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Dance, music, comedy and more: Our guide to this season's holiday entertainment

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Our commercialized holiday culture got you down? Myriad Austin arts productions this holiday season offer the chance for creative escape, from dancing Sugar Plums to singing choristers to slapsticking humor.

Music

TUESDAY

The Klezmatics. The world's hippest klezmer band is joined by Grammy-winning clarinetist Richard Stoltzman for an evening of its signature new-style klezmer music that's steeped in Eastern European Jewish tradition and spirituality, but played with a modern twist. 8 p.m. Bass Concert Hall, East 23rd Street and Robert Dedman Drive. $24-$32. 477-6060. www.texasperformingarts.org .

DEC. 2-16

'Caroling at Noon.' This lunchtime series features various choral groups in 30-minute concerts. Noon. St. David's Episcopal Church, 301 E. Eighth St. Free. 610-3500.

DEC. 4

'Sing-It-Yourself Messiah.' Go on, belt it out. Join the choirs of Chorus Austin and sing along with Handel's holiday favorite. 4 p.m. St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 8134 Mesa Drive. $16. 719-3300, www.chorusaustin.org .

Austin Handbell Ensemble. Favorite holiday tunes played on more than 100 bells and chimes. 7 p.m. Hope Presbyterian Church, 11512 Olson Drive. Free; donations welcome. www.austinhandbells.org .

DEC. 5

'Winter Wonderland.' The combined choirs of University of Texas' Butler School of Music sing a potpourri of sacred and secular holiday music that spans the centuries. 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Bates Recital Hall, Music Building, UT campus. $5-$10. 471-5401, www.music.utexas.edu .

DEC. 6

'Christmas at the Carillon.' Five-time Grammy-nominated choir Conspirare is once again joined by singer-songwriter Patrice Pike for its annual holiday concert that showcases artistic director Craig Hella Johnson's blending of music old and new. 8 p.m. Long Center for the Performing Arts. 701 W. Riverside Drive. $20-$50. www.thelongcenter.org .

DEC. 7

Handel's Messiah. Guest soloists soprano Erika Wuerzner, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Petillot, tenor Casey Finnigan and baritone Terrance Brown join conductor David Stevens and the Choirs of St. David's Episcopal Church and the Austin Symphony Orchestra in this annual tradition. 8 p.m. Riverbend Centre, 4214 Capital of Texas Highway. $15-$35. 476-6064, www.austinsymphony.org .

DEC. 10

Austin Handbell Ensemble. Favorite holiday tunes played on more than 100 bells and chimes. 7:30 p.m. University Presbyterian Church, 2203 San Antonio. Free; donations welcome. www.austinhandbells.org .

DEC. 10-11

'An Early Christmas.' Texas Early Music Project plays a diverse selection of Christmas music, from dancelike carols to Celtic lullabies to festive English wassails. Special guest artists are historical harpists Therese Honey and Becky Baxter. 8 p.m. First English Lutheran Church, 3001 Whitis Ave. $15-$20. 371-0099, www.early-music.org .

Conspirare Youth Choirs, 'Awaiting.' Young singers perform Britten's beloved 'Ceremony of Carols,' John Rutter's 'Shepherd's Pipe Carol' and the Sussex Carol among other holiday repertoire. 7:30 p.m. St. Martin's Lutheran Church, 606 W. 15th St. $10. www.conspirare.org .

DEC. 11

Round Rock Symphony, 'Holiday Spectacular.' The music of Bach, Handel and Vaughan Williams is featured along with traditional holiday favorites. 7:30 p.m. Fulkes Auditorium, 300 W. Anderson Ave., Round Rock. $15-$20. www.roundrocksymphony.org .

Texas Choral Consort, 'The Sounding Joy.' The choir is joined by a brass ensemble for a program including Rutter's 'Gloria,' Pinkham's 'Christmas Cantata' and 'On the Day,' by Austin composer Donald Granthan. 8 p.m. Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Drive. $15-$20. 372-3233, www.txconsort.org .

