In case you hadn’t noticed from the relentless parade of sales, decorations and TV commercials, the holiday season is here. Luckily, you will find refuge—and real holiday spirit—in plenty of live performances around town. Here are six shows that will put you in a joyful mood.
The Original Santa Cruz Nutcracker: This will be the 17th production of Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre’s annual classic, and it comes with all the bells and whistles–stunning costumes and scenery, a full professional orchestra, and over 70 local dancers. This year, SCBT alumna Melody Mennite and Chun Wai Chan, both principal dancers with Houston Ballet, will guest star as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. There will be five performances, and afternoon shows will include a Children’s Sweet Treats pre-show meet and greet with the dancers. 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21; 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22 and Sunday, Dec. 23. Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. 420-5260. santacruztickets.com. $20.50-$96.50.
Journey of 1000 Lights: Kuumbwa Jazz Center hosts this show, subtitled “Music in Celebration of Our Immigrant Nation.” Music and poetry intermingle in this reverent concert, crossing styles and ethnicities to celebrate the richness of the immigrant experience. Tenor/composer Akindele Bankole, singer/songwriter/actress and teacher Lori Rivera, and pianist/composer Ivan Rosenblum lend their voices, musicianship and commentary to an unforgettable afternoon performance. The show is a benefit concert for Chadeish Yameinu Jewish Renewal Community of Santa Cruz. 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16. Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 427-2227. kuumbwajazz.org. $20 General, $35 Gold Circle.
A Celtic Christmas: For the last 20 years, Tomàseen Foley’s A Celtic Christmas has brought a seasonal celebration to Santa Cruz filled with Irish music, dance and storytelling. This heartwarming show transports the audience far away and back in time to a remote farmhouse in the west of Ireland during the 1940s or ’50s. In this wintry setting, TV and cell phones don’t distract from a neighborly Christmas celebration. The feel is rousing and authentic, the way great music and laughter among friends is supposed to be. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, UCSC Music Center Recital Hall, 402 McHenry Rd., Santa Cruz. tomaseenfoley.com. $12-$32.
David Copperfield, The New Musical: Jewel Theatre Company stages this production based upon Charles Dickens’ most autobiographical novel. This dynamic recreation of a cherished masterpiece tells the story of young David Copperfield’s hard-won growth from a cruel and difficult childhood to mature adulthood, with triumph and tragedy along the way. Filled with eccentric and memorable characters, this story of transformation and grit is a classic. 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 13-15 and 20-22; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 and 23, Colligan Theater at the Tannery Arts Center, 1010 River St., Santa Cruz. 621-6226. jeweltheatre.net. $24 – $45.
Windham Hill Winter Solstice: What better way to observe the official beginning of winter than at a show celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Windham Hill’s multi-platinum Winter Solstice series? Windham Hill founder and Grammy award-winning guitarist William Ackerman is joined by Barbara Higbie and Alex de Grassi for a warm and festive holiday concert. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20. Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. riotheatre.com. 423-8209. $36.75/$45.
The Santa Cruz White Album Ensemble: Santa Cruz’s iconic Beatles tribute presents its 16th annual Beatles music holiday shows, and no, they won’t call it a “white Christmas,” although we’re tempted to. During this 50th anniversary of the original album, they continue to take their role of Beatles interpreters to the next level. Their unique perspective, musical chops, and epic performances guarantee thrilled audiences and sold-out shows. Saturday includes a player’s choice with the Beggar Kings.
8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29 and Saturday, Dec. 30. Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 423-8209. riotheatre.com. $25-$45.