Whether we enjoy them or not, the year-end holidays are upon us. But no matter our individual opinions, attending theater that’s holiday-related with other enthusiasts—of theater or of festivity—always seems to fit perfectly with the weather and the tinsel-y ambience of the Southland. We bet these five theatrical offerings, listed in order of closing date, will fill you with a holiday mood—or make you forget the holidays for a few hours.
Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn
Musical Theatre West at Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Dec 6–15
Jim, Ted, Lila and Linda may swap song-and-dance (and life) partners as they ricochet from a club in Manhattan to a farmhouse in Connecticut to Hollywood to Vegas in the convoluted plot of this musical, based on the 1942 film. This new version, which opened on Broadway in 2016, boasts a libretto by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. And those Berlin songs are among the best ever penned—including “Blue Skies,” “Shakin’ the Blues Away,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Easter Parade” and, of course, “White Christmas.” Danny Pelzig directs, Christine Negherbon choreographs.
6200 Atherton St, Long Beach (562-856-1999). Fri at 7pm; Sat at 1, 7pm; Sun at 1, 6pm (added show Thu, Dec 12 at 7pm). $20–$240 plus facilities charges.
A Christmas Carole King
Troubadour Theater Company at El Portal Theatre
It’s not just that Troubadour Theater Company has sneakily insinuated the music of America’s great singer-songwriter into Charles Dickens’s ghostly but meaningful tale. It’s that the Troubies also added in their often-improvised wit, so hilarious it leaves audiences breathless. So, for example, you’ll probably hear a version of “Chains” (yep, she wrote that) when one of the company’s veteran performers sings and dances as (perhaps Bob) Marley. Adapted and directed by Matt Walker, with musical direction by Derrick Finely.
5269 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood (818-508-4200). Fri at 8pm; Sat at 4, 8pm; Sun at 4pm (added show Thu, Dec 19 at 8pm). $50–$75.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
A Noise Within, Dec 4–23
Yes, we’ve included A Noise Within’s production of the Yuletide chestnut every year since we started these Best Bets. Charles Dickens’s glorious tale, about Christmas but also about living life with awareness and generosity, has been adapted by Geoff Elliott and is here directed by Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, and stars superb veteran actors at the Southland’s “home for the classics.” Plus, on the accessibility side, parking is ample (though a bit of a walk), Metro Rail stops a block away, running time is 90 minutes without intermission and, notably, sightlines in this lovely theater are excellent, even for the kids.
3352 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena (626-356-3100). See ANW website for repertory schedule. $25–$72.
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake
Ahmanson Theatre, Dec 3–Jan 5
The stunning ballet that Matthew Bourne first brought us in 1995 features the Tchaikovsky score and the swans. But most famously, this choreographic genius made the swans males, delving deeply into the psychology of the story’s Prince (likely a somewhat fictionalized version of Britain’s Prince Charles). Reportedly, in 2010 Bourne changed a bit of the ballet, revising a subplot and adding a bit more ambiguity to the characters. Christmassy? No. But it will make you forget everything else during the ballet, probably on the drive home and possibly for a day or two afterwards. Not for the kiddies. But then, truthfully, few ballets are.
135 N Grand Ave, Downtown L.A. (213-972-4400). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm (see theater website for holiday schedule). $30–$135.
Pantages Theatre, Dec 6–Feb 2
Sure, it’s about ice and snow, and pretty princess sisters Elsa and Anna, and the men who love them in various ways. But it’s also about the difference between self-control and being made to hide our lights under bushels, and that’s why those of us who are not preteen girls might relate to this production, with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and book by Jennifer Lee, based on the 2013 Disney animated film of the same name. Plus, we get to hear Elsa sing “Let It Go” to bring down the Act One curtain. And don’t forget the cuddly snowman Olaf! Michael Grandage directs, Rob Ashford choreographs, Caroline Bowman and Caroline Innerbichler star.
6233 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood (800-982-2787). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm. $39–$809, prices may fluctuate.