Wassail! With the season hard upon us, it's easy to find a Christmas concert or dance performance to help jolly you through the seasonal hustle and bustle. The problem is: which one?
To help you on your way, we've assembled this list of Orange County area dance and music offerings for your ho-ho-holiday pleasure.
The season's first "Nutcracker" was sighted shortly before Thanksgiving, and the parade of sugarplum fairies and mouse kings has continued unabated ever since.
Originally produced in St. Petersburg in 1892 and set to the music of Tchaikovsky, the ballet tells of a young girl who receives a wooden nutcracker as a Christmas gift and is propelled onto an enchanted journey filled with delectable characters and delightful adventures.
Here's a look at some "Nutcrackers" around town, along with other holiday dance productions:
The biggie in Orange County this year is the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, which will be accompanied by the Pacific Symphony for its "Nutcracker" on Dec. 24 and Dec. 26-29 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. (714) 556-2787.
The Hirschl Ballet dances "Nutcracker" on Saturday and Sunday at the Valencia Theatre in Placentia. (714) 974-5528.
Ballet Pacifica marks its 30th annual staging of "The Nutcracker" on Friday through Dec. 24 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. The production features a corps of 150 dancers, including members of its professional company and youngsters from its conservatory program. (714) 854-4646.
What "The Nutcracker" is to seasonal dance, Handel's "Messiah" is to seasonal music. Choral groups and orchestras countywide are ready to oblige audiences' annual need to sing along with the "Hallelujah!" chorus.
The Pacific Chorale and Pacific Symphony team up Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Richard Westerfield conducts; featured soloists are Pamela Hinchman, Mary Ann McCormick, David Hamilton and Thomas Scurich. (714) 755-5799.
The Pacific Symphony's family concert series continues earlier Saturday with "Holiday Handel Bars." Recommended for kids 4 to 13 and their families, the program includes selections from "The Nutcracker," "Messiah," Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" and a carol sing-along for the audience, capped with a guest appearance by Santa. Elizabeth Stoyanovich conducts the concerts at the Performing Arts Center. (714) 556-2787.
If Handel's not your bag, you can also choose among holiday music programs with country, pop, jazz and even Caribbean flavors--and some are free.
The Philharmonic Society of Orange County again presents "Fiesta Navidad," this year featuring Mariachi los Camperos de Nati Cano, Ballet Folklorico Ollin and others in a Latin-themed family program Dec. 21 at the Performing Arts Center. (714) 553-2422.
Grammy-winning country singer Kathy Mattea sings her hits including "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses," "Come From the Heart" plus some countrified Christmas tunes Friday and Saturday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (800) 300-4345.
"The Christmas Show With Jubilant Sykes," with the Pacific Symphony and the All-American Boys Chorus, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Performing Arts Center. (714) 556-2787.
"Christmas for the Family," including traditional and contemporary holiday tunes and an audience sing-along, will be presented by the William Hall Master Chorale on Sunday at the Performing Arts Center. (714) 556-2787.
The Steel Drum Orchestra and Pandemonium Steel Drum Band perform holiday tunes with a Caribbean beat Saturday at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach. (310) 985-7000.
Contemporary jazz duo Tuck & Patti, the Turtle Island String Quartet and Philip Aaberg present "Winter Solstice" on Sunday at the Cerritos Center. (800) 300-4345.
The Anaheim Mormon Choralepresents a free holiday concert and sing-along Sunday in the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda. The Paul McNeff Singers perform a free holiday concert there, including excerpts from Handel's "Messiah," on Dec. 22. (714) 993-5075.
The 65-member All-American Boys Chorus presents "Sounds of Christmas," a program including works by Bach, Andrew Lloyd Webber and an audience sing-along Dec. 22 at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. (714) 533-7600.
"Santa's Toy Shop," a ballet performed by the Company Dance Unlimited, will be presented Sunday at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton. (714) 750-9391.
And for shoppers with entertainment on their minds, Knott's Berry Farm's Christmas Craft Festival offers a stockingful of entertainment, including strolling carolers, a Victorian music quintet, a Christmas brass band and abridged versions of "A Christmas Carol" and "Gift of the Magi" in Knott's Birdcage Theatre. Local children's choirs and dance groups perform at a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, and you can catch "Snoopy's 12 Days of Christmas on Ice" for an additional admission fee. (714) 220-5200, Ext. 6.
Disneyland will host free Christmas shopping each evening Monday through Dec. 19, with strolling entertainment including Victorian carolers, bands and Disney characters. (714) 781-4565.