AVENUE Q – San Francisco:  Many theatre companies have annual Christmas productions such as The Nutcracker, The Grinch, or A Christmas Carol, but San Francisco’s gay New Conservatory Theatre has a much more fun tradition with Avenue Q, a saucy musical about a group of puppets who look a lot like those we grew up with on a certain television street, but these characters are facing more real-life situations.  For instance, Princeton, a recent college graduate, musically asks, “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”, and roommates Rod and Nicky (who share similarities to Bert and Ernie) need to deal with the fact that Rod is gay and has a crush on straight Nicky. The puppeteers are fully visible most of the time, with one hand inside the puppet and the other operating rods attached to the hands, and like Sesame Street, several characters are humans throughout.  The songs are similar to those from the Children’s Television Workshop, but with more adult lyrics – especially when sung by a puppet called Lucy the Slut.  Avenue Q won the Tony Award in 2003 for Best Musical, so it has serious credentials in addition to bringing a lot of fun!  New Conservatory Theatre (nctsf.org) 12/1 – 1/7.

CHRISTMAS PANTOMIMES – Pasadena, Laguna Beach, San Diego:  Speaking of Christmas traditions, pantomimes have long been a Christmas staple in England. They typically skewer a familiar fairy tale by adding broad humor, popular songs, and a cross-dressed man as the “panto dame.”  Now, Kris Lythgoe (son of Nigel) has brought the tradition to the United States, using name stars to headline different productions around the country.  This year, he is producing Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Rose at the spacious Pasadena Civic from December 14 – 24.  Choreographed by Mandy Moore (La La Land) and featuring SYTYCD alumni dancers, the producers promise an “All-Star Cast.”  Simultaneously, they will present Aladdin and His Winter Wish at the Laguna Playhouse for OC viewers December 7 – 31.  San Diego viewers will see Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, A Pirate’s Christmas December 21 – 31 at the downtown Balboa Theatre.  Previous stars from Lythgoe Family Pantomimes have included Neil Patrick Harris, Ariana Grande, and Ben Vereen.  The goal of the producers is to get children and lower-income families to see fully professional productions, but it sounds like a lot of fun for some of us grownups to tag along.  Tickets and further information at americanpanto.com.

THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD – Beverly Hills:  The classic tale of the world’s most infamous outlaw goes rogue in The Heart of Robin Hood, playing this month at the beautiful Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.  Originally staged by Iceland’s innovative theatre company, Vesturport, the Icelandic directors have worked with mostly LA-based performers to create an epic story, retold in an epic way. Combining elements of romance, comedy and drama, The Heart of Robin Hood is a boisterous reboot of the classic tale, complete with swashbuckling, acrobatics, a little cross-dressing, a gang of baddies straight out of “Game of Thrones,” and an onstage band performing original pop songs.  Shakespearean actor Luke Forbes as Robin displays bare shoulders under a leather vest which, alone, are worth the price of a ticket.  Also, the Wallis itself is a gorgeous showplace.  Plays now through 12/17 (TheWallis.org).


GAY MEN’S CHORUSES – Various:   All gay choruses have Christmas concerts, and for me, they are one of the highlights of the season, combining beautiful seasonal music and a lot of sass.  Here are their dates:

LA Gay Men’s Chorus:  12/14 – 17 (gmcla.org);

SF Gay Men’s Chorus:  12/8 – 9 (sfgmc.org);

SD Gay Men’s Chorus:  12/9 – 10 (sdgmc.org);

Men Alive (OC):  12/1 – 2 (menalivechorus.org);

PS Gay Men’s Chorus:  12/15 – 17 (psgmc.com);

Sacramento GMC:  12/1 – 5 (sacgaymenschorus.org);

Phoenix MMC:  12/15 – 17 (phoenixmenschorus.org);

Denver GMC:  11/30 – 12/10 (rmarts.org); and

Las Vegas Men’s Chorus:  12/17 (lvmenschorus.org).


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