Growing up, it wasn't officially the holiday season until my mom loaded me and my sister into our Volvo station wagon to help her put up posters for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, A Christmas Carol, Amahl and the Night Visitors, or [insert holiday production here]. When your Mom is a director at the local community theater, you don't count the weeks leading up to Christmas in days. You tally matinees, full houses, and hours until the closing night party.
So yeah, I get a little nostalgic for the ghosts of shows past this time of year. There was something extra yuletide-y about exiting the stage door on a chilly December night and being greeted by a thin layer of snow. Then driving home rehashing Act II — who flubbed a line, who got a big laugh — before pulling up to our house covered in twinkle lights, the tree glistening from the front window. Memories, man.
Alas, short of auditioning for the role of world's tallest drag Tiny Tim, the best way I can think to recapture that festive era is to get out to Charleston's theaters this season. There may not be snow, but given our stacked list of local performances, at least something in this list is guaranteed to be pretty damn magical.
A Christmas Story
Dec. 2 - 20
Few holiday stories are as beloved as this one. With humor and heart, A Christmas Story tells the tale of little Ralphie. All he wants is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle for Christmas. But it's how he gets it that keeps audiences laughing. Prepare to have a talk with the kids about triple-dog dares and frosty flagpoles post-viewing.
A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas
Dec. 3 - 13
Things aren't looking so good at the little house on the prairie. In this production, Papa Ingalls moves his family to Iowa after losing his crops to locust. Little Laura is asked to be a companion for an old lady named Mrs. Starr, but when she overhears the woman offer to adopt her to ease the family's financial burden, Laura is convinced she'll never see Ma and Pa again. Sounds like a tearjerker, but Dramatic Publishing promises that in the end the play "celebrates the importance of enduring family bonds."
Miracle on 34th Street, The Musical
Have a Santa naysayer in the house? Time to buy tickets to Miracle on 34th Street. As we all know, in this classic tale, a jolly bearded gentleman takes on cynical New Yorkers to prove he's the real Kris Kringle. Spoiler alert: he really is. Don't believe me? See the show.
A Christmas Cabaret
Charleston Performing Arts
We don't know about you, but to us, nothing says ho ho ho like showgirls. And Charleston Performing Arts' Christmas Cabaret promises them and more in their 90-minute variety show. The Holy City Harlettes will sing and dance in what the troupe calls a holiday spectacular that will "delight and exceed your expectations."
You want to see a budding prima ballerina sit mesmerized for two and a half hours? Take her to the Nutcracker. Eyes wide, mouth agape, your little darling will be seeing sugarplums before intermission. Charlotte Ballet's performance should be pretty epic too. This will be the first ballet performed in the new Gaillard Center and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra is accompanying it. Better plan on having a tutu under the tree Christmas morning.
Charleston Symphony Orchestra
In addition to rocking a kick-ass powdered wig, German Baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel crafted one of the most timeless holiday concerts ever. Charleston Symphony Orchestra brings the music to life for three nights only with his "Holy Messiah."
Two words: David Sedaris. This is possibly the most entertaining short story-turned-play ever. In it, Crumpet the Elf (a.k.a. Sedaris) relives his brief stint working at Macy's during the most wonderful time of the year. Suffice it to say things get bawdy as Crumpet deals with over-sugared kids, bitchy adults, and a not-who-he-appears Santa. Leave the kids at home, this one is just for adults.
Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Dec. 12 & 19
"The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world." So goes one of the opening lines in this community theater classic, a play about a snotty bunch of siblings who learn the true meaning of Christmas. And this show really does have it all — 20-plus roles for children, ugly holiday sweaters, and a fight over a canned ham. What's not to love?
Charleston Jazz Orchestra
Maestro Charlton Singleton leads the Charleston Jazz Orchestra in a one-night two-set evening featuring big band arrangements of holiday tunes. An annual favorite, this night of jazz is the perfect appertif to a wintery night on the town. The band plays at 8 and 10 p.m.
Watch the animated film The Snowman with accompaniment from not just the Charleston Symphony Orchestra but also the CSO Chorus. Based on the children's book of the same name, this short was nominated for an Academy Award in 1982. The bittersweet tale is about a boy who builds a snowman the first day it snows. Together they go on an adventure and even meet Father Christmas, but the next day the sun comes out and the snowman is gone, but the boy is left with a special reminder of his magical friend. Buy a ticket to find out the rest.