Wool scarves, fuzzy mittens and warm mugs of spiced cider signal the shift from fall to winter, yet the celebrations are just getting started. With the ‘Tis the Season spirit upon us, the Seattle holiday arts scene has a bit of everything —from musicals and plays to a big-band blowout — to lend the city its festive mood.
Classic holiday tales
Premiering Friday, Nov. 25, the classic stories of “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker” — both long-standing traditions in the Seattle area — set off the merry fever.
Now in its 36th year, ACT Theatre’s ( www.acttheatre.org) adaption of the time-honored tale of Ebenezer Scrooge plays until Dec. 24, providing a fun, family-friendly place to spend the evening.
“We decorate the entire theater,” said Becky Lathrop, ACT’s director of marketing. “It turns into this Victorian holiday environment. We have carolers around the building, hot spiced cider. It’s a great way to get the holidays going.”
Adding a twist to the Dec. 9 performance, ACT and Seattle Children’s hospital join to host a special evening viewing, preceded by a fund-raiser that benefits the hospital and ACT’s children’s program, known as the Tiny Tim Fund.
Families will also enjoy Pacific Northwest Ballet’s (PNB; www.pnb.org) version of “Nutcracker,” celebrating its 28th year this winter. Adapted by children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak and Kent Stowell, PNB’s founding director and choreographer, each performance illuminates the stage.
“It’s truly is one of the most unique ‘Nutcrackers’ in the country,” said Gary Tucker, the media relations manager at PNB. “With the sets and costumes designed by Maurice Sendak, it’s very recognizable. No other ‘Nutcrackers’ have this look.”
Tucker added that the show, which ends its run on Dec. 27, has feeling and depth to which other versions cannot compare, attracting audiences of all ages year after year.
From traditional to ‘Cool Yule’
Looking at the depth of performances on less traditional stages, musical shows fill the calendar this holiday season.
Beginning Dec. 9, members of the Northwest Boychoir and Vocalpoint! Seattle —both operated by Northwest Choirs ( www.northwestchoirs.org) — will perform “A Festival of Lessons and Carols” at churches across the city, culminating in the grand finale at Benaroya Hall on Dec. 21.
Noting the popularity of each show, Northwest Choirs executive director Maria Johnson emphasized the unique qualities that the boys as young as 9 bring to the performance.
“It started off as a one performance in the ‘70s, and it’s grown into a full concert series,” she said. “Audiences are captivated by their professionalism and their unique, beautiful and innocent sound.”
Explaining that the show’s authentic Christmas feeling draws in audiences, she added, “Some people find it to be the spiritual thing they do around Christmas time.”
On the opposite end of the musical spectrum, the Seattle Men’s Chorus (SMC; www.flyinghouse.org/smc) will merge traditional Christmas pieces with a big-band sound in its holiday extravaganza, “Cool Yule.” Spoofing the CBS show, “The Big Bang Theory,” SMC will incorporate swing music from the 1930s and ‘40s to holiday standards, including “Let it Snow” and “Silent Night.”
“If you like to laugh, if you like to reminisce, this is the perfect combination of the two,” said SMC’s public relations manager Jennifer Rice. “You’re going to get ‘Silent Night’ and the big chorale numbers that bring tears to your eyes. But you never know what the guys are holding behind them. At any minute, 250-plus men could pull out reindeer ears, Christmas ornaments or kazoos.”
“Cool Yule,” which runs from Saturday, Nov. 26, to Dec. 23, will also feature Megan Hilty, a rising television, stage and film actress, during its opening weekend. Hilty, who was born and raised in Bellevue, has starred in several Broadway shows and will soon debut in the new NBC show, “SMASH.”
More holiday traditions
In a more somber performance of equal sound and grandeur, Seattle Theater Group (STG; stgpresents.org) will continue the tradition of the now-defunct Intiman Theater’s annual showing of “Black Nativity.”
Based on a poem by world-renowned writer, novelist and journalist Langston Hughes, STG’s version will showcase an all-black cast and gospel music led by Pastor Patrinell Wright. The show runs Dec. 8 through 24, and denotes the 50th anniversary of the play’s Broadway debut in 1961.
For a variety of performances, the Seattle Symphony ( www.seattlesymphony.org) keeps with tradition with a full calendar of holiday concerts. Sure to please a wide array of audiences, highlights include a children’s sing-a-long, Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” and Handel’s world-famous “Messiah.”