Every year the same holiday programs tend to be performed all across the country. They stay in the annual rotation for a reason: People love them and expect them.
Thus you generally always hear “Messiah” and see shows like “A Christmas Carol” and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” — and indeed, all three are available locally this year. But this is also the year that Cyrano’s artistic director Teresa K. Pond was looking for a holiday show that hadn’t been done to death.
Krista Schwarting, a frequent director for Cyrano’s, answered the call: She’d just read a play called “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.” Schwarting took on the director role for the romantic comedy, which opens Friday at Cyrano’s.
“It’s light and fun and there are great costumes. There’s a lot of physical comedy, there are elements of farce,” Schwarting says.
The title character is Mary, the middle daughter from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” You know, the bluestocking one who’s always toting a book or playing the piano. (It’s not necessary to read “Pride and Prejudice” to understand the show, according to the director.)
Now an old maid of age 20 who cares for her aging parents, Mary is visiting her sister and brother-in-law, Lizzie and Fitzwilliam Darcy, for the holidays. Also on the guest list: a socially awkward young lord, Arthur, who shares Mary’s love of science and literature.
Mary was something of a pedant in the Austen novel, but a lot has changed in the two years since her sister married Mr. Darcy. A review on the Broadway World website calls Mary “an immensely interesting character” and praises her as “the champion of every serious girl who refuses to be silly for the benefit or attention of a man.”
A comedy of manners isn’t likely to be the first choice for small fry, though, so Cyrano’s is simultaneously producing a children’s musical. “Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly” is based on a popular children’s book series.
And if you aren’t interested in romantic comedy or children’s theater? Plenty of other holiday events — some of them free — are available over the next few weeks. Incidentally, some of these activities make great date nights.
Unless otherwise noted, tickets to these events are available at CenterTix (907-263-2787).
“Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” — See details above. Show time is 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday until Dec. 23. Tickets are $25, with discounts for seniors, military and students.
“Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly” — Cyrano’s Theatre gives us a bug’s-eye view of the world through this family holiday musical. Show times are 12:30 and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23. Tickets are $20, $12 for kids 12 and under.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” — An enduring comedy about the collision between an annual church pageant and the town’s rowdiest family. Show times are 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday until Dec. 16; the Dec. 9 performance will be ASL-interpreted. Tickets are $17, with discounts for seniors, military, students and children.
“Miracle on 34th Street” — A musical version of the classic film about believing in holiday magic. Show times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 16 at Valley Performing Arts in Wasilla. Tickets are $22, $20 for seniors and students.
Cirque de Hanukkah 2018 — Live entertainment by Zuma Zuma African Acrobats, crafts workshops (including making a “fidget dreidel”), a shwarma bar and other traditional and Israeli cuisine, and other activities take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Egan Convention Center. Tickets are $10, $5 for kids, available at AlaskaJewishCampus.org.
The Alaskan Nutcracker — The traditional “Nutcracker” story is given Alaska elements in this production from Sonja’s Studio of Dance. Show times are 7 p.m. Dec. 7, and 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 8, at the Glenn Massay Theatre in Palmer. Tickets are $15 and $20.
“A Christmas Carol” — Perseverance Theatre of Juneau brings the Charles Dickens drama to the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts from Dec. 14 to 29. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday (additional performance at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 22), and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $52 and $60, with discounts for seniors, military, students and children.
“It’s A Wonderful Life” — Alaska Theatre of Youth presents this holiday tale as a live radio drama, and will also offer live music and a reception during the afternoon. The drama will be performed at 2 and 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Alaska Experience Theatre; the reception area will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. Admission is pay-as-you-can (suggested donation is $5).
9th Army Band — Free holiday concerts will take place at the following times and locations: 5:30 p.m. Friday, Eagle River Town Square Park; 4 p.m. Sunday, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts; 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Community Covenant Church in Eagle River; and 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Glenn Massay Theatre in Wasilla.
The New Standards Holiday Show — Expect the unexpected with this mix of seasonal tunes, variety-show tactics and absolute spectacle. A trio of performers will be joined by a surprise mix of local and Outside performers. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. (Note: Based on availability, patrons aged 35 and younger can get half-price tickets at the box office starting two hours before show time.)
“Messiah” — The Anchorage Concert Chorus presents this holiday tradition at 2 p.m. Sunday at the West High School Auditorium. Solo performers are Anna Cometa, Martin Eldred, Amber Gauthier, Kim Hayes, Dustin Jorgenson and Tamara McCoy. Tickets are $15.50 to $17.75.
Mat-Su Community “Messiah” — The annual presentation of Handel’s oratorio takes place at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Glenn Massay Theatre in Palmer. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.
Warm Light & Good Cheer — The Mat-Su Community Chorus presents a concert of works by John Rutter and Felix Mendelssohn plus carols and other holiday tunes. Show time is 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Palmer. Tickets are $7, free for seniors and students.
Family Holiday Pops — The Anchorage Concert Chorus, with special guests Pamyua, perform songs of the season at 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $32.50 to $48, with discounts for youths, students, seniors and military members.
Christmas With the Alaska Chamber Singers — The program includes Bach’s “Magnificat” plus old and new Christmas music. Show times are 8 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8 at St. Patrick’s Parish, and 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at St. Andrew’s Church in Eagle River. Tickets are $30 and $35.
Celtic Woman: The Best of Christmas Tour — Stunning seasonal sounds from Irish vocalists, who sold out three shows back in 2014. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, and 4 p.m. Dec. 9, at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $49.25 to $139.25, with discounts for seniors, military, students and children.
Mat-Su Concert Band — The ensemble’s “Holiday Sounds” concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15 and 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at Glenn Massay Theatre in Palmer. Tickets are $15, $7 for students and free to children 5 and under.
Holiday music at the Anchorage Museum — Admission to the museum is free from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 16. During that time, you’ll hear seasonal music from the Alaska Children’s Choir, the Anchorage Concert Chorus and the Anchorage Mandolin Orchestra.
For the family
Alaska Zoo Lights — Walk through the zoo and enjoy a succession of lighted animal displays. The colorful annual event takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday until Jan 31, and continues at 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays until March 3. Tickets are $9, $7 for zoo members and free to children 2 and under.
Alaska Botanical Garden lights — Enjoy holiday lights, luminarias, live music, ice formations and activities including guided stargazing (Thursdays), hot drinks and a bonfire (Fridays) and family-friendly crafts (Saturdays). Hours are 5 to 8 p.m. through Dec. 29 and again on New Year’s Eve. Admission is $7, $5 for members and free to kids 4 and under.
Trees of the Valley — This free event features multiple decorated Christmas trees, carol singing, screenings of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (6:45 p.m.) and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (7:40 p.m.), cookie decorating, and a visit from Santa and some of his reindeer. It takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Glenn Massay Theatre in Palmer.
Community Carol Sing — Lift your voices in holiday song, and enjoy Christmas cookies afterward. It takes place at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at Anchorage Lutheran Church, 1420 N St. Free.
Donna Freedman, a former Anchorage Daily News reporter and reviewer, blogs at DonnaFreedman.com.