The annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration, a Christmas Eve tradition at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for 46 years, is upon us. This year, though, the marathon of free, live entertainment is returning with some big changes.
"We threw all the performance chips up in the air and let them fall in a whole new way," says Laura Zucker, executive director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.
Under the guidance of Jeff Margolis, who has produced or directed such live crowd-pleasers as the American Music Awards, the Oscars and the Emmys, the holiday celebration, which is televised on KCET, has a new format.
Six one-hour programs, from 3 to 9 p.m., will replace the familiar three two-hour entertainment blocks. Each comes with its own host who also will perform: Neil Sedaka, Debbie Allen, Mark Walberg, Gloria Loring, Ronn Lucas and Jim Brickman.
And instead of gearing the earlier shows to families and community groups, with most professional performances taking place during the last show of the evening, the new format offers "something for everyone," Zucker says.
"Each hour people will see a little bit of everything: a kids' choir, a professional performance, a community group. It's a kaleidoscope."
Among scores of multicultural dance, vocal and instrumental groups are L.A. companies that have created new work for the event: TRIP Dance Theatre, JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble and Jazz Tap Ensemble.
A late addition to the evening lineup: the Blind Boys of Alabama. If you miss their Disney Hall concert Friday, the famed gospel group is on tap to perform two songs.
"The Holiday Celebration, I've come to realize," Zucker says, "owns Christmas Eve in very much the way that the Rose Parade owns New Year's Day: It's the event in town on that day.
"People talk about the cultural diversity of L.A.," she adds, "but if you really want to experience it, the Holiday Celebration is the way to go."