We all need music, lights and frivolity to hold the darkness at bay this time of year. ‘Tis the season, as they say, to cozy up to the wintertime traditions of everything from Christmas to Kwanza and a few religious traditions in between.
So once you’re done warming your chestnuts on that open fire — and we hope your fire can be kindled this year inside a home with walls and a roof — here are a few suggestions for heading out on the town to find some holiday spirit.
Traditional, Tried And True: Comfort-Food Shows
First off, what would the holidays be without multiple productions of The Nutcracker? A holiday favorite and perennial cash cow for ballet companies around the world, the Tchaikovsky ballet will be performed this year by Eugene Ballet with live music by OrchestraNext Dec. 17-24 at the Hult Center. Based on a short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, the ballet weaves a Christmas tale of Clara, a wooden nutcracker, a handsome Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King and plenty of roles for tiny beginning dancers. Tickets and more info at EugeneBallet.org.
A very different interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s music will be performed by Eugene’s other ballet company, the younger and somewhat hipper Ballet Fantastique. BFan, as it’s known, is putting on its Babes in Toyland show set to Duke Ellington and Bobby Strayhorn’s 1960 jazz arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite, which they recorded on Columbia Records in 1960, as well as other big band holiday tunes. It will be performed with Swing Shift Jazz Orchestra at 7:30 pm Saturday, Nov. 26, and 2:30 pm Sunday, Nov. 27.
If you mostly just want to hear what happens when a couple jazz masters meet Tchaikovsky, check out Steve Owen directing the Holiday Jazz Orchestra performing Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite at The Jazz Station Friday, Dec. 16, through Sunday, Dec. 18. More info at TheJazzStation.org.
The Shedd’s annual holiday show is being taken over this year by Siri Vik, who as music director has woven together a program of pop favorites (think “White Christmas”) and traditional carols (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”) for a holiday revue titled I Wonder As I Wander: Christmas at The Shedd 2022, which runs Dec. 8 and Dec. 11 in Eugene, with a Dec. 15 performance in Corvallis. More info at TheShedd.org.
Another very traditional show is Eugene Concert Choir & Orchestra and Eugene Vocal Arts presenting Christmas Classics & Carols at 2:30 pm Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Hult Center’s Silva Concert Hall. Artistic Director Diane Retallack conducts, with soloists Emilie Faiella, soprano, and Laura Beckel Thoreson, contralto, in a program that includes close-harmony jazz arrangements of “White Christmas” and “Christmastime is Here” as well as traditional hymns and an audience singalong of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Tickets and more info at EugeneConcertChoir.org.
A couple other traditional holiday shows this season include The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley Dec. 2-18 at Oregon Contemporary Theatre (OCTheatre.org) and Christmas with C.S. Lewis, 2 pm and 7:30 pm Nov. 19 at the Hult Center (HultCenter.org).
One of Oregon’s biggest annual light shows is back this year after a pandemic hiatus. Shore Acres State Park, on the coast south of Charleston, features a historic five-acre formal garden that is covered with holiday lights and open to the public from Nov. 24 to Dec. 31. A parking system will require $5 timed-entry tickets for admission; get them through StateParks.oregon.gov.
Up the coast, Heceta Head Lightstation, on the coast north of Florence, is celebrating 26 years of the annual Victorian Christmas Open Houses from 4 pm to 7 pm Dec. 10-11 and 17-18. Decorated for the season, the Keeper’s House will offer performances by local musicians, with Santa on hand for the kids. FREE, but parking costs $5. More info at HecetaLighthouse.com.
Xmas With an Edge
To ring in the holidays with a bit more spice, check out A John Waters Christmas on Friday, Dec. 2, in the McDonald Theatre. The king of camp returns to Eugene (see story) to riff on Christmas traditions and the idea of canceling Santa.
For a lighter version of a less-traditional evening, try The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical, which opens Friday, Nov. 18, and runs through Saturday, Dec. 17, at Actors Cabaret of Eugene. It’s a 2013 spinoff of The Great American Trailer Park Musical, a 2005 off-Broadway show that went on to a national tour and was dubbed a “heartfelt, humorous look at trailer park life” by The New York Times. In the holiday version of the show, Christmas comes to Armadillo Acres and brings tinsel and, yes, keg nog in a production that would be rated PG-13 if it were in the movies, so mind your children’s tender ears. Tickets and more info at ActorsCabaret.org.