Holiday event guide: seasonal shows, handcrafted holiday shopping, Santa around the Bay and more

Christmas Trio Celebrated local actors Meg Heimstead, Jim Wicker and Karel Wright perform in this holiday hubbub of a story -- Susan Hussey’s semi-autobiographical drama about family and the holidays. Barbara has mixed emotions about spending the holy (hell) day with either of her divorced parents; as the three family members relive their holiday memories, they reveal each other’s strengths, weaknesses -- and that sometimes, family knows exactly how to push your buttons better than anyone else. Visit for more info. Dec. 3-20, 7 p.m. Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 3 and 7 p.m. Sun. $15-$25; $10 student tickets 30 minutes prior to curtain. Gorilla Theatre, 4419 N. Hubert Ave., Tampa.

Eight Reindeer Monologues Scandal erupts at the North Pole when one of Santa’s reindeer accuses him of sexual harassment. As mass media descends upon the event, the other members of the sleigh team demand to share their perspectives, and a horrific tale of corruption and perversion emerges, as they dish on everything from Rudolph’s big secret to those nasty rumors about the elves. Visit for more info. Dec. 3-20, 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. and one matinee at 2 p.m. on Sun., Dec. 20. $20. The Back Door Theater, 4919 17th Ave. S., Gulfport.

Holiday of Hope The SPCA provides free dog and cat food baskets to family pets in need to spread cheer and ensure that everyone (even Fido and Fluffy) have full bellies for the holidays. Visit for more info. Sat., Dec. 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Taking It To the Street Ministries, 7320 47th St. N., Pinellas Park.

Holiday, Inc. This new show by local playwright and producer Jonathan Van Dyke (fresh from the success of his recent show, Totally Electric) is a holiday jukebox musical that recalls the traditions of everything from Broadway to disco, rock and roll, and swing. Visit for more info. Dec. 18-20, 8 p.m. Fri., 1:30, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Sat., 3 and 7 p.m. Sun. $20-$30. Friday Morning Musicale, 809 Horatio St., Tampa.

The Nutcracker The Tampa Bay Ballet dances the Christmas classic. Even the bah humbug-iest of Scrooges can't sit through a performance of the tale of Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, the Sugarplum Fairy and the Land of Sweets without humming along to Tchaikovsy's famous score or cheering in the fight against the wicked Rat King. Visit for more info. Fri., Dec. 18, 2 and 7:30 p.m. $15-$30. Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg.


The Nutcracker The Moscow Classical Ballet performs a traditional version of Clara, who drifts off to candy-coated dreams of the Sugerplum Fairy, a Nutcracker Prince, an evil Rat King and the playful residents of the Land of Sweets, all set to Tchaikovsky's famous score, performed by the Florida Orchestra. Visit for more info. Dec. 19-20, 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. $39.50-$55. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. McMullen Booth Rd., Clearwater.

A Christmas Carol Even Scrooge can get on board with this free screening of the traditional holiday show, performed by the Northern Ballet Theater of England, and sponsored by the Pinellas Opera League. Visit for more info. Sun., Dec. 20, 1:30 p.m. Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 Klosterman Rd., Tarpon Springs.

Toys for Tots Procession The Suncoast Brotherhood hosts this parade of more than 3,000 motorcycles to collect toys for underprivileged local kids. Please bring an unwrapped toy valued and a $5 donation to make the yuletide bright for Tampa Bay's own little elves. Visit for more info. Sun., Dec. 20, noon. K-Mart, Route 580 and US 19, Dunedin.

A Christmas Carol Forget Jim Carrey's new animated attempt to recreate the magic of the original, and see Charles Dickens' seasonal story of love and generosity of spirit the way it was intended. Ebenezer Scrooge bah humbugs his way through life, until the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future help him appreciate the spirit of the season. Throw in a few good lines from crowd favorite Tiny Tim, and you've got yourself a heartwarming holiday classic, performed by the Nebraska Theater Caravan. Visit for more info. Dec. 23, 2 and 7 p.m. $28-$45. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. McMullen Booth Rd., Clearwater.

