MAKING SPIRITS  BRIGHT

Holiday Happenings in the Valley

by Stephen Dunn and Kathryn Brooks

 

Forget the traffic jams, the long lines at the malls, the endless wrapping, decorating, baking and cooking. Instead, get back to basics this holiday season with music, dance, singing and laughter. Guaranteed to get you in the spirit, here are some things to see and do around the Valley.

TWINKLE-TOES

Above: Ballet Arizona and The Phoenix Symphony present the holiday masterpiece, The Nutcracker. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.
BALLET ARIZONA

Pirouette into Symphony Hall where Ballet Arizona presents The Nutcracker, the seasonal favorite with Clara and her Prince, dancing toys, mischievous mice, waltzing flowers and dazzling snowflakes all set to masterful music. With exquisite dancing, colorful costuming, scintillating Tchaikovsky and the innovative choreography of Ib Andersen, the artistic director of Ballet Arizona, this holiday masterpiece is two hours of pure magic for all family members.

December 13-24, www.balletaz.org

BALLET ÉTUDE

This company has been shining a spotlight on the up-and-coming professional dancers of tomorrow for over 30 years, so check out the local talent in their production of Nutcracker at the Mesa Arts Center. Here’s a tip: hang around afterwards and you may get a backstage tour following most performances.  Through December 16, https://balletetudes.net/

CENTER STAGE ENSEMBLE

The Herberger Theater’s resident dance company presents Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen. Set to music by Prokofiev, the show is a modern dance interpretation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic about good versus evil and the power of love. The show includes 17 members of the company, joined by 50 young dancers from Valley studios. Though December 16, https://www.herbergertheater.org/center-stage/

SING-A-SONG 
Above: Enjoy the sounds of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas at ASU Gammage.
CHANDLER CENTER FOR THE ARTS

Now in  its 31st year, the Spirit of Christmas features a cast of over 100 dancers, singers and guest performers on December 8, 9, 15 and 16 as the Chandler Center is transformed into a a winter wonderland. Following their unforgettable sold-out concert last year, the charismatic Sons of Serendip quartet returns on December 14 to perform their unique arrangements of the most popular holiday songs. On December 21, the electrifying sights and sounds of DRUMLine Live, a full marching band, perform holiday classics with the energy of hip-hop, jazz, soul and Motown. https://chandlercenter.org/

MESA ARTS CENTER

The holidays begin with Sing! An Irish Christmas on December 5. Ireland’s own Keith and Kristyn Getty are joined by their band of virtuosic instrumentalists fusing Celtic, Bluegrass, Americana, Modern and Classical music along with cultural dance and the choral sounds of the holiday. Salt River Brass Holiday Pops returns on December 9 with a magical concert of holiday classics. https://www.mesaartscenter.com/

PHOENIX BOYS CHOIR

Whoever said children should be seen and not heard never listened to the Phoenix Boys Choir. Ring in the season with the 2018 musical celebration, The Halle Holiday Concert Series. The group will showcase holiday songs and carols from around the world, as well as the Vienna Boys’ Choir version of Silent Night and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. December 7, 15, 16, 18 and 20, https://www.boyschoir.org

PHOENIX CHORALE

Arizona’s Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale will be all over the map… literally. Like the best Christmas carolers who ever knocked on your door, they sing their hearts out from downtown Phoenix to Sun City and Paradise Valley. Be prepared to sing along with the more familiar tunes. December 14-18, https://www.phoenixchorale.org/

Above: Accompanied by The Phoenix Symphony, Troupe Vertigo returns to amaze attendees with its gravity-defying moves.
THE PHOENIX SYMPHONY

Handel’s Messiah returns as the marquee event this season, as The Phoenix Symphony’s Music Director Tito Muñoz leads The Phoenix Symphony and Chorus in the masterwork oratorio at various Valley locations. December 12-16.

A Cirque Holiday Spectacular with Troupe Vertigo, showcases two of the Valley’s most popular traditions; The Phoenix Symphony performing holiday favorites and a world-renowned troupe featuring strong men, contortionists, aerialists and jugglers perform gravity-defying acts. December 7-9.

The year ends and begins with Strauss waltzes, seasonal classics, Broadway and contemporary favorites and complimentary glasses of Champagne with The Phoenix Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Celebration at Symphony Hall. https://www.phoenixsymphony.org/

THE BRIAN SETZER CHRISTMAS ROCKS! TOUR

Expect a wild evening as The Brian Setzer Christmas Rocks! Tour returns to Celebrity Theatre. The annual extravaganza will showcase the bands’ top hits as well as classic Christmas songs with inspired guitar work from Setzer himself. December 15, www.celebrity.theatrephoenix.com

SCOTTSDALE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

On December 8, Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves rings in the holiday season with music from her celebrated album, Christmas Time Is Here. 

