As the days grow shorter and the mist over the Blue Ridge thickens into a cold, icy fog, Western North Carolinians will be rushing around the region, buying and wrapping gifts, decking their halls and eagerly awaiting the first real snowfall of the season. But in between all of the hustle-and-bustle splendor of the hectic holiday season, it may help to take some time to relax — put away the shopping cart, the Black Friday-sale madness, the need to have the perfect Candyland-esque light display — and enjoy some favorite seasonal classics put on by local playhouses, theaters and talents. From A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker to The Santaland Diaries and A Christmas Story, Asheville and the surrounding area offer a plethora of performances to satisfy any person's palate. Here, Xpress highlights a dozen.
1. In this hilariously chaotic Christmas comedy, a couple attempt to put on a church pageant run awry by six delinquent siblings who have all secured starring roles after scaring away the other children. This is the tale of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. On stage at Asheville Community Theatre until Sunday, Dec. 8, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. $12-22. AshevilleTheatre.org.
2. While Ebenezer Scrooge's story is repeated time and time again every December, we usually never stop to ponder the life and legacy of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, whose chain-rattling ghost makes a brief but memorable appearance in A Christmas Carol. The Ensemble Theatre Company takes our relationship with Marley to a whole new level in a funny and touching holiday play, Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol. Showing Thursday-Monday, Dec. 19-30, at the N.C. Stage. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. $20, with a special pay-what-you-can showing on Dec. 19. NCstage.org.
3. Purchasing tickets as soon as possible is highly recommended for The Magnetic Theatre's "beloved and occasionally tasteless" sketch comedy, The 31st Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular. The show sells out nearly every year and manages to keep audiences laughing at its dysfunctional, Christmas-parody, adult-style humor. Showing at the Asheville Community Theatre mainstage, Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 12-14, 7:30 p.m. nightly with 10 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday. $15. TheMagneticTheatre.org.
4. The Santaland Diaries takes a visit into the mind of "an out-of-work slacker" who lands a job as an elf in Macy's Santaland. At work, "his hilarious observations of the shoppers and employees are much more naughty than nice. This is a one-man one-act that can only be described one way: crazy funny," notes a promo for the show. It takes place at the Asheville Community Theatre mainstage Thursday-Sunday, Dec. 19-22, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. $15. AshevilleTheatre.org.
5. A Swannanoa Solstice is touted as “a tapestry of joyful and thoughtful seasonal reflection beautifully woven from the mountains' Appalachian, Scots-Irish and world influences." Gracing the mainstage of the Diana Wortham Theatre this year will be internationally renowned musicians Al Petteway, Amy White and Robin Bullock, along with Appalachian storyteller and singer Sheila Kay Adams, Cape Breton-style step dancers The Twisty Cuffs and highlands pipes and percussion band Piperjones and his Merry Band. Hosted by Doug Orr. Showing Sunday, Dec. 22, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. $38/$33 for students/$15 for children. DWTheatre.com.
6. On a snowy night at WVL Radio studios, a "ragtag group of station employees faced with a crisis band together to bring the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls to vivid life" in Immediate Theatre Project’s reimagining of It's A Wonderful Life, "complete with old-time radio sound effects, organ accompaniment and versatile voice acting." Showing at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12. $20/$15 in advance. IsisAsheville.com or 575-2737.
7. In a newly revised but classic tale, Montford Park Players act out A Christmas Carol, telling the story of Ebenezer Scrooge in "Asheville tradition" at the Masonic Temple. Showing from Thursday, Dec. 5-Sunday, Dec. 22. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Opening night is "pay what we're worth" night, where theatergoers are invited to watch, then pay what they think the show is worth. $12-15/$6 for children 12 and younger.
Another telling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a production by Parkway Playhouse, will show at Mountain Heritage High School Auditorium in Burnsville Friday-Sunday, Dec. 13-15. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.. $12/$15. ParkwayPlayhouse.com.
8. Ho. Ho. Ho. Join Ralphie Parker as he washes his mouth out with soap and attempts to not shoot his eye out in this adaptation of A Christmas Story, presented by Flat Rock Playhouse. Showing at the theater's mainstage through Sunday, Dec. 22. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. $35. FlatRockPlayhouse.org.
9. Start off your holidays with some Christmas classics as the Asheville Symphony and Chorus presents A Classical Christmas, performing selections from Handel’s “Messiah” and other classical Christmas favorites. Sunday, Dec. 15, 3 p.m. at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in the U.S. Cellular Center. Tickets range from $20-$58 with discounts for students. AshevilleSymphony.org.
10. The Nutcracker & The Mouse King, presented by Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre, draws inspiration from the original 1816 novella by ETA Hoffman. The production, which has been described as both dark and quirky, promises lavish costumes as it infuses this Christmas classic with contemporary music and dance. Catch the Mouse King at Diana Wortham Theatre on Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. or Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. $25/$20 for students, seniors and children. ACDT.org.
11. The U.S. Cellular Center presents what many consider a quintessential holiday experience: The Moscow Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. The company has toured North America for over 20 years, first debuting this production, originally called “The Great Russian Nutcracker,” in 1993. You can see the performance The New York Times called a knockout at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m. $29.50-$104.50. USCellularCenterAsheville.com.
12. Asheville Ballet, the city’s only professional adult ballet company, will present the original Russian production of The Nutcracker. The company’s director, Ann Dunn, first performed the seasonal dance at New York City Ballet from her mentor, George Balanchine, often called “The Father of American Ballet.” The performance leaps onto the stage at the Diana Wortham Theatre on Friday, Dec. 13, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15, at 2:30 p.m. $50-25 adults/$15 for students and children under 12. dwtheatre.com.
Students from the Ballet Conservatory of Asheville perform a classic interpretation of The Nutcracker. Over 100 performers will grace the stage at the Diana Wortham Theatre on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m. and Thursday and Friday, Dec. 19 and 20, at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. $12-$25. BalletConservatoryOfAsheville.com.
— Hayley Benton can be reached at email@example.com.