Victorian Christmas Stroll Ah, to return to simpler times of Christmases past -- when there were cheery tales and heart-warming carols instead of commercialism, when spending time with the family was more important the the gifts under the tree, and when women still wore corsets...well, at any rate, we miss most of the aspects of an old-fashioned Christmas, but traditions of years gone by are preserved at the Plant Museum, where visitors can stroll the Grand Hallway, and travel back in time to become immersed in beautiful music, Charles Dickens, much-loved toys, wrapped gifts, Christmas stockings and Old Saint Nick. Handmade historic fashions from La France, Jezabelle & Her Wandering Gypsies, and the private collection of Jill Wax are on display, and the Sports and Amusements Room features authentic golf, fishing and hunting ensembles from 1925. A titillating tour of the Parlor Bedroom reveals an exhibit of provocative all-white Victorian undergarments like camisoles, bloomers, cover-ups and cotton teddies worn under Japanese silk kimonos; and a tree decorated with antique trims like hand-embroidered laces, crocheted garlands, silk ribbon and tatting. The Victorian era certainly offered entertainment for gentlemen, too: the Reading and Writing Room offers a look at a collection of pipes, cigars, cigarettes, vintage smoking paraphernalia, and bowties. The myriad trees dotting the museum are decorated with an array of old-fashioned goodies, like antique ornaments, flowers, birds, toys, books, fruits and candy. Every day, spiced cider and savory cookies are served on the veranda, and carolers round out this revered local holiday tradition. Continues daily Dec. 1-23, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Visit for more info. $10 adults, $5 children 12 and younger; On Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15, admission is reduced to $6 adults and $3 children, Henry B. Plant Museum, Tampa.

Blue Christmas: Remebering Those We Miss A time for reflection and acceptance for those struggling with the year's worth of difficult circumstances, like  losing a job, divorce, or losing friends and loved ones. Soft Christmas music, prayers, and a scripture reading by Rev. Tracy Hunter provide hope and soothe grief both fresh and decades old. Call 727 867-1744  for more info. Weds., Dec. 16, 7 p.m., Lakewood United Methodist Church, 5995 Ninth Street S., St. Petersburg.

Cherish the Ladies: A Celtic Christmas The traditional Irish dance and music group toasts the season with soaring vocals and yuletide tunes accompanied by fiddles, flutes, penny whistles, guitar, banjo, accordion and mandolin -- there's even a rumor that the lovely ladies will bust out some step dancing. Visit for more info. Wed., Dec. 16, 8 p.m., Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, $25-$70.

Clothes to Kids Benefit Party RedBamboo MediSpa hosts this customer appreciation/fundraising party with live entertainmentby Lisa Casalino, festive fare and cheery-chilly cocktails. Please bring a contribution of new or gently used clothing, a monetary donation, or by purchasing RedBamboo products; a portion of all sales benefits Clothes to Kids. Visit for more info. Weds., Dec. 16, 6-9 p.m., RedBamboo MediSpa, Northwood Plaza, 2516C McMullen Booth Rd., Clearwater.

Chorus Angelorum Does the Holiday The community-based, a capella, co-ed vocal group takes the stage with a series of holiday songs that reveal why they're named "a choir of angels." Visit for more info. Fri., Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m., Carrollwood Cultural Center, Tampa, $15, $10 CCC members.

Figgy Pudding The Dear Aunt Gertrude troupe puts on a holiday improv show to shame the notion that it's a season of piety and reflection. Instead, it's a season of off-beat humor, made up on the spot to the delight of local comedy and theater fans. Contact [email protected] for more info. Fridays, 8 p.m., through Dec. 18. $5. The Box, 1300 E Seventh Ave., Tampa.