Holiday Organ Concert. UT Butler School of Music's 'Great Organ Series' features Gerre and Judith Hancock on the massive Visser Rowland pipe organ. 7:30 p.m. Bates Recital Hall, Music Building, UT campus. $5-$15. www.music.utexas.edu . 471-5401.

DEC. 14

Austin Symphony Orchestra's 'Holiday Sing-Along.' Time for you to sing with the Austin Symphony Orchestra. Guest conductor Carlton Dillard leads the orchestra and chorus in familiar holiday songs in which the audience can join in. 'Holiday Sing-Along,' 8 p.m. Dec. 14. Free, but tickets required. Riverbend Centre, 4214 Capital of Texas Highway. Information: 476-6064, www.austinsymphony.org .

DEC. 19

'A Holiday Revel.' Works by Claude Bolling and Chopin plus a holiday song sing-along mark Revel's holiday concert. Featuring soloists are Pat Harris, double bass, and Graeme Francis, percussion. 6 p.m. Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Drive. $5-$15. www.revelmusic.org .

DEC. 18

Chorus Austin, 'On A Winter's Eve.' The collective ensembles of Chorus Austin perform seasonal repertoire. 7 p.m. Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Drive. $16-$21. 719-3300, www.chorus austin.org .

Williamson County Symphony Orchestra. Holiday concert by this community orchestra. 7:30 p.m. Klett Performing Arts Center, Georgetown High School, Georgetown. Free. www.williamsoncountysymphonyorchestra.org .

DEC. 20-21

'Celtic Christmas at the Cathedral.' The Celtic Cultural Center of Texas presents an evening of contemporary and classic holiday Irish and Scottish traditional music with featured vocalists Brett Barnes, Danny Johnson and Stephanie Prewitt and the Silver Thistle Pipes and Drums. 7:30 p.m. St. Mary Cathedral, 203 W. 10th St. $25. www.celticchristmasaustin.com .

DEC. 30-31

Austin Symphony Orchestra, 'Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to the Beatles.' A Beatles tribute band plays 30 tunes by the Fab Four with the symphony. 8 p.m. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. $30-$45. 476-6064, www.austinsymphony.org .

Theater and dance

FRIDAY THROUGH SUNDAY

'A Tuna Christmas.' The oddball denizens of the third smallest town in Texas - including gun-toting Didi Snively and leader of the Smut Snatchers Bertha Bumiller - are back to celebrate the holidays Tuna style. Co-creators and original stars Joe Sears and Jaston Williams return with the show that they made famous. 2 p.m. Friday-Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. $42-$55. 474-1221. www.austintheatre.org .

THROUGH DEC. 12

'A Christmas Carol.' Adapted by D.H. Thompson, with original music and songs by Michael McKelvey, this children's version of the Dickens tale of miserly Scrooge and the true meaning of Christmas is presented using historic hand-painted scenery from the 1880s. 10 a.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Scottish Rite Children's Theatre, 207 W. 18th St. $3-$10. 472-7247, www.scottishritechildrenstheatre.org .

THROUGH DEC. 18

'The Hideout Holiday Super Special.' The funny people at Hideout Theatre revive some of their most popular improv shows and put a holiday twist on them. Expect everything from an improvised Alfred Hitchcock movie to an improvised Charles Dickens tale. 8 p.m. Saturdays. $11. Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. www.hideouttheatre.com.

THROUGH DEC. 30

'Scrooge, The Musical.' Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' comes to life in this stage adaptation of the 1970 hit film musical, 'Scrooge,' with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Palace Theatre, 810 S. Austin Ave., Georgetown. $10-$24. 512-869-7469. www.georgetownpalace.com .

FRIDAY THROUGH DEC. 19

'Boughs of Folly.' In this original comedy, the goofy crew at fledgling small town television station WSPR gets ready for its big Christmas broadcast. 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 18. Salado Silver Spur Theater, 108 Royal St., Salado. $8-$15. 254-947-3456, www.saladosilverspur.com .

