What is your favorite childhood memory of the holidays? Playing with cousins while waiting for Santa? Singing carols with friends at school? Sipping hot chocolate with parents while reading holiday books?
In our hearts we carry a range of remembrances from the simplest pleasures to the most lavish spectacles. This holiday season, Houston’s performance halls are offering shows that can delight the whole family and leave indelible impressions of the holiday spirit.
Here are five favorite choices:
When: Through Dec. 22; Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Storyline: This play is based on the cherished Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Bad weather hampers the Ingalls family’s Christmas Day celebration. Sisters Laura and Mary are disappointed that they are stranded at home and Santa may not make it after all. In this holiday classic, the girls learn the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.
"The Little House books are timeless, and A Little House Christmas is such a warm, genuine portrayal of family and friendship. It illustrates the joys and struggles of life in the early pioneer days on the prairie,” says Vivienne M. St. John, Theater for Youth’s producing director. “I think especially during the whirlwind of the holidays, A Little House Christmas helps us to refocus and appreciate the simpler things and remember what is truly important."
Length: One hour and 15 minutes with intermission
Ticket price: $12- $16; recommended for pre-kindergarten and up
When: Through Dec. 24, various times.
Where: Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave., 713-220-5700, www.alleytheatre.org
Storyline: Three spirits visit Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve — the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. This production, Michael Wilson’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, offers unusual twists and spectacular sets.
“What’s interesting to me about this tale is that we meet the indifferent and miserly Scrooge," says director James Black, "and he is shown by the Spirits that, ultimately, he has little power or affect on the people in his life and the world around him.
"He wants and needs the rest of humanity to be as miserable as he is. But the people endure and find joy and happiness and love in the simplest things and in the worst of times. Conversely, as we watch Scrooge’s transformation, he is shown that the tiniest act of kindness, compassion and charity can have ripples and reverberations that change lives. Love and generosity win. Every time."
Length: One hour and 47 minutes with intermission
Ticket price: Starts at $25; recommended for general audiences, children 6 and older
When: Through Dec. 31, various times.
Where: A.D. Players, 2710 W. Alabama, 713-526-2721, www.adplayers.org
Storyline: The show spreads holiday cheer through more than 20 Christmas carols and yuletide stories. The Sanders family gathers for Christmas Eve 1941 in Mount Pleasant, N.C. It’s just before American soldiers, including a member of their own family, leave for World War II.
“The show is really all about family. Everyone can relate with at least one member of the Sanders family; the uncle who is a bit of a black sheep, the mother who embarrasses her children, the sister who has to be the center of attention,” says Sarah Cooksey, A.D. Players public relations manager.
“What makes the show even better is the great music and the chance for the families of Houston to enjoy a show together for the holidays. Sanders Family Christmas celebrates the things that mean the most in life: family, faith, and the joy that comes from experiencing them together with the people you love.”
Length: Two hours and 15 minutes including intermission
Ticket price: $32- $41
When: Through Dec. 30, Various times
Where: Wortham Theater Center, Brown Theater, 501 Texas Avenue, 713-227-2787, www.houstonballet.org
Storyline: This is the beloved ballet with music composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It tells the story of little Clara who receives a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. After everyone goes to bed, she travels on a fantastic journey through the Land of Sweets, encountering the Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy.
More than one million people have seen this Ben Stevenson production since its Houston Ballet premiere 25 years ago.
“In keeping with traditions, The Nutcracker signifies the start of the holidays,” says principal dancer Mireille Hassenboehler, “Seeing The Nutcracker is such a magical experience for families, from the growing Christmas tree to the snowy snow scene. What better way to elevate the holiday? The Nutcracker brings such beautiful set designs, amazing costumes, music by Tchaikovsky, and spectacular dancing.”
Length: One hour and 55 minutes with intermission
Ticket price: $25-$110, recommended for children 2 and older.
When: Dec. 8; two shows 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Where: Jones Hall, presented by Houston Symphony, 713-224-7575, www.houstonsymphony.org
Storyline: Conductor Robert Franz and the Houston Symphony orchestra join forces with Westside High School’s Inertia Dance Company in this musical holiday celebration with a playful twist. Inertia is an elite performing ensemble that combines different dance elements from ballet to modern jazz to break dancing.
The concert song list includes "Suites from The Nutcracker" and "The Snow Maiden" as well as "Caribbean Sleigh Ride," "Brazilian Sleigh Bells," even the theme from The Pink Panther. Children can chime in during the Christmas Pops Sing-Along. All the wonderful holiday music may just draw Santa away from the North Pole for a break - he’s scheduled to make an appearance on stage!
Families can arrive early before the 10 a.m. concert or stay late after the 11:30 a.m. concert to participate in activities including an instrument petting zoo and arts and crafts.
Length: One hour
Ticket price: $18 for children, $26 for adults
Bernadette Verzosa is founder of ParentsPost.com, a website that covers new and exciting things for families to do in the Houston area.