The Florida Orchestra Brass Quintet Christmas Concert Lauded as "holiday cheer delivered with virtuoso flair!" the quintet delivers pops favorites like "Joy to the World" and "Winter Wonderland" mixed with a dash of Handel and Bach. Visit for more info. Fri., Dec. 18, 8 p.m., Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, Tarpon Springs, $20, $18 TSPAC members, $12 students.

Art/Craft/Vintage Holiday Show You didn't think ARTpool would leave you high and dry for the holidays, did you? Of course not! Fashion plate Marina Williams hosts this outdoor sale where the art-minded can find everything from jewelry to scarves, clothes, handmade cards, purses, art (both the kitschy and serious varieties) and more. Everyone is welcome to come and buy, sell, trade and barter their way to holiday cheer! Visit for more info. Sat., Dec. 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., ARTpool, St. Petersburg.

Carrollwood Cultural Center Community Band and Chorus A traditional Hanukkah and holiday music concert that concludes with a grand finale of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah." Visit for more info. Sat., Dec. 19, 4 p.m., Carrollwood Cultural Center, Tampa, $5.

Holiday Outdoor Film Fest The Sunscreen Filmfest offers free holiday movie screenings on the lawn every weekend until Christmas. Upcoming titles include  Miracle on 34th Street (Fri., Dec. 18); and It's A Wonderful Life (Sat., Dec. 19). All movies at 7 p.m. Visit for more info. Free. North Straub Park, St. Petersburg.

It's a Wonderful Life The Carrollwood Players bring a little perspective to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with this story about George Bailey, a do-gooder who feels like he's getting nowhere in life. When his guardian angel, Clarence, shows up to stop him from ending it all, George discovers what his little town of Bedford Falls might have been like if it weren't for all of his good deeds over the years. Be forewarned: bring a hankie for this feel-good Christmas story! Visit for more info. Nov. 27-Dec. 19, 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 3 p.m. Sun., Carrollwood Playhouse, Tampa, $18, $16 students and seniors.

Snacking with Santa The Claus must enjoy the respite from his wintry abode each year when he visits the temperate climate of Tampa via motorboat to take holiday photos with local kiddos -- who also enjoy a scavenger hunt, crafts, Santa snacks and more. Sat., Dec. 19, 2 p.m., American Victory Ship and Museum, Tampa, $10, $5 ages 4-12.

Santaland Diaries What with the swine flu going around and ever more spoiled kids hitting the malls, it's a rough life out there for a Santa right now -- and if it's bad for Santa, imagine the kind of reindeer crap the elves get. This uproarious seasonal show explores just that -- it's David Sedaris' true account of his stint working as a Christmas Elf at Macy's. Visit for more info. Dec. 12-20, 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. $15, $12 groups of 10 or more. West Coast Players Theater, 21905 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater.

What the Dickens? Another Christmas Carol See the world premiere of Nan Colton's adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol. Visit for more info. Dec. 4-20, 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., St. Petersburg Little Theatre, $20, $10 students.

Ditchfield Family Singers Christmas Show The family from Sarasota visits St. Pete to perform crowd-pleasing carols for their annual Christmas show. Visit for more info. Sun., Dec. 20, 2 p.m., Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, $15-$25.

Winter Wonderland Santa stops by for photos (and of course, to hear wish lists), and each weekend offers new diversions, like the Tricky Dogs Show (a circus-style animal act); the Nutcracker Ballet performed by the Gulfoil Ballet Theatre; pony rides and a petting zoo; a winter village bedazzled with lights and snowed-on pine trees; opera performances by Giorgio Aristo and Melody Kielisch; a magic show by Mark “The Balloon Guy” Byrne; a Broadway and Beyond showtune revue; a jazz and R&B performance by Heartbrand; and a variety of karaoke fun nights. Visit for more info. Dec. 4-20, 6-9 p.m. weeknights, 4-9 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Free admission; please bring a canned food donation or unwrapped toy for underprivileged local families. Corner of Drew and Fort Harrison streets, Clearwater.

