* At CSUN, the 11th annual "Madrigal Dinner" transforms visitors into the dinner guests of a medieval queen. While seated in a room decorated with banners, shields, candles and Christmas holly, visitors are fed and entertained by a costumed cast of 30, all acting out parts of the royal entourage, including jesters, musicians and other entertainers.
Presented in and by the University Student Union, the dinner is open to as many as 240 guests for each of its six nights. Visitors are encouraged to dress in period costume, particularly on "Costume Night" on Saturday.
"Basically, it took me out of the time period where I was," program director Sharon McKenzie said of her first "Madrigal Dinner." "I thought, 'How strange to be back in the 17th Century.' It took me out of modern times to another time and place."
The program will be presented tonight, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show. Tickets are $26.50 and $30.50, $20 and $22 for students. For ticket information, call (818) 885-2488.
* Another tradition is continued at the Glendale Centre Theatre, which is offering its long-running production of "A Christmas Carol" through Saturday. The two-hour, theater-in-the-round presentation features a 30-member cast, many wearing vintage costumes of Dickens' late-1800s.
This three-decade-old version of "A Christmas Carol" was originally adapted by Ted Lehmann, a former director-actor at the theater, who filled the role of Scrooge until the mid-1970s. The program begins with a group of carolers singing traditional holiday songs, and they return during set changes in the play, theater spokeswoman Robyn Sunshine said.
"We are very close to being sold out," she said. "It's because of the longevity of the show. We have been putting it on for so long, people know it is always going to be here.
"The audiences love it. They call as early as June to get tickets. It provides a good Christmas atmosphere during the hectic holidays."
The Glendale Centre Theatre is at 324 N. Orange St. For information, call (818) 244-8481.
* "Humbug!" is a musical adaptation of the Dickens classic at the Actors Alley Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood. Featuring music by Barry Fasman, Arthur Hamilton and Robert Caine, the play is being performed tonight at the theater, 12135 Riverside Drive. Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $15. For information, call (818) 508-4200.
* At the Granada Theater, "A Christmas Carol" is presented as if being told in the home of Dickens in 1843. Performances of the Michael Paller adaptation continue through Dec. 23 at the theater, 10648 Balboa Blvd., Granada Hills. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 7 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $8 and $10, and includes refreshments at intermission. For information, call (818) 363-6887.
* Meanwhile, it's "A Pink Panther Christmas" at the Shinbone Alley Gallery in Studio City, where animation cels on display through January have the sly cartoon character dressed as Santa Claus and in other disguises. There are so many Pink Panther cels, gallery owner Celeste Wilson said, that a good portion of her animation and fine art gallery is smothered by them.
"I have Christmas panthers, and panthers taking baths, and skiing panthers and panthers with real long tails because dogs have pulled on them," she said, laughing. "I have all kinds of panthers."
Nonetheless, this pink-hued monument to American pop culture has done little to diminish her fascination with the gallery's other featured exhibit, a show of Ukrainian animation cels.
Shinbone Alley came into possession of the works after the gallery owner's husband, animator John David Wilson, traveled to Kiev to aid Soviet animators in their work for Fox Television's daytime cartoon show "Peter Pan and the Pirates." What he brought back were cels displaying a rare intricacy little seen in modern Western animation.
"When you look at it, you know it's not from here," Wilson said. "It doesn't look Western, it looks sort of eastern European. Also, they don't have any of the modern technologies to make cels like we have. So every single thing, from a shadow or special effect, is painted right on the cel, which makes for beautiful, beautiful work."
A total of 25 Soviet cels from an original cache of about 60 remain on the gallery's walls, accompanied by a small display of Ukrainian folk art also brought back by Wilson's husband. Among those are miniature watercolor paintings, hand-painted eggs and ceramic figures, and wall hangings.
"The animation is what strikes me the most," Wilson said. "It's what is beautiful and exciting. It's fine art, and it's not just for the animation collector. There are some of these animation works that would be wonderful hanging in someone's home."
In addition, the gallery is presenting a small display of oil and watercolor paintings by John David Wilson depicting mostly urban scenes of Los Angeles.