This week, I was planning to write about how, finally, we have and abundance of holiday entertainment close to home. But I had forgotten, or perhaps buried, the fact there was always plenty of nearby entertainment available during the holidays.
There were always scattered appearances of "The Nutcracker" and Scrooge, but mostly, the entertainment close to home was Christmas pageants, skits, plays, singing programs and all manner of performances designed, I believed, to embarrass me. I suppose everyone else was embarrassed, too, when I got into, say, a butcher paper choir robe with a crepe paper bow at the neck.
Crepe paper, by the way, will lose its ink on any sweaty child, so, often a sweet, high-voiced choir will have many members whose chins turned increasingly redder or greener as the evening rolled on.
That's another addition to an amazing number of anguished holiday memories -- like having a unisex name that Santa figures is female when he calls it out in front of my Cub Scout pack or the time when I realized I was never going to be another Bobby Rydell because I was unable to sing (and, for the first of many times, heard the heartbreaking admonition, "just move your lips," while the others sang around me.
There are still Christmas pageants, the obligatory school holiday festivals and all-comers group singings of "The Messiah." But, in addition, there are many relatively new venues in the area, offering Christmas entertainment featuring a much higher skill level.
In San Ramon, the new Christmas tradition is the city's community theater production of the "Happy Holidays Musical Revue," written by Lisa Barber and Terry Cunningham.
In it, Tony and Bernadette Natale throw their annual Christmas party, and just about the whole town turns out to celebrate the season and share some of their talent with the crowd. The show opens Friday in the Front Row Theatre, 17011 Bollinger Canyon Road in San Ramon. It plays Fridays through Sundays at various times through Dec. 22. Tickets, at $11-$16, may be reserved at 925-973-3343 or www.SanRamonPerfomringArts.com.
In Livermore at the Bankhead Theatre, 2400 First St., there is plenty planned to keep your holidays cheery in any number of languages and styles including:
"A Doo Wop Holiday Celebration," featuring Best of Doo Wop at 2 p.m. Sunday for an afternoon of classic songs of the season and a talent lineup that includes pop singer ("Poetry In Motion" and "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'") Johnny Tillotson, The Vibrations band, "A Tribute to The Platters" and comedy host Steve Bruner. Tickets are $45 to $65.
"The Nutcracker," probably the top Christmas entertainment, will be performed by Valley Dance Theatre with full orchestral accompaniment by the Livermore-Amador Symphony. It will be the complete classical ballet by Tchaikovsky with eight matinee and evening performances Dec. 14-22. Tickets, $24-$34.
"Home for the Holidays: A WWII Christmas," which stars Andrea Marcovicci, a wonderful performer who delivers stories, poetry and the timeless songs of the WWII era along with holiday favorites in her performance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $36 to $55, $15 for students. Tickets for these shows may be reserved at 925-373-6800 or www.bankheadtheater.org.
The San Ramon Symphonic Band will present its holiday program with "Horns for the Holidays," at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 in the Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center, 10550 Albion Road in San Ramon. It features classical music by Gabrieli, along with Alfred Reed's Russian Christmas Music and a seasonal tune by John Lennon and Yoko Ono along with singalong tunes with the band. Tickets, at $6 and free for children and teens with student ID, may be reserved at www.sanramonperformingarts.com.
"A Long Winter's Tale," a holiday-themed improv show by Creatures of Impulse, Pleasanton's teen improv troupe, will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave., Pleasanton. The performances are all different, since the material is improvised, often from audience suggestions. Tickets at $10 for adults and $5 for students may be reserved at 925-931-4848 or www.firehousearts.org.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.