While some may argue whether the holiday season is truly the most wonderful time of the year, it’s hard to challenge the assertion that it’s a great, great time for the metro. Central Oklahoma simply does Christmas right, and with so many entertainment options, consider this compendium of recommendations our present to you. Happy holidays, Slice readers!
The Christmas Show
December 5-7, OKC Civic Center
That venerable venue’s full name is the Civic Center Music Hall, with emphasis on “Hall,” as in “that which should be decked.” Challenge accepted! The OKC Philharmonic proudly presents the second installment of its Pops series, closing out 2013 not with a whimper but a jingle, in this zest-filled, tinsel-festooned, singing, dancing, musical extravaganza. Starring Broadway vet and towering tenor George Dvorsky and the full-throated Gwendolyn Jones (she’s played Mrs. Claus for Radio City Music Hall), The Christmas Show makes its name an understatement with a vast cast and carefully choreographed numbers that pull off an impressive feat: according to producers, “our show balances the glitz of Broadway with the spirit of Christmas found only in Oklahoma.” The musicians of the OKC Philharmonic are under the direction of maestro Joel Levine, while the show itself is helmed by the redoubtable Lyn Cramer. Merriness abounds!
“It’s a Wonderful Life – The Musical”
Through December 15, Sooner Theatre
Frank Capra’s classic film fable follows George Bailey as he lurches from broken, desperate man, to beneficiary of heavenly intervention, to a raucously joyful second chance. For audiences, the story seems to conjure up a heartfelt appreciation for grace, the spirit of Christmas and the American Dream all in one. Now imagine this nostalgic must-see performed as an acclaimed musical by Tony Award-winner Sheldon Harnick and Grammy winner Joe Raposo. Lisa Fox will direct the production’s memorable characters – George, Mary, Clarence the angel, nasty Mr. Potter and, cutest of all, Zuzu. It’s the Sooner Theatre’s gift to us all this season.
“A Territorial Christmas Carol”
Through December 22, Pollard Theater, Guthrie
Newer isn’t necessarily better – the Pollard discovered that when they staged a different Christmas play back in 1990, and public reaction was such that they went back to this one the next year … and every year since. Sometimes the best option is to stick with what works. The Stephen Scott adaptation of Dickens’ redemption song recasts the money-grubbing miser as a tyrannical land baron on the plains of a pre-statehood Oklahoma. As artistic director W. Jerome Stevenson put it, “the heart of the show can be anywhere you want it to be.”
Downtown in December
Through December 31, Downtown Oklahoma City
Name something you love about the Christmas season, and the odds are that there’s something along those lines scheduled as part of this event – or, more accurately, series of events. It’s a month-plus of holiday goodness in practically every permutation, compressed into the heart of the metro. Aptly calling it Oklahoma City’s “winter wonderland,” Downtown OKC, Inc.’s Gentry McKeown explains the appeal in a nutshell: “ice skating, snow tubing, festivals, shopping and more … all surrounded by twinkling lights. It’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit.” She even left a few things out of that lavish litany; look at all this!
Devon Ice Rink
Open 7 days a week in the Myriad Botanical Gardens, the outdoor rink hosts public skating, private parties and special events. Food and drink will be served outdoors, or dine inside at the new Park House restaurant.
Chesapeake Snow Tubing
Cruise down one of the country’s largest manmade snow tubing slopes at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Even if the weather’s nice, riders can slide from the upper deck all the way onto the field – close to 150 feet of fun. There’s also a second, smaller slide to accommodate children and moderate thrill-seekers.
SandRidge Tree Lighting
Guests will enjoy live music, food and fun as Mayor Cornett throws the switch on the season November 29. Snack on popcorn and cookies, jam out to the music of Banana Seat, get a photo with Santa … and do it all for free.
Deluxe Winter Market
More than 40 vendor booths proffer local art, handmade crafts, food and specialty gifts November 30-December 1 at the Bricktown Events Center.
Saturdays With Santa
Drop by the Devon Rotunda to spill your heart’s desire to the man himself every Saturday before Christmas. Pictures are free – just bring your own camera!
Water Taxi Rides
Thursday through Sunday evenings during December, all ages are welcome to take a free nautical tour of the beautifully adorned Bricktown canal.
