By Larry Taylor/Garden Grove Journal
Christmas should be better this year. Retailers report sales are up; more presents expected under the tree. And, to further raise spirits and enhance festivities, there will be lots of music and entertainment on stage this season in Orange County.
At Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Pacific Symphony is offering an assortment of music, beginning this Sunday, Dec. 11, with Handel’s “Messiah,” the most famous oratorio in the world. It will be led by highly-acclaimed American guest conductor, Christian Knapp, and features Pacific Chorale and world-class vocal soloists.
Pacific Symphony Pops brings “A Michael W. Smith Christmas,” Dec. 15-17, also at Segerstrom Hall. Having sold more than 13 million albums and topped the Billboard charts 28 times, the three-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter’s wholesome charm and heart-warming songs embody the spirit of Christmas
On Dec. 20, the regal sounds of the concert organ sing out at Segerstrom Hall for the “Holiday Organ Spectacular,” featuring organist Todd Wilson in an all-new program. Pacific Symphony here captures the spirit of the season with a delightful mix of sacred and holiday music. “Sleigh Ride,” “O Holy Night” and a Christmas carol sing-along share the bill with traditional organ works, featuring soprano Lynn Eustis and principal musicians of Pacific Symphony. For more information, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.pacificsymphony.org.
The Philharmonic Society of Orange County presents Fiesta Navidad, Dec. 13. This is an annual holiday tradition, featuring Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano also at Segerstrom Concert Hall.
Under the direction of Nati Cano, Mariachi Los Camperos will take audiences on a musical journey through the various regions of Mexico with a “mariachi-style” holiday celebration. The night begins with the traditional La Posada procession, followed by various musical selections and a sing-along of holiday classics such as “Feliz Navidad” and “Noche de Paz.” For information: (949) 553-2421; www.philharmonicsociety.org.
For theater fans, two big productions should be particularly pleasing.
To begin with, South Coast Repertory’s presents its 31st annual “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 24. The play has been an Orange County tradition since !980. Hal Landon Jr. (everyone’s favorite somersaulting Scrooge) and director John-David Keller (who also plays Mr. Fezziwig) will return again this season. Sharing the boards with them will be SCR Founding Artists Richard Doyle and Art Koustik, reprising their roles as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Joe, respectively. For tickets: www.scr.org; (714) 556-2787.
Dec. 13 brings good news. The classic holiday movie, “White Christmas;” comes at last to the large Segerstrom Center stage, playing through Jan. 1. This brand new musical shines with classic Irving Berlin hits like “Blue Skies,” “How Deep is the Ocean?” and, of course, the unforgettable title song. The musical tells the story of two buddies putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and finding their perfect mates in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and great tunes, the event promises a merry theatrical experience for the whole family. For information: (714) 556-2738; www.scfta.org.
Always a Christmas favorite, Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” can be seen at Irvine Barclay Theatre through Dec. 24. The Festival Ballet’s production introduces all the the timeless favorites from the Sugar Plum Fairy to the handsome nutcracker prince in this classic ballet. For more information, call (949) 854-4646 or go to www.thebarclay.org,
Finally, no music or play-acting is involved but just a lot of fun for youngsters at Irvine Park Railroad’s annual Christmas Train. Everyone is invited to come with family and friends and take an enchanting night ride through the historic park to meet Santa Claus. The train will depart from the brightly-lit train station and drop passengers off at the “North Pole,” where children can share their wish list with Santa and have their photo taken with him too. For information: (714) 997-3968; www.irvineparkrailroad.com