FRIDAY THROUGH DEC. 31

'The Santaland Diaries.' Actor Martin Burke returns to the role - and the play - that he made into one of Austin's most quirky yet heartwarming holiday traditions. In 'The Santaland Diaries,' Burke plays an unemployed and sardonic writer who takes a job at Macy's as one of Santa's helpers in David Sedaris' witty, wry observation on our painfully festive, over-commercial holiday traditions. Chanteuse Meredith McCall sings. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 31. Whisenhunt Stage, Zach Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road. $33-$43 (discounts for seniors and students). 476-0541, www.zachtheatre.org.

WEDNESDAY-DEC. 5, DEC. 15-19

'A Kodachrome Christmas.' Pat Hazell, creator of 'The Wonder Bread Years,' penned this show about Earlene Hoople, aka 'Queen of Rural Media,' an eccentric Dripping Springs woman with her own early-morning cable-access crafts show. Earlene tapes her last kooky Christmas special in front of a live audience. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Dec.4, 3 p.m. Dec. 4, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 5. Rollins Studio Theatre, Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. $34- $39. 474-5664. www.thelongcenter.org .

DEC. 2-18

'La Pastorela: A Shepherd's Story.' Austin Latino Theater Alliance presents a contemporary Austin version of the traditional yuletide play that has been performed in Latino communities since the late 16th century, when Spanish priests introduced it to the Americas. 'La Pastorela' follows the magical story of the shepherds' journey to Bethlehem and the obstacles they meet along the way. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. Mexican-American Cultural Center, 600 River St. $8-$15 (Thursdays pay-what-you-wish). 241-9799, www.lapastorela.org .

DEC. 3-18

'Gnap Holiday Show.' The clever improv comedians of Gnap Theatre riff on your suggestions for a holiday-themed show. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Road. $5. www.gnaptheatre.org.

'Fruitcakes.' In this Christmas comedy two Southern spinsters encounter a boy who has run away from home after his miraculous transformation and also deal with a mess of fruitcakes, three dozen Christmas trees, 10,000 outdoor Christmas lights and a Christmas hog named Buster. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Dec. 12 and 18. Gaslight Baker Theater, 216 S. Main St., Lockhart, $12. 512-376-5653, www.gaslightbakertheatre.org .

DEC. 3-19

Holiday Cabaret. Tex-Arts presents a glittering cabaret of song-and-dance holiday favorites. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tex-Arts, 2300 Lohman's Spur, Lakeway. $24-$40. www.tex-arts.org .

'Winterland: A Journey Through ChristmaHanuKwanzaakkah!' A multicultural holiday extravaganza especially for the little ones. The Wizard of Winterland wants to find out why is there so much happiness and joy in the world during winter. Voyage through Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. And make sure the kids are ready to perform some winter magic of their own. 7 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd St. $9-$12.

DEC. 4-23

'The Nutcracker.' Ballet Austin's 'The Nutcracker' continues to sparkle. The lavish production, complete with a live music from the Austin Symphony Orchestra, features the beloved role of Mother Ginger with a different celebrity starring in the role for each performance. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4, Dec. 10-11, Dec. 17-18, Dec. 21; 2 p.m. Dec. 5, Dec. 12, Dec. 18-9. Dec. 22-23. Dell Hall, Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. $15-$71. 476-2163, www.balletaustin.org .

DEC.5

'Junie B. in Jingle Bells Batman Smells.' Austin playwright Allison Gregory has taken the popular character from the books by author Barbara Park and transformed her for the stage in this family-friendly hour-long holiday play. 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. $12. 474-1221, www.austintheatre.org .

DEC. 9-18

'The Christmas Carol Rag.' In this spunky take on the Dickens classic, the story of Scrooge's redemption is set in the exciting, ragtime world of New York circa 1911, with a gospel-wailing Ghost of Christmas Present. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. Matinee 2:30 p.m. Dec. 12. Bastrop Opera House, 711 Spring St., Bastrop. $5-$10. 512-321-6283, www.bastropoperahouse.com .

