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SOON IT WILL BE CHRISTMAS DAY : . . . And With So Much to Do Before the Holiday, Why Not Start Celebrating Now?

December 19, 1991|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

Holiday traditions.

There are good ones (trimming the tree, exchanging gifts, office parties, watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas") and not-so-good ones (fitting the tree into that cheapo stand, waiting until Christmas Eve to buy the gifts, waking up the day after office parties, suffering through those Christmas commercials).

Then there are community traditions. It is not so long since our illustrious forefathers carved Orange County out of a wilderness of orange groves, but some holiday traditions have sprouted and flourished, while new ones continue to take root.

Even though Christmas is less than a week away ( gasp! ) there is still a chance, with a bit of planning, to take in some of the county's traditional and not-so-traditional holiday offerings--from the season's Big Three ("The Nutcracker," Handel's "Messiah" and "A Christmas Carol") to Newport Beach's annual boat parade.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday December 20, 1991 Orange County Edition Calendar Part F Page 28 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Conductor--Michael Palmer will conduct the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale in Handel's "Messiah" Saturday afternoon at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. The conductor was misidentified in Thursday's OC Live!

We've put together a suggested itinerary, with built-in options, for the six days leading to Christmas. Specific dates, it should be noted, are simply suggestions; many of the events below are in multiperformance runs. Also, ticket availability for some events is changing rapidly.

Thursday, Dec. 19: Lights on the Water.

This may be a good night to catch a glimpse of how the nautical set celebrates the holidays, before the weekend crowds converge. There's a difference in how the county's two biggest coastal cities mark the season: In Newport Harbor, the spectators watch from shore as the decorated boats parade by; in Huntington Harbour, you get on a boat and drift past the decorated waterfront houses.

In a staggeringly long tradition by local standards, the 83rd annual Newport Beach Boat Parade includes about 200 elaborately festooned craft ranging from the basic (canoes) to the ostentatious (luxury yachts), and leaves at 6:30 p.m. from just off Collins Island in Newport Harbor.

There is a grandstand viewing area with paid admission, but the parade is visible from the many points in the harbor, including the waterfront restaurants and along the perimeter of Balboa Island. Crossing on the Balboa Ferry during the parade can be a memorable experience.

In Huntington Harbour, the Cruise of Lights departs four times nightly through Saturday for a tour of the decorated homes that line the harbor. Some of the tours will probably sell out.

* The Newport Beach Boat Parade continues through Monday. For information call the Chamber of Commerce at (714) 729-4400.

* The Cruise of Lights continues through Saturday, departing nightly at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $8.50 for adults and $5 for children 2 through 12. For ticket information call (714) 840-7542.

Friday, Dec. 20: "A Christmas Carol."

You'll have to move quickly on this one, if you don't already have tickets. South Coast Repertory's "A Christmas Carol" is the most popular and enduring holiday tradition on the Orange County arts scene, and ticket availability for remaining performances (it ends Christmas Eve, appropriately enough) was reported as "limited" at press time.

The Dickens tale, often rather freely adapted, is followed closely here: The old skinflint Scrooge, his curmudgeonly "bah-humbug" self on the eve of one seemingly average Christmas, changes his ways after visits from the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future.

For regular SCR patrons, some of the faces on stage will be as familiar as the story. Taking his 12th star turn as Scrooge is company stalwart Hal Landon Jr., making his annual transformation from misanthrope to Mr. Nice Guy. The mildly scary moments are mixed with laughs and some nifty stage effects.

Meanwhile, theatergoers looking for a different take on the season can wander to Way Off Broadway's production of "Times Square Angel," a Charles Busch spoof that takes on the air of a 1940s melodrama in skewering the sentiment of more familiar Yuletime fare--"A Christmas Carol," for instance.

"They're two sides of the same coin," says "Times Square Angel" director Tony Reverditto of the two productions.

* "A Christmas Carol" will be presented today, Friday and Monday at 7:30 p.m. at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Other show times: Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday and Tuesday at noon and 4 p.m. Ends Tuesday. Tickets are $22-$25. Information: (714) 957-4033.

* "Times Square Angel" will be performed Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Way Off Broadway Playhouse, 1058 E. 1st St., Santa Ana. Continues Jan. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $13 ($1 off with the donation of a canned good). Information: (714) 547-8997.

Saturday, Dec. 21: Christmas with the Pacific.

The Pacific Symphony Orchestra will be busy this day, offering two children's concerts in the morning, an afternoon "Messiah" with the Pacific Chorale and an evening pops performance with the Gatlin Brothers, all at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

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