Holiday-themed productions around Asheville

HOLIDAY JEER: The Bernsteins are back for a final run. Now in its 10th year, the beloved (and naughty) production takes to The Magnetic Theatre stage for one last round of bad behavior. Glenn Reed, Erik Moellering and Tracey Johnston-Crum, pictured, are among the stars. Photo by Rodney Smith/Tempus Fugit

Along with the light displays, the carols and the mulled cider, holiday-themed theater adds to the list of reasons for the season. Local offerings range from classic ballets, poignant soul searches and snarky sendups of this month of family drama and heightened emotions. Oh, and there’s a light display to visit, too. Take a break from decking the halls and imbibing the eggnog for one or several of these festive shows. For more holiday theater options, check out Xpress’ Community Calendar.

• Turns out the Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular (billed as the 25th annual last year) is actually at its 10-year mark. The beloved play has also reached the end of the line: All good things must end, and this one is sure to go out with a bang. The show — directed by Lucia Del Vecchio, with Tracey Johnston-Crum, Glenn Reed, Erik Moellering, Sarah Felmet and Darren Marshall (who performed as both Santa Claus and Baby Jesus for the past decade) “is sure to be a rollicking comedy romp that is most certainly not suitable for all audience,” says the website for The Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St., where the dysfunctional Bernsteins will take the stage for their final season. Shows sell out in advance. Thursday, Dec. 5, to Saturday, Dec. 21. Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., with late shows Saturdays at 10 p.m. $31.

• In the romantic comedy Handle With Care, “circumstances both hilarious and tragic bring together a young Israeli woman and a young American man,” says a press release. There’s also a stolen truck, a missing body and — surprisingly — love. The New York Times described the show, penned by Jason Odell, as “a Jewish Christmas story.” The N.C. Stage Company production stars Anna Slate, Barbara Bloomberg, Ben Mackel and Aaron Brakesfield, and is directed by Patricia Snoyer Black. 15 Stage Lane. Wednesday, Dec. 4, to Sunday, Dec. 22. Wednesday-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., with additional matinees on Saturdays, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21. $18-$38.

• In 1952, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas recorded his prose piece A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a reminiscence of the holiday from the perspective of a young boy. As a gift to the community, local poet James Navé “has been presenting the rich language of Thomas’ evocative holiday classic poem since 1988,” says a press release. The annual presentation takes place at The Black Mountain Center for the Arts, 225 W. State St., Black Mountain, on Sunday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m. Free, but registration is requested at

GET CRACKIN’: While ‘The Nutcracker’ is a holiday tradition for many families, the local theater scene offers darker and quirkier options, such as Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre’s production of ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ (pictured, as performed with aerial artist Nicole Silver). Photo courtesy of Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre

• Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King “couldn’t be further from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet,” promises a press release. The innovative performance “is based on the original and much darker story written in 1816 by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann” and includes the polka-dancing King and Queen of Sausages and the mouse king’s many unruly children. Dancers are culled from the ACDT adult company, White Dog ProjectX International and the students of New Studio of Dance. Shows run Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7, 2 and 7:30 p.m. at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, $29 general admission/$24 students and seniors/$20 children.

• Candice Burchill directs Mountain Community Theater’s adaption of Miracle on 34th Street — the warm-and-fuzzy story about an elderly man living in a retirement home who lands a job working as Santa Claus at Macy’s. While he’s considered delusional by some, one young girl’s belief in Father Christmas is at stake. The show runs at Asheville Community Theatre, 35 Walnut St., Thursday, Dec. 5, to Friday, Dec. 20. Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. with additional performances Thursdays, Dec. 5 and 19, and Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 7:30 p.m. $12-$26.

• If It’s A Wonderful Life is the ultimate in Christmas entertainment (it’s at least up there with A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story), Miracle in Bedford Falls ups the festive ante by turning the James Stewart chestnut into a musical. Depressed George Bailey and his guardian angel, Clarence, are back in action as Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre stages the theatrical extravaganza it premiered 10 years ago. Amanda Sayles and Bill Gregg direct a cast including Chelsey Lee Mirheli, Timothy Wilds and Michael Mattison, among others. Shows take place in the historic Owen Theatre on the campus of Mars Hill University, 44 College St., Mars Hill, Thursday, Dec. 5, to Sunday, Dec. 22. Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (no show on Friday, Dec. 13) and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. $30 premium seating/$25 standard seating/$18 students and children.

LIGHT IT UP: This year’s Lake Julian Festival of Lights offers two evenings for those who prefer to take the tour on foot rather than by car. Family-friendly games, snacks and visits with Santa are part of the festivities. Photo courtesy of Buncombe County Recreation Services

• Setting a different type of stage, the Lake Julian Festival of Lights enters its 19th year as a festive draw. The drive-thru experience is “a magical journey through tunnels of dazzling animated and stationary light displays,” says a press release. “Visitors are invited to watch the lights twinkle over the lake and to turn on their favorite holiday tunes to let the sounds transform the show into a magical holiday journey.” Foot stroll nights take place Saturday, Nov. 30, and Sunday, Dec. 1, 5-8:30 p.m., $5 adults/free for children 16 and younger. Stroll nights include games, holiday craft making and s’mores (Saturday) and a fire circle, snacks and adult beverages for purchase (Sunday), with visits from Santa each night. The park, at 406 Overlook Extension, Arden, opens to cars Tuesday, Dec. 3, to Monday, Dec. 23, 6-9 nightly. $10 vehicle/$25 large vans/$50 motor coaches.

• Everybody’s favorite snarky elf returns in The Santaland Diaries. The one-man play, starring Tom Chalmers, has become an annual hit for 35 below. It was adapted from the dark comedy/essay by David Sedaris of his time employed as Crumpet the Elf in Macy’s Santaland display. 35 Walnut St. Wednesday-Sunday, Dec. 11-15. Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m. $20.

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts stages another production of the David Sedaris comedy The Santaland Diaries, starring David Broshar as Crumpet the Elf. The show is directed by Matt Lutz and runs Friday, Dec. 13, to Sunday, Dec. 22, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. $20.

• Asheville Ballet presents a nostalgic version of The Nutcracker, in which Clara embarks upon a magical journey into the Lands of Snow and Sweets, set to the traditional Tchaikovsky score. The local dance company takes the stage at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, 18 Biltmore Ave. Friday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 14, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. $15-$50.

• There’s another opportunity to journey to the Land of Sweets when Hendersonville Ballet Company presents Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Luke Umphlett from Spartanburg Ballet will dance the cavalier with a cast of dancers of all ages from Hendersonville and surrounding counties, some performing in the Christmas classic for the first time. Held at the Bo Thomas Auditorium on the Blue Ridge Community College campus, 180 W. Campus Drive, Flat Rock. Friday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 14, 2 and 7 p.m. $30 adults/$15 seniors and children 12 and younger.

• The Colonial Theater53 Park St., Canton, promises a Broadway-style extravaganza in which Western North Carolina-based artists and special guests present “sacred and secular Christmas favorites,” according to the event website. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “O Holy Night” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” are among the offerings, along with comedy and dance, in The Carolina Christmas Show, onstage Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. $22 adults/$19 active military members, veterans and children ages 3-17.


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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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