Arty Ornament Sale If you’re looking for something out of the hum-drum ordinary to adorn your tree, visit the gallery for one-of-a-kind hand-decorated ornaments fashioned from glass, clay, paper, paint and more. Visit for more info. Creative Native Gallery, 5307 N. Falkenburg Rd., Tampa, 813-841-3038.

Uhuru Pie Sale The annual tradition continues: get your fresh-baked, all-natural apple crumb, sweet potato or pumpkin pie to add the yum factor (and remove the stress) for your holiday get-togethers. Proceeds benefit the African Village Survival Initiative. Visit or cal 727-683-9949 to order.

A Rockapella Holiday Astonishingly, this five-man vocal troupe has cut 20 albums in the last 18 years after the success various TV and radio stints (including a coveted spot as the daily songsters on Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego) and take their collection of carols on tour to the tune of sold-out shows every holiday season. Visit for more info. Tues., Dec. 22, Tampa Theatre, Tampa, $31, $22 children 12 and younger.

Bedazzled DFAC's curators did the art-inclined among us a favor and collected an outstanding representation works by local and national artists -- all of which could end up under your tree for Christmas. Normally when you're at a museum, the velvet rope (and, hopefully, tact) prevent us from coming too close to the artwork. Not anymore. If you see something you like, take your favorite mini-masterpiece off the wall and up to the cashier. The same goes for the assortment of unique and interesting ornaments that adorn DFAC's dozen decorated trees, along with an array of hard-to-find gifties for everyone from Mom to Uncle Albert and the mailman. Last-minute shoppers can breathe a sigh of relief; the exhibit continues through Dec. 23. Dunedin Fine Arts Center, Dunedin,

Holiday Art Sale Everyone's in a generous mood this time of year (well, except for my Mr. Scrooge and my least favorite relative, "here's an old pair of socks" Aunt Edna) -- especially C. Emerson curator Lori Johns, who's offering everything on the walls to decks your halls for less than $200 -- and as a bonus, it even comes with free gift wrapping. The exhibit/sale continues through Dec. 23. Visit for more info. C. Emerson Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.

Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker It has long been a family tradition to see The Nutcracker ballet each holiday season. So my dad and grandfather, who would rather be home watching football, and my mom, who would rather be cashing in on Christmas sales, all put on the ritz in their holiday finest and join my grandmother and I for the story of Clara, her meddling little brother, Fritz, the Mouse King, the Nutcracker Prince, and a journey to the Land of Sweets -- all accompanied by the memorable score that has invaded so many Christmas dreams, the sugary sweet costumes, and lighter-than-air dancing by the internationally famous Moscow Ballet. Sun., Dec. 27, 3 p.m., Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, $27.50-$100.

This Wonderful Life Based on Frank Capra's classic Christmas movie, the story follows down-on-his-luck George Bailey of Bedford Falls, who's


ready to end it all on Christmas Eve until his guardian angel, Clarence, visits for a trip back in time to show George what the little town might have been like it it wasn't for his good deeds over the years. Visit for more info. Nov. 18-Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 3 p.m. matinees Sat.-Sun.; Thanksgiving and Christmas performances canceled, American Stage, St. Petersburg, $26-$45; Tues., Dec. 1 and 22 are "pay what you can" nights.

Glice Skating with Santa No, it's not a typo; glice skating is just like the real thing (you know, the changing of the leaves, a drop in temperature, snow -- all the things we miss down here in sunny Florida), but instead of lacing up your skates to glide across frozen h2o, you're sliding across "Global Synthetic Ice." Old Saint Nick also makes an appearance to spread some holiday cheer. Visit for more info. Dec. 9-13 and 17-23, 6-9 p.m. $5 skating, free Santa visits. North Straub Park, St. Petersburg.