Conducted by Robert R. Nichols and Ajay R. Patel, the professional musicians of the Scottsdale Philharmonic perform a holiday concert with traditional holiday classical pieces on December 9. www.scottsdalearts.org

ASU GAMMAGE

Experience the magic as the spirit of the season comes alive with Mannheim Steamroller Christmas.  A selection from Grammy Award-winner Chip Davis’ Fresh Aire series plus dazzling mutimedia effects add to the program. December 27, www.asugammage.com

UNDER THE STARS
Above: ZooLights returns with millions of lights, motion light shows and hundreds of sparkling displays.
PHOENIX ZOO

A walk through the Phoenix Zoo makes for a great day, but when it’s aglow with millions of LED lights, music-in-motion light shows, 700 sparkling displays, Jengo the talking giraffe and Tortuga the talking tortoise, ZooLights makes for an even better night. Tip: take kids on weeknights when it’s less crowded. Without kids, go after 8 p.m. Through January 13, www.phoenixzoo.org

DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN

The Garden will be decked out for Las Noches De Las Luminarias again this year, making it a thoroughly Southwestern holiday experience. Kids enjoy exploring the meandering paths illuminated with votives, but holding hands on a cold night surrounded by such beauty makes for one great date as well. Through December 31, www.dbg.org

THE PRINCESS RESORT

There’s something special about skating outside this time of year. If you can’t make it to Rockefeller Center in New York City, just visit Christmas at the Princess in Scottsdale. Enjoy their outdoor rink, thousands of lights throughout the lagoon and even snow. Through December 31, https://www.scottsdaleprincess.com/Seasonal-Events/Christmas-at-the-Princess

OLLIE THE TROLLEY

Sure, you can pack everyone in your car or caravan and check out the best Christmas lights in town, but wouldn’t it be easier to let someone else do the driving? Ollie the Trolley is a fun way to tour the best-decorated Valley homes. Pack some hot chocolate and snacks and enjoy! Through December, www.dunntransportation.com

GLENDALE GLITTERS

Hot air ballon, live music, great food and, of course, more than one million glittering lights await at the annual event that’s a treat for the senses. Through January 12, https://www.glendaleaz.com/glitters/

TRAIN PARK

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park on Indian Bend in Scottsdale is beautifully decorated. The kids can play in the park and take a train ride through a beautifully lit wonderland. Santa will be on hand every day. Be sure to enjoy a carousel ride while you’re there. Through January 6, https://www.therailroadpark.com/

THEATER
Above: Christmas at the Princess includes an outdoor skating rink, thousands of light around the lagoon and even snow.
HIGLEY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

The Forgotten Carols stage performance tells the story of a Connie Lou, a rigid yet competent nurse, whose patient guides the young nurse to open her heart to the joy of this special season. https://www.forgottencarols.com/shows/higley-center-for-performing-arts-2/

SCOTTSDALE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

If you’re looking for a bit of irreverence this holiday, take in a performance of Sister’s Secret Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold. This hilarious one-nun show has become a cult classic. Warning: Don’t be late or Sister will be very angry. December 7-16, www.scottsdalearts.org

BLACK THEATRE TROUPE

This legendary holiday event by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, returns to the Black Theatre Troupe stage. A joyous company of singers, actors, dancers and musicians delivers Black Nativity’s powerful message of joy, hope, victory and liberation that warms the heart at a very special time of the year. Through December 16, http://new-wp.blacktheatretroupe.org/

THEATRE WORKS

Catch the production of Charles Dicken’s classic, A Christmas Carol, at Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. Experience the transformation of an old miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions. December 14-23, theaterworks.org/

PHOENIX THEATRE

Guaranteed to get your “sparklejollytwinklejingle” on, Elf:The Musical tells the story of Buddy, one of Santa’s elves. When Buddy learns he is actually a human, he travels to New York City to meet his biological father, spreading Christmas cheer in a world of cynics. Through December 30, www.phoenixtheatre.com

FOR THE KIDS
Above: Guests on The Polar Express are encouraged to wear pajamas.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL WITH KATIE McFADZEN

Childsplay welcomes local actress Katie McFadzen as she brings Charles Dicken’s famous tale, A Christmas Carol, to life. The show will be performed at Tempe Center for the Arts. Through December 24, https://www.childsplayaz.org/

THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER, THE MUSICAL

Based on the bestselling book, mayhem and fun collide in this hilarious Christmas tale of a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the most awful kids in history. Through December 9, www.mesaartscenter.com

POLAR EXPRESS

If you are up in Flagstaff, drive a little further to Williams for a book-come-to-life with The Polar Express. Guests are encouraged to dress in pajamas and should be prepared for a belly full of hot chocolate, an eyeful of fun entertainment and a heart full of joy.  Through December 31, www.thetrain.com/

VALLEY YOUTH THEATRE

Who better to share a magical evening with this holiday season than that silly old bear, Winnie the Pooh? Join Pooh Bear and friends in Winnie The Pooh Christmas Tail performed for kids, by kids, that is as fun as it is heartwarming.  Through December 23, www.vyt.com