Holiday shows are stuffed with good cheer

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published November 26, 2013

 BalletMet dancer Emily Ramirez and Justin Gibbs will perform “The Nutcracker” Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the Detroit Opera House.

BalletMet dancer Emily Ramirez and Justin Gibbs will perform “The Nutcracker” Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the Detroit Opera House.

Photo by Will Shively

The lights, the songs, the anticipation! No, it’s not everyone tearing into their presents on Christmas morning as the holiday music plays in the background — it’s one of the many festive shows you’ll find around town.

And after all of the preparation, stress, spending, wrapping and running around, what better gift to give to yourself than an evening to sit back, relax and be entertained?

Here are just a few of this year’s highlights:

One of the longest-running traditions is Meadow Brook Theatre’s annual production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Now in its 32nd year, this classic story of redemption — featuring characters like Scrooge and Tiny Tim — will be produced Nov. 15-Dec. 22 at MBT, on the Oakland University campus in Rochester. For tickets or more information: (248) 377-3300, or

Broadway in Detroit presents the Detroit premiere of the musical version of “ELF” — based on the Will Ferrell film — Dec. 3-15 at the Detroit Opera House.

“It’s a big, fun Christmas musical,” said Scott Myers, director of corporate sales and marketing for Broadway in Detroit, of the show, which he said is perfect for all ages.

The Tony Award-winning “War Horse” also makes its Detroit premiere, with shows Dec. 17-Jan. 5 at the Fisher Theatre. Based on the novel, it’s about the saga of a horse belonging to a British teen that’s enlisted in the war effort, and how the boy tries to reunite with his beloved horse. Myers said peace is an underlying theme.

“This play really connects to us, and at the holidays, it connects to family,” he said. Broadway in Detroit tickets:, or (800) 982-2787.

The Detroit Opera House will feature BalletMet’s production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” Nov. 29-Dec. 1 with the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus, more than 50 local dancers, local high school choirs and the MOT Orchestra. Tickets: or (313) 237-SING.

“BalletMet’s ‘Nutcracker’ is a wonderful journey to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy — a magical world of imagination filled with colorful characters who will delight, enchant and entertain both young and old,” said Carol Halsted, director of dance for the Detroit Opera House, via email. “A special treat is the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra that accompanies this magic onstage.”

MOT’s Children’s Chorus — an 80-member group of local singers ages 8-16 — will perform opera, folk songs and holiday tunes during the fundraising “A Winter Fantasy” Dec. 16 at the Detroit Opera House. Tickets: or (313) 237-SING.

“It’s a great concert because there are a lot of talented kids performing and signing beautiful music,” said Isabel Rocha, the head chorister and a Northville High School junior, via email. “It is an honor and privilege to be in this program and to sing on this stage. We would love to be able to sing to a full theater.”

Warm up to the season with the 12th annual Rackman Symphony Choir production of the jazz-gospel show “Too Hot to Handel” — a lively spin on Handel’s classic “Messiah” — Dec. 21 at the Detroit Opera House. Members of the MOT Orchestra will be joined by tenor Rodrick Dixon, soprano Alfreda Burke, alto Karen Marie Richardson, and Detroit jazz greats like Alvin Waddles, Marion Hayden and Chris Collins. Tickets: (313) 237-SING or

“This annual tradition grows every year with our powerhouse singers, but maintains personal touches like the preshow audience discussion to engage listeners and make them a part of what is created,” RSC Artistic Director Suzanne Mallare Acton said by email.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra offers a traditional version of Handel’s Messiah Dec. 14. Other holiday concerts at Orchestra Hall and the Max M. Fisher Music Center — some of which feature the DSO and some of which feature guest musicians — include the Vienna Boys Choir Dec. 2, California Guitar Trio and Montreal Guitar Trio during a free Noel Night show Dec. 7, Patti Austin’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington Dec. 8, jazz and contemporary carols during “Once Upon a December Eve” Dec. 14, Michael W. Smith’s “A Very Special Christmas” with the DSO’s Civic Orchestra Dec. 15, John Denver tribute “A Rocky Mountain Christmas” Dec. 18, and the DSO’s “Home for the Holidays” shows Dec. 20-22. Tickets: (313) 576-5111 or