Family Holiday Series For most of the upscale CineBistro cinema spots, holidays are the only time of year the under-21 crowd can come in (sorry, kids, you still can't drink a Heinie while you watch the movie). This year, the family-friendly flicks on tap include A Christmas Carol, The Squeakqual and The Nutcracker, so sit back in your leather lounger and enjoy the seasonal shows! Visit for full list of locations, show schedules, and prices. CineBistro, Tampa.

Holiday Boutique With more than 250 Florida Craftsmen member artists offering works in clay, fiber, glass, metal, jewelry and wood, there's bound to be gifts to please even the toughest art critic on your list. On display through Dec. 30; Visit for more info. Florida Craftsmen Gallery, St. Petersburg.

Good Angel / Bad Angel There's nothing more...well, angelic that those celestial creatures who bring glad tidings for the holiday season -- or is there? This collection is inspired by those pure beings, but some of their halos may have gotten a little rusty. The common thread in these naughty/nice artworks by a variety of talented local craftspeople is that each one includes an angel -- how they're depicted is the interesting part. Continues through Dec. 31. Visit for more info. Museum admission is waived for the duration of the exhibit. Morean Arts Center, St. Petersburg.

Holiday Movies Family traditions range from choosing the best tree to hanging stockings to indulging in mom's perfect pumpkin pie, but my annual celebration also always includes a film fest of my favorite seasonal movies. This year, see a few of your faves on the big screen, including It's a Wonderful Life, (get your hankies ready), in which Jimmy Stewart teaches us what the holiday spirit is really about; and White Christmas -- you can't go wrong with an all-Irving Berlin score and Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. Visit for price, full schedule of films and more info. Tampa Theatre, Tampa.

First Night 2010 Everyone wants to start the new year off fresh, but be sure to send 2009 off with a bang at this annual bash to say sayonara, auf wiedersehen, ciao, buh-bye to the last 365 days with a sensory explosion of music, lights, dancing, a bonfire, bubbles, ice-skating (!), stories, live local music performances, champagne, fireworks and more at more than a dozen different locations across St. Pete. Visit for full schedule and more info. Thurs., Dec. 31.

Country Christmas Wonderland City folk get a taste of life in the country (or at least the 'burbs) with lots of lights, hayrides, pony rides, a train ride, a petting zoo, snow castle, a live nativity (which actually sounds sort of creepy), face painting, live music, a bonfire and more. Visit for more info. Dec. 18-Jan. 2, 6-10 p.m. daily. $10 kids, $6 adults. Hire A Pony Stables, 8005 racetrack Rd., Tampa.

Rawls Road Christmas Light Show A free alternative to expensive holiday activities, take a stroll down the walking trail. lit by 200,00 lights, all synchronized to wink and blink to a cheery selection of seasonal music and movies. Visit for more info. Sundown to 11 p.m. every dry night through Jan. 2. 5116, 5118, 5122 and 5202 Rawls Road, Tampa.

Art for the Holidays If you're the gift-giving type who must ensure that your present won't be duplicated (or topped), try the original art collection at Painted Fish, where paintings, calligraphy, mixed media drawings, prints, jewelry, glass, woodcrafts, ceramics and fiber works by local artists await to be chosen, wrapped, and given the place of pride under the tree. The gallery also hosts a Yuletide Concert by Bill and Susan Boyer Haley at 7:30 p.m. on Sun., Dec. 13. On display through Jan. 3; Visit for more info. Painted Fish Gallery, Dunedin.

Bright Holidays at Busch Gardens This year's traditional treats include Christmas On Ice, a winter wonderland-inspired ice-skating show (Nov. 21-Jan. 1); Christmas From the Heart, a choir concert of gospel and spiritual songs in Marrakesh Theater (Nov. 21-Jan. 3); Christmas Celebration, a true extravaganza of all things Christmas, complete with tap-dancing toy soldiers and seasonal songs in the Desert Grill (Nov. 21-Jan. 3); Breakfast with Santa, a chance to dine at the Desert Grill with the man in red himself. Indulge in a buffet of bacon, eggs, fresh biscuits, pancakes and more before snapping a family photo with the Claus (Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19, 8:30 a.m., $20 adults, $14 kids). Visit for more info. Busch Gardens, Tampa.

