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 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 town.

TWINKLE-TOES

Above: Ballet Arizona. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.

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.

Ballet Étude 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.

The Herberger Theater’s resident dance company, Center Stage Ensemble 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.

SING-A-SONG
Top: Mannheim Steamroller. Bottom, left: Phoenix Boys Choir. Bottom, right: Phoenix Chorale.
 

The Spirit of Christmas features a cast of over 100 dancers, singers and guest performers as the Chandler Center for the Arts is transformed into a a winter wonderland.

The holidays begin at Mesa Arts Center with nine-time Grammy® nominee and saxophonist Dave Koz as he brings his Dave Koz Christmas Tour 2017. Three days later Mannheim Steamroller Christmas will perform the group’s unique Neo-Classical take on popular holiday songs and carols with a rock ‘n roll beat. Finishing off the year, the quartet 98°, known for their signature R & B-tinged, four-part harmonies, will feature songs their new album Let it Snow.

Whoever said children should be seen and not heard never listened to the Phoenix Boys Choir. Ring in the season with the 2017 musical celebration, The Halle Holiday Concert Series. The group will perform holiday songs and carols from around the world, as well as the Vienna Boys’ Choir version of Silent Night and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.

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.

 Chrizmaz with the Good Feelz, consists of the trio of Brian Sweis, Adam Vargas and Lisa Fogel, with Jay Melberg on piano and Daniel Ybarra on drums. Jingle on in to Phoenix Theatre for a festive celebration of song. From heartwarming to humorous, jazz to pop and new to nostalgic, these tunes are sure to put you in the “Chrizmaz” spirit.

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.

A Cirque Nutcracker with Troupe Vertigo, a show featuring two of the Valley’s most popular traditions, Tchaikovsky’s magical score and a world-renowned troupe featuring strong men, contortionists, aerialists and jugglers, will be held at the Mesa Arts Center, Ikeda Theater.

 

Above: 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.

The year ends and 2018 begins at The Phoenix Symphony with Strauss waltzes, seasonal classics, Broadway and contemporary favorites and complimentary glasses of Champagne with their New Year’s Eve Celebration at Symphony Hall.

At Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (SCPA), the holiday shows begin as professional musicians of the Scottsdale Philharmonic perform a concert with traditional holiday classical pieces. Next, world-class baritone and Nashville recording artist David Britton and his musicians celebrate the season with Christmas music from around the world.

Then, DC Dance AZ presents Seussical the Musical, with Dr. Seuss favorites in their dancing shoes as Horton tries to save the Whos. Next, we head south of the border with Mariachi Sol de México® de José Hernández Presents A Merry-Achi Christmas in a blend of classical, pop, jazz, swing and Broadway tunes.

Following, the always popular Winter Solstice, performed by Windham Hill artists, is a joyous one-of-a-kind holiday experience. Ending the holiday series at SCPA, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s Wild and Swingin’ Holiday Party blends a vibrant fusion of the classic American sounds of jazz, swing and Dixieland with the energy and spirit of contemporary culture.

UNDER THE STARS
Above, top: Las Noches De Las Luminarias. Above, bottom: The Scottsdale Princes  Resort.

A walk through the Phoenix Zoo makes for a great day, but when it’s aglow with 3.8 million 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.

Desert Botanical 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.

There’s something special about skating outside this time of year at The Scottsdale Princess Resort. 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.

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!

Hot air ballon, live music, great food and, of course, lots of twinkling lights await at the annual Glendale Glitters event that’s a treat for the senses.

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.

THEATER
Above: Sister’s Secret Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold.

At ASU Gammage, 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.

In Gilbert, at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts, A Christmas Story, The Musical, is based on the delightful seasonal movie classic we’ve all grown to love. Set in the ‘40s, young Ralphie tries to convince his parents, teacher and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun is the perfect Christmas present.

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 at SCPA has become a cult classic. Warning: Don’t be late or Sister will be very angry.

Black Theatre Troupe presents a new production of Black Nativity as the company of singers, actors, dancers and musicians delivers its powerful message of joy, hope, victory and liberation.

Catch the production of Charles Dicken’s classic, A Christmas Carol, at Theatre Works. Marvel at theuplifting transformation of an old miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.

FOR THE KIDS
Above, top: Winnie The Pooh Christmas Tail. Above, bottomJunie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!

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.

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.

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. The productions by Valley Youth Theatre are performed for kids, by kids, making the show especially fun.

Above: Las Noches De Las Luminarias.

DIRECTORY

For more information, including dates, tickets and reservations, visit the following websites;

ASU GAMMAGE  www.asugammage.com

BALLET ARIZONA  www.balletaz.org

BALLET ÉTUDE  www.chandlercenter.org

BLACK THEATRE TROUPE  www.blacktheatretroupe.org

CELEBRITY THEATRE  www.celebrity.theatrephoenix.com

CENTER STAGE ENSEMBLE  www.centerdance.com

CHANDLER CENTER FOR THE ARTS  www.chandlerarts.org

CHILDSPLAY  www.chilsplayaz.org

DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN  www.dbg.org

GLENDALE GLITTERS  www.glandaleaz.com/events

HIGLEY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS  www.higleyarts.org

McCORMICK SULLIVAN-STILLMAN RAILROAD PARK  www.thetrainpark.com

MESA ARTS CENTER  www.mesaartscenter.com

OLLIE THE TROLLEY  www.dunnstransportation.com

PHOENIX BOYS CHOIR  www.boyschoir.org

PHOENIX CHORALE  www.phoenixchorale.org

THE PHOENIX SYMPHONY  www.phoenixsymphony.org

PHOENIX THEATRE  www.phoenixtheatre.com

PHOENIX ZOO  www.phoenixzoo.org

POLAR EXPRESS  www.thetrain.com

PRINCESS RESORT & SPA  www.scottsdaleprincess.com

SCOTTSDALE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS  www.scottsdalearts.org

THEATRE WORKS  wwwtheatreworks.org

VALLEY YOUTH THEATRE  www.vyt.com