“Historic Orchestra Hall and the Max M. Fisher Music Center fills with magic and excitement each holiday season, serving audiences of all ages with a wide variety of programming,” DSO President and CEO Anne Parsons said by email. “From the Vienna Boys Choir to Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ to our very own classic holiday pops, there is truly something for everyone here at the DSO.”

The DSO Civic Orchestra will perform “The Nutcracker” Dec. 6-7 at Ford Performing Arts Center in Dearborn. Tickets: (313) 943-2354 or

Broadway Onstage brings back the comedy “Christmas Belles” for its 20th — and final — season, with shows Dec. 6-21 at the Eastpointe theater. Tickets: (586) 771-6333, or

The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, on the main campus of Macomb Community College in Clinton Township, will feature the Macomb Symphony Dec. 1, Tony Orlando’s “Great American Christmas” Dec. 8, “Holiday Brass” with the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings’ brass musicians Dec. 10, Mark O’Connor & Friends’ “Appalachian Christmas” Dec. 15, Macomb Ballet Theatre performing “The Nutcracker” Dec. 20-21, and a Christmas concert by the Detroit Concert Choir Dec. 22. Tickets: (586) 286-2222 or

“From the grandeur of a symphonic orchestra to the sweet sounds of an Appalachian violin, to an enchanting performance of a ‘Nutcracker’ ballet, the Macomb Center is a great escape to the beauty the holidays inspire,” said MCPA Marketing Manager Sandy Hazelton-Pianko by email. “It’s experiencing what you love most about the holidays, with the people you love most, and isn’t that what a holiday tradition is all about?”

Additional “Holiday Brass” shows are Dec. 8 at First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak with the Stoney Creek High School Choir from Rochester Community Schools, and Dec. 15 at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms with Macomb County’s Dakota High School Choir. Tickets: (248) 559-2095 or

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit takes audiences to the days of the old J.L. Hudson’s Toyland with the original play with music, “Woodward Wonderland,” Dec. 12-15 at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. Mosaic President and Artistic Director Rick Sperling calls it “a feel-good family event,” with more than 100 local actors, singers and dancers. Tickets: (313) 833-4005 or

For holiday humor, Planet Ant in Hamtramck is producing the written and improvised “Fast Times at Nazareth High” — about Jesus’ life as a teen — Nov. 22-Dec.14, and “Bringing Up Baby New Year” Dec. 27-31. Tickets: Go Comedy! in Ferndale is staging the sketch revue “The Worst Noel” — about various things that can go wrong during the holidays — Nov. 21-Dec. 21. Tickets: (248) 327-0575 or

The Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield is producing the world premiere of Joseph Zettelmaier’s “The Scullery Maid” — about a Jewish scullery maid trapped in King Edward III’s castle during the Black Plague in 1360 — Dec. 18-Jan. 12. Tickets: (248) 788-2900, or

There are more laughs to be had during “Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of Magi’s Gold” at the City Theatre in downtown Detroit Nov. 29-Dec. 8. The interactive play explores whatever happened to the gold brought to Jesus by the Magi. Also at the City Theatre: Gary Hoey’s “Ho Ho Hoey’s Rockin’ Holiday Show” Dec. 13. The Fox Theatre features “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” Dec. 3-7, Praise Holiday Concert with Kirk Franklin and others Dec. 12, “A Very Awesome Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Holiday Show” Dec. 13, Karen Newman’s “Christmas on Woodward Avenue” Dec. 18, Mannheim Steamroller Dec. 21 and Moscow Ballet’s “The Great Russian Nutcracker” Dec. 22. Tickets: (800) 745-300, (313) 471-6611 or