Local News Matters Arts & Entertainment newsletter

End your week with a bit of culture to unwind and refresh. Sign up for our surprising and inspiring options in our weekly newsletter, delivered on Thursdays with news about Bay Area arts and entertainment.

It’s shaping up to be a happy hybrid holiday this year, given that quite a few of the celebratory events in the music, dance and theater worlds that were strictly digital in 2020 now will be offering both in-person and online options. And the lineup of diversions for entertaining us merrymakers is both long and impressive. Here is a roundup, in chronological order. Unless otherwise specified, masks must be worn and vaccination proof provided for those taking in the live events.

Subscribe to our weekly arts & culture newsletter

Thursday: Glide Memorial Church in the San Francisco Tenderloin, which dubbed its annual Holiday Jam fundraiser “Rise Up for Change” for screen-only participants last year, is roaring back in person with “Still We Rise,” throwing open the doors at the Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California St., at 5:30 p.m. for a program featuring two bona fide Bay Area stars. Singer-songwriters Bobby McFerrin and Fantastic Negrito are the main attractions, the former the beloved beatbox master and a cappella king who founded and directs the Voicestra choir, and the latter the Oakland-raised artist who burst on the scene winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest and going on to snag three Grammys since 2016 for best contemporary blues album. The 100-voice Glide Ensemble and Change Band is also on the program. Tickets are $50-$100 for live attendees and a suggested $25 donation for those who want to view from home, available at glide.org/holidayjam.

Smuin Ballet’s “Christmas Tree Rock,” one of the numbers in its touring “Christmas Ballet” show, features a dancing tree. (Photo courtesy Keith Sutter)

Friday-Dec. 26: “Santa Baby,” a sassy-smug little dance number sung with an impossibly long feather boa slung about the neck and torso, is back on the stage, as Smuin Ballet returns to live performances of “The Christmas Ballet,” kicking off its run around multiple Bay Area venues at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek. As always, the program is divided into “Classical” and “Cool” halves, with jazz, tap, traditional ballet and swing numbers set to holiday tunes. More info and tickets, $25-$99, are at smuinballet.org, as are $29 tickets for a virtual viewing that will feature a special “Santa Baby” archival segment.

Francois Battiste plays Ebenezer Scrooge in the Tony-winning Broadway production of “A Christmas Carol” opening Nov. 26 at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre. (Photo courtesy Luke Fontana)

Nov. 26-Dec. 26: A touring musical production of Charles Dickens’ immortal holiday classic “A Christmas Carol,” the very one that swept five Tony Awards in 2020 on Broadway and netted a New York Times Critic’s Pick, hits the stage at the Golden Gate Theatre at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., setting off a monthlong run courtesy of BroadwaySF. The 2-hour-15-minute performance, replete with a dozen of the most beloved Christmas carols, stars Obie-winning stage and television actor Francois Battiste in the role of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Tickets, $56-$256, are available at tickets.broadwaysf.com, at (888) 746-1799 and at the box office at 2 Taylor St. in San Francisco.

Nov. 26-28: For its 30th season, the Pacific Ballet Academy has prepared three versions of its popular “Nutcracker” production: full two-hour performances at 6 p.m. Nov 26 and at 1 and 6 p.m. Nov. 27, and two 45-minute versions geared for the young ones — an Act I only rendition at noon Nov. 28 and a special Act II autism-sensory performance at 2 p.m. the same day with scaled-down lighting and sound elements. All take place at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts at 500 Castro Street. Tickets, $26-$30 for the longer performances and $15 for the two 45-minute performances, are available at (650) 903-6000 or mvcpa.com.   

Soprano Hope Briggs, mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich, tenor Jonathan Smucker and bass Kirk Eichelberger join the Pacific Chamber Orchestra and Chorale for Handel’s “Messiah” on Nov. 27 and 28. (Photo courtesy Pacific Chamber Orchestra)

Nov. 27-28: Soprano Hope Briggs, mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich, tenor Jonathan Smucker and bass Kirk Eichelberger, familiar artists all to Bay Area opera lovers, join conductor Lawrence Kohl and the Pacific Chamber Orchestra and Chorale in Handel’s “Messiah,” with a performance added for the first time this year in Pleasanton at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1225 Hopyard Road. They move to the Bankhead Theater in Livermore for a 3 p.m. Nov. 28 performance, and, as always, audiences will be invited to join in a reprise of the final “Hallelujah” chorus. Tickets, $48-$65, are at pacificchamberorchestra.org.

