There are three holiday entertainment events I call the “Holiday Trifecta.” Take your family to these three — Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (theater), “Amahl and the Night Visitors” (opera) and “The Nutcracker” (ballet) — and you’ve more than done your duty by the holidaze.
1. ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’
2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 9; 2 p.m. Dec. 10. Opera Orlando, now in its second season, already is calling “Amahl and the Night Visitors” a holiday tradition. Presented in (its original) English, Gian Carlo Menotti’s charming story, inspired by the journey of the Three Kings, was commissioned for television by NBC and was broadcast Dec. 24, 1951, as the debut production of the history-making Hallmark Hall of Fame. The first opera composed for television in America, 2017 sees Opera Orlando offering a new, stunning production, designed and directed by Grant Preisser. Performed in the Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center, Music Director Robin Jensen will conduct musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic. For tickets, visit drphillipscenter.org.
2. Central Florida Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec 16; 2 p.m. Dec. 17. “The Nutcracker” gets special treatment by this company, and it has been noticed nationally for its efforts. Merging the classic fairytale with more pyrotechnics (cloud effects and small explosions) than any seen in any ballet before (or since), the Central Florida Ballet will present three performances of its renowned “Nutcracker” at the Orange County Convention Center. Unique to Central Florida, the company consulted with people at the theme parks to create its exciting special effects, leading to a feature in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today and being named “one of five outstanding productions in the entire nation” by CNN Headline News. New this season, Director Vasile Petrutiu announced custom-built sets from Russia. For tickets, visit centralfloridaballet.com.
3. Orlando Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘The Nutcracker Family Show’
Dec. 21 to 24. The Orlando Ballet’s magical journey to a fantasy world promises the kind of performance that makes little girls wish to become ballerinas. Including a performance on Christmas Eve, the on-stage Christmas Eve party shows how a gift from her godfather helps Clara grow in courage, poise and, perhaps, the stirrings of “first love.” After a battle with the Mouse King, the toy nutcracker becomes a handsome cavalier who introduces Clara to Mother Ginger, the Sugar Plum Fairy and a host of other characters. Everyone will enjoy the falling snow and candy canes at this holiday classic including a one-hour performance for young audiences (11 a.m. Dec. 23) with activities for children before the show. “‘The Nutcracker’ is an annual holiday tradition for so many families, but also a great opportunity to experience ballet for the first time,” Artistic Director Robert Hill said. For tickets, visit drphillipscenter.org.
4. Phantasmagoria’s ‘A Christmas Carol, a Ghost Story of Christmas’
8 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16; 2 p.m. Dec. 17 (Orlando Shakespeare Center); 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 (Athens Theater, Deland); 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23 (Wayne Densch Arts Center, Sanford). Orlando’s own Victorian Grand Guignol Performance Troupe Phantasmagoria will present the best known and most loved “ghost story” of all time — Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol, a Ghost Story of Christmas” in its own adaptation. This troupe will bring its signature onslaught of theatrical movement, dance, puppetry, projections, music and storytelling to the stage. Dickens’ London comes to life in a new — and different — adaptation of the classic. This brilliant troupe made its name scaring audiences by performing ghost stories at Halloween. Now, it has its hands on a Christmas classic. For tickets, call (407) 476-5121 (Orlando Shakespeare Center); (386) 736-1500 (Athens Theater); or (407) 321-8111 (Wayne Densch Arts Center).
5. One-Man Presentation of ‘A Christmas Carol’
7:30 p.m. Dec 22 and 23; 2 p.m. Dec. 24. David McElroy, of Southern Winds Theatre, is about to celebrate his 20th year of performing a one-man production of “A Christmas Carol.” Not only is that some kind of performance record, but the great news is that, after seeing the production last season, I can say it is as moving and relevant as it was when Dickens’ fable was first published — 174 years ago. David McElroy is a theatrical tour-de-force as he takes on 37 different characters — with little more than a change of a piece of clothing and/or vocal inflection to define a character. It is a major compliment to say that, during the performance, I often forgot I was watching one person perform all the characters. He is that convincing. This solo interpretation works for both adults and children, and dazzles audiences in the process. Presented at the Blue Bamboo Center, 1905 Kentucky Ave in Winter Park. Call (407) 636-9951 or visit bluebambooartcenter.com.