Festive holiday shows take audiences to a winter wonderland

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published December 3, 2014

 The Metropolitan Detroit Chorale marks its 45th season with a production of Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 14 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township. — Photo courtesy of the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts

The Metropolitan Detroit Chorale marks its 45th season with a production of Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 14 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township. — Photo courtesy of the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts

Sure, you can hear holiday tunes at the mall or on your car stereo, but if you really want to relax, unwind and get caught up in the holiday spirit, there’s nothing like a live show to chase seasonal stresses away.

From concerts to plays, audiences have plenty of options locally that are sure to dazzle little tykes and seniors alike.

Meadow Brook Theatre
After more than three decades, Meadow Brook Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has become an annual tradition for many families. The 33rd annual production runs through Dec. 21 on the Oakland University campus in Rochester, and veteran actor Thomas D. Mahard is again playing the iconic role of Ebeneezer Scrooge. For tickets or more information: (248) 377-3300, www.ticketmaster.com or www.mbtheatre.com.

“This show is a magical event,” said MBT Managing Director Cheryl Marshall in a prepared statement. “We love being able to surprise and entertain people year after year.”

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
For more holiday favorites with a classic spin, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and special guest performers at Orchestra Hall offer gorgeous music in a gorgeous venue. Tony Award-winning jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, joined by singer-songwriter-guitarist Raul Midón, will perform “A Swingin’ Christmas” Dec. 5; the DSO’s Civic Jazz Orchestra will kick off the evening with a special performance before that show. Michael Feinstein will perform “Swingin’ in the Holidays” Dec. 14; the DSO will accompany the beloved holiday movie “Home Alone” on a giant high-definition screen Dec. 17; and the DSO will ring in the season with its popular “Home for the Holidays” concerts Dec. 19-21. Tickets: (313) 576-5111, the free mobile app DSO to Go and www.detroitsymphony.com.

The DSO’s Civic Youth Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Kenneth Thompson, will perform “The Nutcracker” Dec. 5 and 6 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn; call (313) 943-2354 or visit www.dearborntheater for tickets.

“From traditional holiday music to swingin’ jazz to performances by some of the most talented youth, the DSO will warm up Detroit with its holiday programming this season,” said Jeff Tyzik, the DSO’s principal pops conductor, via email. “I’m especially excited to lead Detroit’s favorite holiday music tradition, ‘Home for the Holidays,’ with a visit from our dear friend, Santa. Whether you come every year or want to start a new tradition, bring your loved ones and experience the holiday spirit through the power of music.”

Olympia Entertainment
Olympia Entertainment once more brings a variety of national and regional acts to downtown Detroit. At the Fox Theatre, Karen Newman will perform “Christmas Eve on Woodward Avenue” Dec. 3, Kenny Rogers will helm “Christmas and Hits Through the Years” Dec. 6, Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis takes the stage Dec. 7, the acrobats of Cirque du Soleil perform “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” Dec. 16-20, and Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” is staged Dec. 21. At the City Theatre, the popular interactive comedy “Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold” runs Dec. 11-14. Vocalist Andrea Bochelli joins the DSO for a performance Dec. 14 at Joe Louis Arena. Tickets: (800) 745-300, (313) 471-6611 or www.olympiaentertainment.com.

“Creating memories during the holidays at the Fox Theatre is a treasured tradition,” said Tom Wilson, president and CEO of Olympia Entertainment, via email. “From Mannheim Steamroller Christmas to Kenny Rogers ‘Christmas and Hits’ tour, and the gravity-defying splendor of ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze,’ it’s our pleasure to help bring the spirit of the season alive for so many metro Detroit families.”

Detroit Opera House
Some of the most talented young singers in metro Detroit are part of the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus, which will be staging its eighth annual “A Winter Fantasy” holiday concert and fundraiser Dec. 7 at the Detroit Opera House. It’s a mix of opera, folk songs and timeless holiday favorites, and there will also be strolling hors d’oeuvres and dessert. Tickets: www.MichiganOpera.org or (313) 237-SING.

“Too Hot to Handel” — a modern spin on Handel’s “Messiah” — will feature the Rackham Symphony Choir and many leading local musicians and singers, and will be staged Dec. 6 at the Detroit Opera House, with a special dress rehearsal performance for students and seniors Dec. 5. Tickets: www.MichiganOpera.org or (313) 237-SING.

By email, Suzanne Mallare Acton, artistic director of Rackham Symphony Choir, called “Too Hot” an “exciting reinvention of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ that will have you on your feet begging for more. It brings this classic piece to life in a transformative way, fusing two of the most distinctly Detroit music styles — jazz and gospel — while weaving in blues, swing, classical and even scat.” Acton is also the director of the MOTCC and is the Michigan Opera Theatre chorus master.

It’s not a holiday show, but the wildly popular musical “Wicked” returns to Detroit for a holiday engagement Dec. 10-Jan. 4 at the Detroit Opera House, and tickets would make a great holiday gift for the musical theater fans in the family. Broadway in Detroit tickets: www.BroadwayinDetroit.com, www.ticketmaster.com or (800) 982-2787.

“I’m very pleased that we have secured a return of ‘Wicked’ for Detroit, especially during the holiday season, when many families are looking for an extra special way to enjoy quality time together,” Alan Lichtenstein, executive director of Broadway in Detroit, said in a prepared statement. “In my opinion, the national tour is even better than the Broadway production, which I also loved.”

Go Comedy! improv theater
And for holiday laughs, Go Comedy! improv theater in Ferndale presents a new original sketch show, “Hashtag the Holidays,” through Dec. 20, along with a return of last season’s popular “Frosty” Dec. 3, 10 and 17. Tickets: (248) 327-0575 or www.gocomedy.net.

The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts
The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, on the main campus of Macomb Community College in Clinton Township, has a variety of holiday shows for the whole family. The Nebraska Theatre Caravan presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 6, Broadway star Linda Eder performs new and classic holiday tunes Dec. 7, “Holiday Brass” features musicians from the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings joined by the Dakota High School varsity choirs Dec. 9, Macomb Ballet Company performs “The Nutcracker” Dec. 12-13, the Metropolitan Detroit Chorale celebrates its 45th season with a production of Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 14, and the Detroit Concert Choir presents “A Joyful Christmas” Dec. 21. Tickets: (586) 286-2222 or www.macombcenter.com.

The DCC will also perform this concert Dec. 6 at St. Hugo of the Hills Church in Bloomfield Hills and Dec. 14 at Old St. Mary’s Church in Greektown.

“It is that time of year,” said Sandy Hazelton-Pianko, marketing manager at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, in an email. “We make our lists, decorate our homes, wrap our gifts and scramble to make sure everything is perfect for the holiday season. What we sometimes forget is to slow down enough to experience the beauty the season inspires. The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts offers the perfect holiday break to take in the sights and sounds of the season with entertainment for the entire family — what better escape to experience the beauty of the season?”