Dec. 1-31: Young Aladdin is a San Francisco bicycle messenger surrounded by a cast of zany characters in outrageous costumes in the world premiere of “The Magic Lamp,” a wacky recasting of the old tale in the British panto holiday tradition, which combines slapstick, zingy repartee, magic tricks and sly and silly parodies of current events. If it sounds like the gone-but-not-forgotten “Beach Blanket Bingo,” don’t be surprised — some producers and actors have been involved in both. Its monthlong run kicks off at 7:30 p.m. in San Francisco’s Presidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Ave. Tickets, $10-$75, are at presidiotheatre.org, and some audience members can expect to be pulled into the goofy goings-on.

From left, Todd Cerveris, Sarita Ocón, Moses Villarama, Luisa Sermol and Phil Wong provide live foley-style sound effects and play dozens of roles in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” running Dec. 1-26 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. (Photo courtesy Paciano Triunfo)

Dec. 1-26: Five very busy actors take on multiple roles as TheatreWorks Silicon Valley begins its run of a unique version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Lucie Stern Community Theatre in Palo Alto. The Frank Capra-directed classic movie, which hit the screens 75 years ago, takes on the form of a play set in a 1940s radio station in this iteration, as the aforementioned handful of players bring Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls, including all the sound effects, to life. Tickets are $30-$90 for the live version, enacted at the theater at 1305 Middlefield Road. Plans are being made for a $25 streaming version for those who want to view from home. Find more information at theatreworks.org.

Musician and conductor Damien Sneed performs holiday favorites with his eight-person group in a “Joy to the World: A Christmas Musical Journey” on Dec. 3 at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. (Photo courtesy Damien Sneed)

Dec. 3: Cal Performances hosts musician, conductor, arranger and producer Damien Sneed in a “Joy to the World: A Christmas Musical Journey” concert in Zellerbach Hall. Sneed and his eight singers and musicians will present a full program of holiday favorites, including both traditional and popular carols, gospels and some excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah.” Catch the concert at 8 p.m. in the hall at Telegraph and Dana in Berkeley. Tickets, $29-$68, are available at calperformances.org and (510) 642-9988.

Dec. 4-19: Mark Foehringer’s “Nutcracker Sweets,” a joyous and colorful 50-minute distillation of the holiday classic designed for the very young as well as for anyone in touch with his or her inner child,  opens its run at the Cowell Theater in Fort Mason in San Francisco. A nine-member chamber orchestra and dancers, including Carlos Venturo as Herr Drosselmeyer, will give a total of 16 performances on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the run. Find tickets, $22.50-$44.50, at mfdpsf.org.

Dec. 7: The San Jose State University Jazz Orchestra brings its “Cool Yule” program to the Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose at 7:30 p.m. Members of the orchestra, music majors all, are selected by audition only and are well-versed in a 50-year span of the jazz repertoire. The evening will begin with a special guest performance by the Valley Christian High School Jazz Ensemble. Tickets, $29, are available at hammertheatre.com or (408) 924-8501.

Dec. 8: Vocalist Sheléa, who has performed twice at the White House, and the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, are joined by Terrance Kelly’s Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir for a “Holiday Soul” musical celebration at 7:30 p.m in Davies Hall. Find tickets, $35-$165, at sfsymphony.org or call (415) 864-6000.

Valley Concert Chorale presents “Carols, Glorias and Lullabies” at the First Presbyterian Church in Livermore on Dec. 10 and 11. (Photo courtesy Valley Concert Chorale)

Dec. 10-11: Conductor John Emory Bush and his Valley Concert Chorale have a three-part plan to bring us some holiday cheer this year at the First Presbyterian Church in Livermore. At 7:30 p.m. on both nights, they will present a program of “Carols, Glorias and Lullabies,” grouping their vocal numbers in precisely those sections. Audience participation is welcome in the first section, which will include traditional numbers like “Joy to the World” and “The First Noel.” The “And the Glory of the Lord” passage from Handel’s “Messiah” will be a highlight of the second section, and two lullabies from Norwegian composer Kim Andre Arnesen will complete the program. Find tickets, $10-$25, at valleyconcertchorale.org or (925) 866-4003. Children accompanied by an adult will be admitted free.

