. $19-$335, Dec. 8-27, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave.

Oakland Ballet's Nutcracker
With yet another nut to crack, Graham Lustig's choreographic take on the holiday classic Tchaikovsky's music is performed by the Oakland Symphony, with guest conductor Lesley Dunner, and vocals by the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir. The lavish set designs take on an Art Nouveau style. Performances are matinees, including 1pm shows with cast member meet and greets, so there's plenty of time to send the kids off for a post-concert nap to dream about sugar plum fairies. $33-$111, Dec. 17 & 18, The Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland.

Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets
If you've got little ones in your life who aren't quite ready for the two-hour Opera House experience, Mark Foehringer Dance Project's "Nutcracker Sweets" may be the right fit. This unique 50-minute version of the holiday ballet is specifically designed for families with young children. Now in its 14th year, the beautifully staged production features a live nine-piece chamber orchestra. Just don't be surprised if the kids behind you talk to the characters on stage; audience engagement is encouraged. $22-$44, December 3-18, Cowell Theater at Fort Mason,

'Dance-Along Nutcracker'  

Dance-Along Nutcracker
Of all the Bay Area "Nutcrackers," this one is the nuttiest. Part musical comedy, part dance-it-yourself ballet, and part symphonic concert, at "Dance-Along Nutcracker," audience participation isn't just allowed, it's all but required. San Francisco's Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band provides the iconic score and the audience does almost everything else. Kids and grown-ups are welcome and costumes are encouraged, so get out your tutu and toe shoes and let your inner Sugar Plum Fairy come to life at this quintessentially San Francisco experience. $25-$60, Dec. 17-18, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, 700 Howard St.

Smuin Contemporary Ballet's 'The Christmas Ballet'  

Smuin Contemporary Ballet: The Christmas Ballet
If you're not nuts for "Nutcracker," but love beautiful dancing and a rollicking good time, check out Smuin's joyous "The Christmas Ballet," the company's ever-evolving holiday program. Each year the company unveils new world premiere works, so you'll never see the same show twice. Act I showcases Smuin's pristine ballet technique, while Act II allows the artists to show off their tap, jazz, and comedic skills to a variety of classical, jazz, and pop musical selections.

This year's "The Christmas Ballet" LGBTQ Night (Dec. 20) is sure to be the most fun and popular yet. Hosted by the one and only Lady Camden —hot off her worldwide tour as the runner-up of "RuPaul's Drag Race"— this one-night-only performance includes special programming and casting that celebrates the LGBTQ community. Every ticket purchased also provides a donation to Project Open Hand. $25-$99, Nov. 19—Dec. 24, various Bay Area venues.

ODC Dance: The Velveteen Rabbit
There's a reason that the story of "The Velveteen Rabbit" has resonated with gay people for more than 100 years. A cherished tale of love, loyalty, and unconditional acceptance, the timeless fairy tale is a wonderful vehicle for ODC Dance's holiday production, which has toured to 20 states.

ODC Dance's 'The Velveteen Rabbit' (photo: Robbie Sweeny)  

Now in its 36th year, "The Velveteen Rabbit" features choreography by KT Nelson, music by Benjamin Britten, and narration by the always entertaining Geoff Hoyle (Broadway's "The Lion King"). $15-$100, Nov. 26—Dec. 11, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St.

Club Fugazi: Dear San Francisco Holiday Performances

It's been a little more than a year since the iconic Club Fugazi debuted their acrobatic homage to the City by the Bay, "Dear San Francisco," and it's a truly remarkable production.

Dubbed "a love letter to San Francisco," the intimate, immersive production brings together Cirque du Soleil-style high-flying gymnastics, a healthy dose of irreverent humor and local history, and heartfelt personal stories from the cast and audience members, who are invited to write their own love letter to SF prior to the performance. If you've started to feel jaded about life in SF, "Dear San Francisco" will remind you how lucky we are to call this ridiculous city of ours home.

Starting November 22, Club Fugazi will be decking the hall and sprinkling joyful holiday touches to the critically acclaimed show, and New Year's Eve will include special performances that include complimentary prosecco and a celebration at midnight. $35-$175, ongoing, Club Fugazi, 678 Green St.

American Conservatory Theater's 'A Christmas Carol'  

American Conservatory Theater: A Christmas Carol
San Francisco's holiday season just hasn't been the same without A.C.T.'s glorious production of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," and we're thrilled that it's back after three long years.

Although it was written in 1843, the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge and his epic journey from miserly grump to joyful philanthropist still feels relevant today. With spectacular sets, a cast of dozens decked out in Victorian finery, magical ghosts, and charming music, this superb production is sure to delight youngsters and adults alike. $15-$135, Nov. 30-Dec. 24, Toni Rembe (formerly Geary) Theater,

'The Golden Girls Live: Christmas Episodes'  

The Golden Girls Live: Christmas Episodes
"If you threw a party, invited everyone you knew..." the party would surely end up at the uproarious Christmas edition of "The Golden Girls Live."

This hugely popular San Francisco tradition will once again feature the talents of legendary drag queens Heklina (Dorothy), Matthew Martin (Blanche), D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose), and Holotta Tymes (Sophia), parodying two episodes of everyone's favorite classic '80s sitcom. Get your tickets early, as performances will sell out. $35-$65, Nov. 25-Dec. 23, Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St.

Phaedra Tillery Boughton as Mission Burrito the Chicken and Andre Amarotico as Pecker in 'Sleeping Beauty.' (photo: Terry Lorant)  

Panto at the Presidio: Sleeping Beauty
What "The Nutcracker" is to Americans, "panto" is to the Brits. Panto is a traditional British entertainment that takes over theatres across the UK during the holiday season. It's great for kids, but the grown-ups will love the one-line zingers, outrageous characters, and send-ups of political and pop culture figures. This over-the-top musical re-imagining of the classic fairytale "Sleeping Beauty" is set in the kingdom of Pantoland, a mythical place that bears a striking resemblance to contemporary San Francisco. If you haven't seen a performance at the beautifully restored Presidio Theatre yet, put this on your holiday calendar. $20-$40, Dec. 1-30, Presidio Theatre Performing Arts Center, 2340 Chestnut St.

Brian Copeland's 'The Jewelry Box'  

Brian Copeland's The Jewelry Box: A Genuine Christmas Story
In this funny, loving prequel to his hit one-man show "Not a Genuine Black Man" —the longest running solo show in San Francisco theatre history— actor-playwright Brian Copeland recounts two weeks of his life growing up in Oakland.

Rife with references to 1970s Oakland, "The Jewelry Box" follows six-year-old Brian's adventures as he scours help-wanted ads, applies for jobs, and collects bottles, inching his way toward the perfect gift for his mother: a coveted jewelry box from a local department store. $25-35 general seating (sliding scale), $50-$100 reserved seating, The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.