Make Theatre Part of Your Holiday

As lovely as it is, The Nutcracker is not the only holiday show out there.  Expand your holiday traditions and check out some additional seasonal offerings, and make theatre an integral part of your annual festivities.  Some of the most charming and enjoyable shows I’ve seen this season have been at small non-equity theatres where the joy of theatre-making is apparent and infectious.

Two examples (among many) available in the Bay Area this season:

"Holiday at the Savoy: a tribute" at the Tabard Theatre

“Holiday at the Savoy: a tribute” at the Tabard Theatre


Holiday at the Savoy: a tribute at Tabard Theatre in downtown San Jose is set in 1945, in the famous Savoy Ballroom.  The show starts before the show starts:  with swing dance lessons offered to audience members for the half-hour prior to curtain.  Supported by a 10-piece “big band”,  the cast sings, and sometimes dances, to songs ranging from Jazz standards, to a nice selection of holiday songs, to ballads, torch songs and finger snappin’ 1940s dance tunes like “Tuxedo Junction” and “In the Mood” — where the audience was invited to get up and join the dancing. (My 94-year old father won a Jitterbug Contest in 1945 and, although he didn’t accompany me to this show, in my mind I could see him dancing up there in his Army uniform.)  Gaiety and fun pervaded the theatre.

Jessica Whitemore, Mike Hugill & Irene Trapp in "Holiday at the Savoy"

Jessica Whitemore, Mike Hugill & Irene Trapp in “Holiday at the Savoy”

At intermission, the bar was selling concessions including play-themed decorated holiday cookies and a special holiday cocktail.  As always with the Tabard Theatre, a portion of concessions proceeds will be donated to a local charity or charities chosen to pair with the show; in this case, Spirit of ’45 that commemorates, celebrates and remembers the Greatest Generation, and St. Paul’s UMC Food Closet that provides food and clothing to those in need in the community.

Last week, I saw The 1940s Radio Hour at Los Altos Stage, a delightful story of a 1942 Christmas Eve New York radio broadcast for America’s fighting men overseas, and the behind the scenes stories of the radio station characters.

Brigitte Losey, Anthony Stephens and John Stephen King in "1940s Radio Hour". Photo by Richard Mayer.

Brigitte Losey, Anthony Stephens and John Stephen King in “1940s Radio Hour”.  Photo by Richard Mayer.

This show, too, featured a fun list of nostalgic songs from the era, punctuated by very funny product commercials performed by the radio show singers, as was common at the time. A good time was truly had by all. Playing through December 23.

Other possibilities abound.  TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is offering two holiday shows this year: the family-friendly Around the World in 80 Days (through December 30 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto) and The SantaLand Diaries, for mature audiences only (through December 23 at the Lohman Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos).  A Christmas Story, the Musical is playing at San Francisco Playhouse through mid-January and, of course, for more traditional palettes, you can catch ACT’S A Christmas Carol or San Francisco Ballet’s The Nutcracker.

My recommendation:  look around and see what’s available in your community and find something different to do this year.

This is also the season of giving, so thank and support your local and regional theatres with a generous gift this year.  They will put their hearts and souls into using it well.  Happy Holidays to you!


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