Dec. 10-11: It’s a highly anticipated annual event in Davies Hall: The San Francisco Symphony and Chorus and a quartet of superb soloists perform Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” as a linchpin of their holiday offerings. This year’s version, conducted by Grant Gershon, brings us soprano Rachele Gilmore, mezzo-soprano Leah Wool, tenor Nicholas Phan and bass-baritone Christian Pursell. Both performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, $35-$195, are available at sfsymphony.org and (415) 864-6000.

San Francisco Ballet’s beloved “Nutcraker” returns to the stage this December, and it will be choreographer and Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson’s last time overseeing the production. (Photo courtesy Erik Tomasson)

Dec. 10-30: The Mouse King and the Nutcracker Prince have at it again, as the San Francisco Ballet returns to live performances, kicking off its annual “Nutcracker” run at 7 p.m. in War Memorial Opera House. The 29 performances will be the last that artistic director Helgi Tomasson oversees, as he is ending his 37-year reign at the helm. Find tickets, $19-$325, at sfballet.org or (415) 865-2000.

Mariachi Sol de Mexico performs “A Merry-Achi Christmas” at Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose on Dec. 11 and at Davis Symphony Hall in San Francisco on Dec. 12. (Photo courtesy Mariachi Sol de Mexico)

Dec. 11: Bandleader José Hernández and the other 12 members of his Mariachi Sol de México come to the Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose for 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. “A Merry-Achi Christmas” concerts that will be a joyous blend of Mexican and American holiday music, colors and traditions. Tickets, $35-$45, are at hammertheatre.com and (408) 924-8501, and there will be $15 livestream tickets available for those who want to sing along from home.

Dec. 11: Five guys and their gleaming instruments, the Toronto-based Canadian Brass, pop up in Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall at 8 p.m. to brighten our spirits with a polished holiday program that will include such numbers as “Christmas Time Is Here” and “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The Grammy-winning ensemble — a tuba dude, two trumpet players, a trombonist and a guy on French horn — was founded in Toronto in 1970 and has toured the world multiple times and recorded more than 100 albums. Tickets, $36-$78, are at calperformances.org or (510) 642-9988.

Toronto-based Canadian Brass performs popular holiday tunes in “Making Spirits Bright for 50 Years and Counting!” at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley on Dec. 11. (Photo courtesy Canadian Brass)

Dec. 12: The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Stewart, livens up Davies Hall with Prokofiev’s sprightly “Peter and the Wolf” on a 2 p.m. program that also includes excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite” and some holiday carols. Tickets, $15-$100, are at sfsymphony.org and (415) 864-6000.

Dec. 12-23: “A Chanticleer Christmas” opens its multi-concert Bay Area tour at 5 p.m. in the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. Based in the Bay Area, but renowned around the world, the Grammy-winning 12-voice a cappella male choir traditionally begins these concerts with a solemn candle-lit procession, then proceeds to deliver glorious holiday-themed songs from down through five centuries. They’ll touch base in Berkeley, Petaluma, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Carmel and Palo Alto — after first taking their program on tour through the United States. Find tickets, $35-$79, at chanticleer.org.

Chanticleer, the Grammy-winning 12-voice a cappella male choir, launches its “A Chanticleer Christmas” concert series on Dec. 12 the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. (Photo courtesy Lisa Kohler)

Dec. 12: The San Francisco Symphony, minus the orchestra itself for this event, will be wishing us all “A Merry-Achi Christmas” as bandleader José Hernández brings his celebrated Mariachi Sol de México to Davies Hall at 8 p.m. to give us a taste of what Christmas South of the Border feels like. Tickets, $25-$150, are available at sfsymphony.org and (415) 864-6000. 

Dec. 12: The Peninsula-based Ragazzi Boys Chorus will sing out about the “Mysteries and Miracles” of the holiday season in their 4 p.m. concert at Old First Church in San Francisco. The program includes a wide range of classical, traditional and contemporary songs, from “Veni, veni, Emmanuel” and “O Magnum Mysterium” to “Down to the River to Pray” and the “O Tannenbaum” parody “Oh! Christmas Tree???” Find tickets, $25, at ragazzi.org or (650) 342-8785. The program, which is limited to 100 in-person attendees, will also be livestreamed for a suggested donation of $20.