Sunday, November 17 2019 10:51

Holiday Performances to Brighten the Season

Written by Edwin Malet

Lift up your spirits with a live performance or five.


Many of us will travel for the holidays. To the places where we grew up or where our far-flung family now calls home. Maybe a sunny holiday vacation to a resort in the Caribbean. I suppose you should go now, while the islands are still above water …

But many will pass on the irritating airport lines, over-long car trips and the sand, palm trees and pina coladas for now. Instead, we’ll find ourselves here at home, yearning for something special and seasonal to do.

We suggest the theater, dance or a live musical performance: the glorious melody of a grand chorus, the graceful footsteps of sprightly dancers, the resonant echo of the playhouse.


The Messiah

Vox Ama Deus

A performance of Handel’s The Messiah may be high on your To-See list. For some, this soul-stirring music is at the top of the list every year.

Vox Ama Deus, an ensemble playing baroque and classical instruments, performs this classic under the uplifting and improvisational leadership of Maestro Valentin Radu. Steve Cohen of the Broad Street Review compared the group’s rendition of The Messiah to three others—the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh Symphony—and found our local group “produced more effervescence and joy.”

The baroque instruments—played by about 30 musicians and accompanied by 45 in the chorus—are handled masterfully, sounding half a tone lower—true to history—than modern orchestras. The soloists this year include soprano Andrea Lauren Brown, alto Jody Kidwell, tenor Timothy Bentch and base Ed Bala—each sparkling.

Catch a performance of Vox Ama Deus at Daylesford Abbey in Paoli on December 8 or at St. Katherine of Siena Church in Wayne on December 22. The ensemble will also perform in Chestnut Hill on December 6 and in Philadelphia on December 20.

More opportunities exist for fans of this musical experience. The Messiah will also be performed by the 80-voice Chester County Choral Society on December 13 and 14, first at West Chester’s Bayard Rustin High School and then at Paoli’s Church of the Good Samaritan.

In addition, The Brandywine Singers are performing The Messiah at the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center, but you’ll have to hurry. They’re performing on Saturday and Sunday, November 23 and 24.

Brandywine Singers


The Nutcracker

Pennsylvania Ballet

Then there’s Tchaikovsky. The March, The Waltz of the Snowflakes, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, plus Clara and Prince Charming and all the other beloved melodies and characters that have warmed the hearts of many throughout the years. Watch your kids’ eyes light up as the large troupe of dancers frolic across the stage in full costume!

What sets the Brandywine Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker apart is the Victorian-style Act I choreography that David Kloss and Donna Muzio created 34 years ago and left virtually unchanged. In contrast, due to the size of its cast—about 200 people in all—the changes to Act II have been on-going, with the choreography, set and costumes getting polished or updated. Eight performances, from December 13 through 22, are scheduled at Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall on the West Chester University campus.

The Nutcracker will also be performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet at the Academy of Music in Center City on December 6 through 31 and by First State Ballet at Delaware Theatre in Wilmington on December 21 and 22.


A Christmas Carol

Delaware Theatre

Another season classic, A Christmas Carol was authored by Charles Dickens in 1843, and it wasn’t long before the novella had become a play, an opera, a movie (both silent film and “talkie”) and an animated feature. In all, there have been about 400 different takes on the time-honored story.

Why has A Christmas Carol been adapted so often? Basically, the lesson—the value of giving versus the poverty of hoarding—never gets old. Especially during the holidays.

The miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, has become a part of our lexicon. Poor, ailing Tiny Tim represents the pitiful masses. The Ghost of Christmas Past becomes the Ghost of Christmas Present, then the Ghost of Christmas Future. Scrooge is transformed. A Christmas Carol is a simple yet uplifting story.

This year you can choose from three local venues that are performing A Christmas Carol. The Hedgerow Theatre in Media hosts shows from November 29 through December 24. And the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia offers a second option from November 30 through December 22.

But the performance at Wilmington’s Delaware Theatre is arguably the most interesting and unusual. Using nothing more than props, puppets and the power of imagination, five actors bring some of Dickens’ most beloved characters to life right before your eyes.


Into the Woods

Musical theater lovers have a special treat in store. On December 13 through 29, at the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center in West Chester, the Resident Theatre Company is performing the musical fantasy Into the Woods, a modern twist on a collection of Brothers Grimm fairy tales—Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. The original show first appeared on Broadway in 2014 (not to be confused with the Disney film starring Meryl Streep) and won three Tony awards, including Best Score by Stephen Sondheim and Best Book by James Lapine.

Into the Woods tells the story of a baker and his wife, who yearn for a child but are under the curse of a witch. To lift the curse, the witch requires the couple get her a white cow, a red cape, yellow hair and a gold slipper. By the finale, the couple has acquired all the items, meeting Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Jack and Rapunzel along the way. Watch each of the characters on a quest to fulfill a wish.


Frozen Jr.

Building on Disney’s 2013 film Frozen, its 2019 film Frozen 2, and its 2018 Frozen the Musical, there’s yet another version of the story. Frozen JR. is playing at the Delaware Children’s Theatre. (And it wouldn’t be a Disney production unless there were also toys and logoed clothing.)

Overflowing with adventure and comedy—and not a little bit of magic—Frozen JR. comes to life in the mystical kingdom of Arendelle, filled with dancing snowmen and comic trolls. It tells the story of the optimistic princess Anna, the sarcastic ice harvester Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven, who search out Anna’s elder sister, the Snow Queen Elsa, who is responsible for casting the land under an icy spell. The music, including five new songs, is written by Oscar-, Tony- and Grammy-winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. We’ll let it go with that.


In short, you can find plenty of entertainment this season. And you won’t get sunburned. More details on this site’s Events Page.

Tagged under: Holidays, music, Shows, Theater