10 great holiday shows that aren’t “The Nutcracker” or “A Christmas Carol”

All of Colorado Ballet’s “Nutcracker” performances are sold out — as expected. And Denver Center’s “A Christmas Carol,” while the region’s best production, is deeply familiar to most audiences. So, why not try something new this holiday season?

That doesn’t necessarily mean a radical reinterpretation of a classic, but rather a holiday show that goes a bit outside the icons of the genre — or maybe even provides a sterling example thereof.

Here are 10 shows to check out. See much more at denverpost.com/things-to-do.

“Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum”

If you’ve only heard of, but never seen, this long-running and deeply personal holiday show by Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, you’re missing one of Denver’s most culturally treasured ornaments. This year’s 31st annual run arrives during the nonprofit’s 52nd season, and appropriately the music, dance and spoken-word show continues to evolve with diverse performers and new on-stage tales.

Various shows, including matinees, Dec. 10-18, at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, 119 Park Ave. West in Denver. A free, 45-minute preview takes place Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the Aurora Fox Theatre. Tickets: $30-$45. cleoparkerrobinsondance.org

“Amahl and the Night Visitors”

Amahl and the Night Visitors tells the story of “a magic star, a shepherd boy, and how unselfish love can work miracles.” Rendered with a full orchestra, this show is a rare, family-friendly opera.

Dec. 11 at Colorado Springs’ Armstrong Hall; Dec. 13-14 at Boulder’s First United Methodist Hall; and Dec. 16-18 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Denver. Tickets: $12-$42. centralcityopera.org

“Santa’s Big Red Sack”

Another local, very un-“Nutcracker” tradition is this comedic show full of “nonstop sketch comedy, music and technology bursting at the seams,” according to producers. It’s celebrating its 20th year, so expect some surprises and returning-favorite bits.

Thursday, Dec. 1-Dec. 24 at The People’s Building, 9995 E. Colfax Ave. in Aurora. Tickets: $15-$29.50. rattlebrain.vbotickets.com/events

“Haul Out the Jolly”

Denver Gay Men’s chorus mixes pop and traditional with “Haul Out the Holly,” which finds choral warmth in Bach’s “Jauchzet, frohlocket,” but also “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” and “The Chanukah Song (We Are Lights),” gospel such as “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” and more, producers said.

Thursday, Dec. 1-Saturday, Dec. 3 at Central Presbyterian Church; Dec. 9 at Boulder’s First United Methodist Church; and Dec. 8 at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch. An encore streaming takes place Dec. 17. Tickets: $20-$30. denverchoruses.org


For a more secular, though still spiritual, show, try Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble’s “Wintersong: A Celebration of the Season.” It combines music and spoken word by candlelight, touching upon both Medieval and modern forms with work by Hieronymus Praetorius, Errollyn Wallens, Melissa Dunphy, Joanna Marsh and Bob Chilcott.

Dec. 16-17 at Grace & St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 601 N. Tejon St. in Colorado Springs. Admission is free, but registration is required at cvae.org. Donations are accepted at the door.

“Charlie Brown Goes to the Nutcracker”

For a non-traditional and yet somehow still-traditional take on Christmas music, try this show from Ron LeGault Jazz, which this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The performance imagines Charlie Brown watching “The Nutcracker” but hearing something very different in his head — in particular, Vince Guaraldi’s catchy melodies, and Duke Ellington’s swinging “Nutcracker” interpretation, producers said.

Saturday, Dec. 3-Dec. 23. Hotel St Julien, 900 Walnut St. in Boulder. Free and open to the public, no reservations required. ronlegaultjazz.com

“Resounding Joy!”

Brass instruments are expected in Christmas music, but brass-driven performance can feel like a breath of fresh air after nonstop choral and dance shows. This year, Denver Brass brings the sweet, sweet melodies along with guest vocalists Steven Taylor and Aubrey Jacobs.

Dec. 17-18, with live stream options. Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. Tickets: $12-$49. newmancenterpresents.com

“Joy to the World” and “Fiestas Navideñas”

Also worthy at the Newman Center on the University of Denver campus: Composer, vocalist and musician Damien Sneed will play one of his seven “Joy to the World: A Christmas Musical Journey” shows in Denver, featuring a group of sings and musicians tackling carols, original holiday tunes, classical favorites, folk songs, spirituals and more. (Thursday, Dec. 1; $24-$52)

That joins ArtistiCO’s “Fiestas Navideñas: A Christmas Celebration,” which presents original choreography based on Mexican dance traditions, directed by Jose Rosales and Alfonso Meraza Prudente (Wednesday, Dec. 7; $19-$47). newmancenterpresents.com

“Songs of the Season”

Colorado’s highly accomplished Jazz Repertory Orchestra brings poise and flair to its “Songs of the Season, Past and Present” with guest vocalist Marion Powers taking on “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Let it Snow,” “Christmas Time Is Here,” and lots more.

Sunday, Dec. 4 at Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway. Tickets: $27-$29. coloradojazz.org/concerts

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