Holiday happenings: music, dance and camp fun for your Yule

  • by Philip Mayard
  • Tuesday November 28, 2023
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'Dear San Francisco' (photo: David Allen)
'Dear San Francisco' (photo: David Allen)

From classical music and dance, to campy classics featuring your favorite drag performers, there's something on stages across the Bay Area to bring joy and inspiration to your holiday season. Sick of Santa? Not nuts for "Nutcracker"? We've also included a few offerings for those looking to escape the barrage of holiday programming this month.

Connie Champagne's 'A Very Judy Christmas' (photo: Kent Taylor)  

Berkeley Symphony's 'Holiday Winds'

Get into the holiday spirit with an evening of uplifting music performed by a quintet of Berkeley Symphony woodwind players. "Holiday Winds" features favorite Christmas carols as well as new compositions. Stay afterwards for a festive post-show reception. $40, Dec. 3, Piedmont Center for the Arts, 801 Magnolia Avenue.

The Grammy-winning vocal ensemble performs their annual holiday concert, "A Chanticleer Christmas," at venues around the U.S. In the Bay Area, enjoy their beautiful sounds in Stanford, Oakland, Berkeley, Carmel and in San Francisco (at St. Ignatius Church, 650 Parker Ave.) Dec. 14-23. $36-$85.

Connie Champagne's 'A Very Judy Christmas'
Our local chanteuse known for her heartfelt Judy Garland cabaret homage, with a bit of whimsy, returns to the popular martini bar's intimate lounge, with accompanist Barry Lloyd and guest singer Olivia Gonzales. $40. Dec. 16 & 17, 7pm. Martuni's, 4 Valencia St.

Golden Gate Men's Chorus' 'Star of Wonder'
Under the directorship of Joseph Piazza, the chorus performs winter anthems, joyful carols, and sentimental holiday classics. $30-$50. December 14-19 at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, 3281 16th St.

San Francisco Symphony's 'Holiday Gaiety' hosts Peaches Christ and Edwin Outwater (photo: Cabure Bonugi)  

San Francisco Symphony: 'Holiday Gaiety'
One of the Bay Area's most popular LGBTQ holiday events is SF Symphony's annual "Holiday Gaiety," co-emceed by conductor Edwin Outwater and Peaches Christ. The program features our city's world-renowned orchestra with performances by Bianca Del Rio; vocalist Dylan Mulvaney; mezzo-soprano and aerialist Nikola Printz; vocalist Renée Lubin; Sister Roma; dancers Rory Davies and Michael Phillis from the cast of "Baloney;" and the SF Gay Men's Chorus. $35-$109, Dec. 15, Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.

Sunday's a Drag: Holiday Extravaganza
Following a 15-year run at The Starlight Room, the "First Lady of the Castro" Donna Sachet recently relocated her classic "Sunday's a Drag" brunch show to Club Fugazi. The program celebrates the history of drag in San Francisco, with performances by Sachet, Mercedez Munro, Khmera Rouge, and Ehra Amaya. $89-$99, Dec. 17 only, Club Fugazi, 678 Green St.

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus (photo: Gooch)  

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Holiday Spectacular
SF Gay Men's Chorus' annual extravaganza features a rousing mix of holiday music, comedic routines, and Broadway-style production numbers. This year's program showcases ballroom dancing champions Photis Pishiaras and Ron Jenkins, and the world premiere of "Where Winter Rests in Sleep," composed by Alessio Tranchell, winner of SFGMC's Annual Composition Competition. The Chorus' Christmas Eve performances at the Castro Theatre always sell out, so get tickets early. Or you can catch the Chorus earlier in the month at the Sydney Goldstein Theatre, Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, or Green Music Center in Rohnert Park. $25-$145, Dec. 8-24, various Bay Area locations.

Smuin artist Marc LaPierre in Smuin Contemporary Ballet's 'The Christmas Ballet' (photo: Chris Hardy)  

Smuin Contemporary Ballet's 'The Christmas Ballet'

The late Michael Smuin's joyous "Christmas Ballet" is the company's ever-evolving holiday program. This year's rendition features world premiere works by Smuin Associate Artistic Director Amy Seiwert and former Smuin artist Nicole Haskins. The company's popular LGBTQ Night (Dec. 19), hosted by worldwide drag sensation Lady Camden, is a one-night-only performance featuring special programming and casting that celebrates the LGBTQ community. Every ticket purchased also supports Project Open Hand, The Imperial Council of San Francisco, the LGBT Asylum Project, and other nonprofits. $25-$119, now through Dec. 24, various Bay Area venues.

Mark Foehringer Dance Project's 'Nutcracker Sweets' (photo: Matt Haber)  

Mark Foehringer's 'Nutcracker Sweets'
If you've got little ones who aren't quite ready for the two-hour classical ballet experience, "Nutcracker Sweets" is just for you. Now in its 15th year, this 50-minute version of the ballet features beautiful sets and costumes and a live nine-piece chamber orchestra. Don't make a fuss if the kids next to you talk to the characters on stage; audience participation is encouraged. $23.50-$49.50, December 2-23, Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, 2 Marina Blvd.