DEC. 9-21

'A Christmas Carol.' Award-winning actress and storyteller Bernadette Nason performs Charles Dickens' own abridged version of 'A Christmas Carol' playing more than 30 characters in this one-woman tour de force show. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Austin Playhouse, Penn Field, 3601 S. Congress Ave. $26-$28. 476 0084, www.austinplayhouse.com .

DEC. 10-19

'Austin Children's Nutcracker.' The Austin City Ballet presents the holiday ballet danced by young dancers. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Dougherty Arts Center Theatre, 1110 Barton Springs Road. $17-$22. 496-5987, www.austin-conservatory-arts.com

DEC. 14-19

'Of Mice & Music: A Jazz Nutcracker.' Tapestry Dance Company presents its adaptation of the classic nutcracker story is told with an original jazz score played by Austin's own jazz trio Blue J and an army of tap-dancing mice. 7 p.m. Dec. 14-19, 2 p.m. Dec. 18-19. Boyd Vance Theatre, Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. $25. www.tapestry.org .

DEC. 17-31

'Radio City Christmas Spectacular.' The high-kicking Radio City Rockettes perform their holiday-themed precision dance numbers, including the famous 'Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.' Multiple show times. Bass Concert Hall, East 23rd Street and Robert Dedman Drive. $25.20-$69.50. 477-6060, www.texasperformingarts.org .

DEC. 18-19

River City Ballet's 'Nutcracker Suite.' Guest soloists Kathryn Boren and Calvin Royal III from American Ballet Theatre join the youth dancers of River City Ballet for the holiday classic. 7 p.m. Dec. 18, 4 p.m. Dec. 19. San Marcos High School Performing Arts Center, 2601 E. McCarthy Lane, San Marcos. $15. 512-396-8736. www.rivercityballet.org .

Holiday art markets

THROUGH JAN. 7

VSA Holiday Art Show. Art made by artists with disabilities includes cards, paintings, mobiles, ornaments, jewelry, candles, home accessories. Featured again this year are paper quilled ornaments by Toni Christenson, an artist who is blind. Noon to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. VSA Gallery, 3701 Guadalupe St. Free. www.vsatx.org .

WEDNESDAY-DEC. 24

Blue Genie Christmas Bazaar. The annual shopping extravaganza hosted by Blue Genie Art Industries features some of the most outrageous and creative jewelry, toys, accessories, clothing and crafts by dozens of local artists. 10 a.m. to midnight every day. Marchesa Hall & Theatre, Lincoln Village, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. Free. www.bluegenieart bazaar.com .

DEC, 3-5

Wild Ideas. Botanical prints and cards, ceramic art, jewelry, paintings, glassware and handmade ornaments are featured at this sale. 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3-4, noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 5. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. Free. 232-0100, www.wildflower.org .

DEC. 4-5

Travis Heights Art Trail. One neighborhood, 19 locations, 38 artists. Peruse ceramics, paintings, fiber art, wearable art, jewelry and more. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Various locations in South Austin. Free. www.travisheightsart.com .

DEC. 15-24

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. Ranked nationally as one of the top arts and craft shows, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is just about the most Austin-y event of the holiday season. Find eclectic gift items by more than 100 artists and enjoy the sounds of Austin's favorite musicians. Live music starts at noon. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. $7 evenings and weekends, $4 weekdays before 7 p.m. 447-1605, www.armadillobazaar.com .

DEC. 11-12

Cherrywood Art Fair. This totally groovy, totally cool art fair gathers more than 80 local artisans, jewelry- and handbag-makers, ceramists and artists. All-day live music featuring the Boxcar Preachers, Joe McDermott and the Coffee Sergeants, among others. Food by Eastside Pies and MMMPanadas. And there are kids' activities, too. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 11, noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 12; Maplewood Elementary School, 3808 Maplewood Ave. Free. www.cherrywoodartfair.org .

Note: This story has been updated to correct the time of the Dec. 4 Austin Handbell Ensemble concert and the location of the group's Dec. 10 performance.