Celebrate the Season: Holiday Lights in the Garden Imagine 425,000 winking, twinkling lights strung among the fauna, creating an enchanted wonderland of beauty. Lucky for us, it's right in our backyards, at the Florida Botanical Gardens, where live entertainment also sets the magical mood for holiday cheer. Continues Nov. 28-Jan. 3, 6-10 p.m. Visit for more info. $2 adults, free for children under 12. Florida Botanical Gardens, Largo.

Trees and Traditions Tour the festively-decorated homes and galleries of Heritage Village. Continues Nov. 27-Jan. 3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Weds.-Sat., 1-4 p.m. Sun. (except major holidays). Visit for more info. Heritage Village, Largo.

A Christmas Cabaret St. Petersburg Opera vocalists Phoenix Gayles, Michelle Rego, Stephen Mollica and Rimas Karnavicius, pianist Allan Armstrong and SPO Artistic Director Mark Sforzini present "sizzling quartet arrangements" of "Mister Santa," "Carol of the Bells" and "Do You Hear What I Hear," solos like "Ave Maria"  and "O Holy Night," and arias from Handel’s "Messiah," along with traditional Christmas carols. Visit for more info. Dec. 18-20, 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m. Sun. "Pay what you can" admission. American Stage, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg.

A Garland of Christmas Cheer Who couldn't use a little extra cheer? The St. Petersburg College Madrigalians student choral ensemble provide just that at tonight's holiday concert, with a reception to follow. Now bring us some figgy pudding! Visit for more info. Fri., Dec. 18, 7:30-9 p.m. $6. Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 Klosterman Rd., Tarpon Springs.

Holiday Happenings in Palm Harbor The community is invited to donate a gift to the toy drive for local low-income kids at the Holiday Dinner and Dance — remember to BYOB, too! (Fri., Dec. 18, 508 p.m.). Call 727-771-6000 for more info. Palm Harbor Community Activity Center, 1500 16th St., Palm Harbor.

The Broadway Kids The CCC's children's theater group perform seasonal songs along with improv skits and original choreography, accompanied by the chamber music students on harp, piano and clarinet. Visit for more info. Sat., Dec. 19, 1 p.m. $5. Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Rd., Tampa.

Brunch with Santa Before the Man in Red gets started on his busy holiday schedule, he stops in for a few photos, a bit of brunch (there better be cookies and milk, or he might put you on the naughty list), and kid's activities with the elves. Preregister by contacting [email protected] or visiting the community center. Sat., Dec. 19, 10 a.m. $5. Dunedin Community Center, 1920 Pinehurst Rd., Dunedin.

Christmas with the Boys The Choirboys of the Florida Boychoir perform a free concert from the English and German cathedral traditions, with a special rendition of Behold A Star From Jacob Shining from Mendelssohn's unfinished oratorio, Christus, as the piece de resistance. Visit for more info. The concert visits two venues this weekend: Sat., Dec. 19, 7 p.m., Grace Lutheran Church, 3714 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa; and Sun. Dec. 20, Prince Of Peace Catholic Church, 702 Valley Forge Blvd., Sun City Center.

A Christmas Carol We all know the story of Tiny Tim, Mr. Scrooge, and the three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, but tonight's tale is told by an older and wiser Tiny Tim — now a grandfather himself — who banishes the holiday humbugs with his cheerful story amid myriad Christmas carols. Visit for more info. Dec. 10-13, 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 2 p.m. matinees Sat.-Sun.; Dec. 16-20, 8 p.m. Weds.-Sat., 2 p.m. matinees Sat.-Sun., Francis Wilson Playhouse, Clearwater, $25, $12 students.

Many, many more after the break:


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