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

San Francisco Ballet's 'Nutcracker'
There are countless productions of "Nutcracker" around the Bay Area, but San Francisco Ballet's version is the most opulent. Set in San Francisco during the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, the production features more than 150 world-class dancers and a full orchestra performing Tchaikovsky's iconic score. There will be plenty of children in attendance, but the show also makes for a wonderful holiday night on the town for adults. $25-$388, Dec. 13-30, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave.

RAWdance's 'Loving Still' (photo: Helena Palazzi)  

RAWdance's 'Loving Still'
Here's something different for the holiday season. RAWdance presents the world premiere of "Loving Still," a dance work performed by five pairs of male dancers, inspired by the book, "Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love, 1850s -1950s," a collection of more than 300 previously unpublished photos capturing the beauty of same-sex love throughout history. From members of the military to the heirs of high society, images from the book will be reproduced in large format and displayed in the venue. Free with RSVP, Dec. 8-10, 836 Montgomery St.

'Dance-Along Nutcracker'  

'Dance-Along Nutcracker'
Part musical comedy, part dance-it-yourself ballet, and part band concert, at "Dance-Along Nutcracker® 2023: The Nutmare Before Christmas!" audience participation is all but required. San Francisco's Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band provides the music and the audience does almost everything else. Costumes are encouraged, so dust off your tutu and toe shoes and let your inner sugar plum fairy come to life. $27-$65, Dec. 16 & 17, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, 701 Mission St.

ODC/Dance's 'The Velveteen Rabbit' (photo: Hillary Goidell)  

ODC/Dance's 'The Velveteen Rabbit'
A beloved tale of love, loyalty, and unconditional acceptance, ODC/Dance's "The Velveteen Rabbit" has resonated with the LGBTQ community for 37 years. The production features choreography by KT Nelson, music by Benjamin Britten, and live narration. $30-$125, Dec. 2-10, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St.; Dec. 16-17, Douglas Morrison Theatre, 22311 N 3rd St., Hayward.

Oakland Ballet's 'Nutcracker' (photo: John Hefti)  

Oakland Ballet's 'Nutcracker'
Artistic Director Graham Lustig's choreographic take on the holiday classic features music performed by the Oakland Symphony and the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir. The lavish set designs take on an Art Nouveau style, fitting with the opulent theater's architecture. All performances are held during the day, including two shows with sweet treats and dancer meet-and-greets afterwards. $26-$126, Dec. 16 & 17, Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland.

Club Fugazi's 'Dear San Francisco'

Affectionately dubbed "a love letter to San Francisco," this immersive production brings together Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics, irreverent humor, local history, and heartfelt personal stories from the cast as well as audience members. This month the club will be decked out in Christmas decor, while the critically acclaimed show will be sprinkled with special holiday joy. A special New Year's Eve performance includes bottomless bubbly and a celebration at midnight. $69-$175, now through Jan. 6, Club Fugazi, 678 Green St.

Disney's 'The Lion King' (photo: Joan Marcus)  

'Disney's The Lion King'
There's a reason more than 100 million people around the world have seen the theatrical spectacle that is "Disney's The Lion King" since its premiere in 1997: it's really pretty fabulous. Winner of six Tony Awards, the groundbreaking musical set a new standard for Broadway blockbusters, with its imaginative direction and astounding puppetry by Julie Taymor, and music by Elton John and Tim Rice. $85-$268, now through Dec. 30, Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St.

Mai Abe, Dave J. Abrams and Maia Campbell in 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' (photo: Reed Flores)  

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'
A quirky group of sixth graders (played by adults) competes in a riotous competition, overseen by an equally oddball team of grown-up officials. Hilarity and camaraderie ensue as the earnest young spellers bond through competition while learning some life lessons and discovering themselves along the way. $30-$92, Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

B Noel Thomas and James Carpenter in A.C.T.'s 'A Christmas Carol'  

American Conservatory Theater's 'A Christmas Carol'
With plans to premiere a new production in 2024, this year will be your last chance to see A.C.T.'s beautiful production of the holiday classic, "A Christmas Carol," which has delighted Bay Area audiences for more than 20 years. With spectacular sets, a cast of more than 40 decked out in Victorian finery, plus magical ghosts and charming music, you won't want to miss the chance to see this uplifting production one last time. $15-$135, Dec. 6-24, Toni Rembe (formerly Geary) Theater, 415 Geary St.

Rotimi Agbabiaka (center) as Hernia the Witch in Presidio Theatre's 'Sleeping Beauty' (photo: Terry Lorant)  

Panto at the Presidio's 'Sleeping Beauty'
If you still miss "Beach Blanket Babylon," head out to Panto at the Presidio, which returns with its outrageous re-imagining of the classic fairy tale "Beauty." A zany mashup of fractured fairy tales, parodies of pop songs and current events, the whole family will enjoy this rollicking show set in the kingdom of Pantoland, a mythical place that bears a striking resemblance to contemporary San Francisco. $20-$60, now through Dec. 30, Presidio Theatre Performing Arts Center, 2340 Chestnut St.

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