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November 21, 2012

Seasonal shows usher in holidays with heart and humor

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

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“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” comes to the Detroit Opera House for the first time Dec. 18-30.

METRO DETROIT — If the stresses of the season have you saying, “Bah, humbug,” then spirited, sparkling shows with toe-tapping numbers might bring you out of your holiday funk.

Across the area, from concerts to plays, there are dozens of productions in the next few weeks that should bring smiles to the faces of adults and kids. Here are just some of the highlights:

A stage production of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” plays at the Detroit Opera House Dec. 18-30 and features songs from the original animated film, including, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” And the musical “Jersey Boys” — about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons — rings in the holidays Dec. 12-Jan. 6 at the Fisher Theatre. For tickets or more information: www.BroadwayinDetroit.com or through Ticketmaster at www.ticket master.com or (800) 982-2787.

“We are excited to bring (the Dr. Seuss show) to Detroit for the first time at the Detroit Opera House,” said Scott Myers, director of corporate sales and marketing for Nederlander Detroit, via email. “It’s a timeless tale that’s going to appeal to kids and adults alike.  We’re also excited to bring back ‘Jersey Boys’ at the Fisher Theatre over the holidays. Although it’s not a holiday show, it’s the kind of event that fits perfectly into the holiday season.”

A new holiday favorite is “Too Hot to Handel,” a jazz-gospel version of Handel’s “Messiah” that gets audiences dancing in their seats. It features the Rackham Symphony Choir, under the direction of Suzanne Mallare Acton, a member of the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra, an all-star Detroit jazz ensemble that includes bassist Marion Hayden and new Detroit Jazz Festival Artistic Director Chris Collins, tenor Rodrick Dixon, soprano Alfreda Burke and alto Karen Marie Richardon. It’s 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Detroit Opera House; a pre-concert chat with the artists is at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: www.MichiganOpera.org or (313) 237-SING, or www.rackhamchoir.org.

In a press release, Gretchen C. Valade — who helms the Dirty Dog Jazz Café and is on the Detroit Jazz Festival Board — called this show “a vital and stimulating story banked by a jazz group on one side, led by Alvin Waddles with his phenomenal and prodigious piano solo, and a wonderful orchestra on the other side.”

The Dirty Dog Jazz Café, located in Grosse Pointe Farms, is the title sponsor of the production, and Waddles, Hayden and drummer Dave Taylor will perform at the club Nov. 23-24.

Also at the Detroit Opera House will be BalletMet Columbus’ production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” with a live score performed by the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24, and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 25. Tickets: www.MichiganOpera.org or (313) 237-SING.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Orchestra will perform “The Nutcracker” with Ballet Americana Dance Company at 8 p.m. Nov. 30, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn. Tickets: (313) 943-2354 or www.dearborntheater.com.

The DSO also has a full schedule of seasonal concerts at Orchestra Hall, including Al Jarreau with the DSO, 8 p.m. Dec. 1; Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Creole Christmas, 8 p.m. Dec. 6; an orchestra presentation of “The Nutcracker” by the DSO with vocalist Heidi Grant Murphy, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 and 8 p.m. Dec. 14; “Christmas Memories” with singer Debbie Boone, 8 p.m. Dec. 15; a Neighborhood Series production of “The Nutcracker” conducted by Leonard Slatkin, 3 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Seligman Performing Arts Center at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills; “A Canadian Brass Christmas” with the DSO, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18; and pops concerts “Home for the Holidays,” Dec. 21-23. Smooth jazz musician Kenny G will perform holiday favorites without the DSO at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19.

The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, on the main Macomb Community College campus in Clinton Township, has family-friendly offerings, starting with a musical production of the beloved 1940s holiday movie, “Miracle on 34th Street,” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 8. Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings will perform seasonal favorites during “Holiday Brass,” which features the Dakota Varsity Choir, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11.

“The Macomb Center is a wonderful place to not only celebrate the holiday season, but an ideal place to start a family tradition by sharing an experience that only a live performance can bring,” said Sandy Hazelton-Pianko, marketing manager of the Macomb Center, via email.

For more DCWS “Holiday Brass,” they’re taking the seasonal show to First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, and to Christ Church Grosse Pointe in Grosse Pointe Farms at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16. Both performances will be joined by local high school choirs. Tickets: 248-559-2095 or www. detroitchamberwinds.org.

Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester celebrates the 31st year of staging “A Christmas Carol” with productions of the classic Dickens tale of redemption Nov. 16-Dec. 23. Tickets: (248) 377-3300, www.ticketmaster.com or www.mbtheatre.com.

“A lot of years, it’s like a family reunion, and our audience is part of that family,” MBT Artistic Director Travis Walter said in a press release.

Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale is once again bringing the laughs, with their fourth annual sketch show, “North by North Pole,” featuring Christa Coulter of Ferndale, Billy Crawford of Royal Oak, Chris Diangelo of Ferndale, Michelle Giorlando of Ferndale, Jen Hansen of Madison Heights and Bryan Lark of Ferndale. It begins Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 22. Another new comedy, “White Elephant,” tells the story of a man meeting his girlfriend’s family for the first time — albeit without his girlfriend. It runs Nov. 29-Dec. 20 on Thursdays. Tickets: (248) 327-0575, www.gocomedy.net or pj@gocomedy.net.

Also lightening the mood is the holiday comedy “Christmas Belles” — about a small-town Christmas production and the three unhappy sisters in the middle of the chaos — Nov. 30-Dec. 22 at Broadway Onstage in Eastpointe. Tickets: (586) 771-6333 or www.broadwayonstage.com.

Detroit’s Fox Theatre knows how to set the seasonal mood and features “Christmas with the Rat Pack — Live at the Sands,” Nov. 27-Dec. 2; “Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration,” Dec. 6; Kenny Rogers’ Christmas Hits Tour, Dec. 13; Clay Aiken, Dec. 14; Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis, Dec. 16; and Karen Newman in “Christmas Eve on Woodward Avenue,” Dec. 20. Next door at the City Theatre, see Gary Hoey’s “Ho Ho Hoey’s Rockin’ Holiday Show” Dec. 7, and nearby, hear The Four Tops in “Hits and the Holidays,” Dec. 13 at Motor City Casino’s Sound Board. Tickets: (800) 745-300, (313) 471-6611 or www.olympiaentertainment.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.