Kansas City Connection: ‘Christmas Cheer’ from a new ‘Nutcracker’ to Charles Dickens
You've likely seen news reports and alarmist email forwards about an alleged "War on Christmas," but what's less publicized in the media is Kansas City's perennially successful "Campaign for Christmas Cheer (And General Holiday Merriment)." Whether you prefer a secular or a nonsecular Starbucks cup, this year's holiday arts preview includes KC holiday classics for people of all beliefs, interests and ice-skating abilities.
The new 'Nutcracker'
When the curtain goes up Dec. 5 at the Kansas City Ballet’s presentation of "The Nutcracker," audiences will be treated to a brand-new version of a decades-old tradition.
For the past year, the ballet’s artistic director, Devon Carney, has worked with costume and set designers, producers and hundreds of dancers to reinvent Tchaikovsky's classic ballet.
"It’s the same tradition — it’s just a different set of sets, costumes and choreography,” Carney said earlier this year. "The story isn’t changing. That’s what the beauty of 'The Nutcracker' is. It’s Clara going on a fabulous adventure.”
'The Nutcracker' will be performed 22 times between Dec. 5 and Dec. 24. Tickets are available at kcballet.org for $79 and up.
Kansas City Symphony
The Kansas City Symphony's December calendar includes two special holiday events. Handel's "Messiah" combines the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony Chorus and the Independence Messiah Choir in a magnificent performance of the 18th century oratorio. Hearing the sound of 250 voices is a powerful, visceral experience recommended for any fans of sacred, holiday or choral music. Handel's "Messiah" runs Dec. 3 through 6. Tickets are $25 and up at kcsymphony.org.
Between Dec. 17 and 22, the Symphony and Symphony Chorus will also host its annual Christmas Festival, featuring Christmas carols, seasonal songs and a visit from Santa. Youth tickets start at $15, and adult tickets are $30 and up.
The excess and sanctity of Christmas make it a perfect target for comedy, and two different performances next month will offer plenty of comic relief for those tired of more traditional entertainment.
On Dec. 5 at Yardley Hall on the Johnson County Community College campus, the Reduced Shakespeare Company presents "The Ultimate Christmas Show," in which three zany characters perform the vaudevillian, comedic pageant of the (fictional) St. Everybody's Nondenominational Universalist Church. The show has received glowing reviews nationally and will be in Kansas City for one night only. Tickets are $16 for youths or $32 for adults at jccc.edu.
From Dec. 3 through 24, "The Santaland Diaries," the one-man show written by David Sedaris about his misguided experience working as a Macy's elf, returns to the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's downtown Copaken Stage for the third year in a row. The show is directed by Eric Rosen, and tickets cost $20 to $48 at kcrep.org.
Holiday Express Train at Union Station
The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train with Santa returns to Union Station from Dec. 16 to 20 to the delight of thousands of children in the area. The Holiday Express is a six-car train that makes stops from Louisiana to Illinois, with cars including Rudy the smiling tank car, a flatcar with Santa’s sleigh, a gingerbread boxcar, a mobile elves’ workshop, a reindeer stable and a red caboose. Sponsored by the Kansas City Southern railroad company, the Holiday Express is free to enter, with donations accepted toward helping provide clothing for children in need.
Union Station also features a variety of holiday events, with the city's largest indoor tree, a classic holiday movie series throughout the month, a holiday dance showcase on Dec. 6, mini train rides throughout December and an epic new year's swing dance party on Dec. 31 featuring the Dave Stephens Orchestra. More information at unionstation.org.
'A Christmas Carol'
Charles Dickens’ classic tale of greed, redemption and Christmas ghosts is brought to life each year by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. This year’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” the company’s 35th, begins on Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 24 at the Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus. Tickets are on sale for $29 and up through KCRep.org or by calling 816-235-2700.
The city's biggest two holiday lighting ceremonies both take place on Thanksgiving weekend. On Thursday, Nov. 26, the switch for the Plaza Lights will be flipped at 6:54 p.m., preceded by two hours of music and performance and immediately followed by fireworks and a concert.
Last year's honorary switch-flippers were Royals star Alex Gordon and general manager Dayton Moore, and the countdown turned into a little bit of a Royals pep rally. While no guests have been announced for this year's event yet, I can only imagine it will be even more festive.
A more traditional Christmas tree lighting will happen the next night at Crown Center at the Mayor's Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony starting at 5:30 p.m. The 100-foot-tall tree is shipped in from Oregon every year, and after the holidays, the wood from the tree is made into commemorative ornaments that are sold to benefit the Mayor's Christmas Tree Fund. Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Moore will do the honors.
The nearby ice rink at Crown Center is the city's most popular outdoor rink and a fun place to get some exercise between shopping, theater events and dining at Crown Center shops, or visiting the nearby Legoland or aquarium. Skating costs $6 for admission and $3 for skate rental. The rink is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.
Vienna Boys Choir
Next Friday, Nov. 20, the famous Vienna Boys Choir returns to Kansas City for a 7 p.m. concert at the Folly Theater that will include a number of Christmas selections. The choir has been around for over 500 years, and features 100 singers between the ages of 9 and 14. Tickets are $30 and up at hjseries.org.