SandRidge Santa Run
On December 14, take your pick of a 5K race, a one-mile Fun Run and the free Santa Claus Kid’s Dash, plus a warm-up with Rumble the Bison and the Thunder Girls. Proceeds raised will benefit NorthCare.
Free Movie Mondays
Continental Resources hosts free weekly screenings at Harkins Theatres in Bricktown; just check online for titles and links to request passes in advance.
Little Willie’s Triple Dog Dare
Why’s it called that? In the 2nd annual take-no-prisoners race December 7, participants climb up and then back down the stairs of both towers of Leadership Square and the Oklahoma Tower – that’s 138 flights in all, and while you can be part of a relay, some will attempt the whole shebang solo. Some may even try to do it twice. For details and to register, visit littlewilliestripledogdare.com.
All this plus the Holiday Pop-Up Shops in Midtown, Santa’s Adventures on the Oklahoma River, A Vintage Christmas on Film Row, surprises from a Segway-mounted Santa … whew! Get downtown and enjoy it all; visit downtownindecember.com for a full schedule and further details.
Holidays at Home
December 5-8 & 12-14, UCO Jazz Lab
Always fabulous and phenomenally fun, UCO Musical Theatre’s annual holiday revue showcases young performers twirling their lassos for a ride to stardom. Case in point: You won’t see singer Erin Clemons this year, but you can catch her in the “Les Miserables” cast on Broadway next March. See if you can divine who’s destined for fame in “Holidays at Home.” Fourteen featured vocalists and the JingleBelles and MistleTones will warm your heart and tickle your ears with more than two dozen pop rock festive tunes, Christmas gospels and holiday classics. Reservations strongly recommended.
Home for the Holidays
December 5-8, OCU Kirkpatrick Auditorium
What is the spruce tree without lights and ornaments, or gift boxes without wrapping paper and bows? If someone’s planning a Christmas production, don’t they owe it to their audience to throw in a little holiday razzle-dazzle? Well, fear not: Oklahoma City University’s American Spirit Dance Company has you covered and then some in its annual December blockbuster. Fast-paced, bursting with energy and expertly choreographed, the Broadway-style production directed by Jo Rowan features familiar tunes and more than 150 colorfully costumed dancers performing in a variety of styles from ballet to tap, including an immense – and thoroughly impressive – kickline of Santa’s Helpers. They even set aside time at the end to slow the tempo and take a moment of reverent reflection in commemorating the birth of Christ. It’s recommended for ages 6 and up, but for practically everyone within that range.
Cowboy Christmas Parade
December 7, Stockyards City
When you think “parade,” the first image that comes to mind is likely to be 76 trombones, or a giant Snoopy balloon, or a flatbed trailer covered with flowers. That’s … not quite what’s in store at this event. Given that this particular parade is in Stockyards City, they have a special kind of horn section: the 200 pointed prongs on the hundred-head herd of cattle that lead off the proceedings. They’re followed by antique cars, Native American dancers, rodeo cowboys and plenty more, including an appearance from the jolly old uniquely western elf, Cowboy Santa.
Edmond’s Tree Lighting and Parade of Lights
December 7, Downtown Edmond
Mark Twain identified two elements that make a parade worthy of praise: A procession of delights for the eyes is a must, but more important is the symbolism behind the event. It should exalt the spirit and stir the heart. Edmond Electric’s annual Parade of Lights excels at both. Last year’s downtown celebration of the season was a spectacle of 40 entries that included a fire truck tricked out with a mantle of lights, miniature horses, vintage Model As and a visit from St. Nicholas himself. As always, the parade will be preceded by the mayor’s tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. in Shannon Miller Park at Main and Jackson. The parade hits the street at 6:45, starting from Main and University. In a season full of meaning, this year’s parade will be that much more significant because of who will fill the honorable post of parade marshal – wounded veterans. Who better to share the season’s tidings of peace with?
December 8, OKC Civic Center
The spectacularly sonorous Canterbury Choral Society is a thunderous 125 members strong … but this is Christmas; ’tis the season to spare no effort in sharing the glories (and “Gloria!”s) of holiday music. That’s why the annually sold-out show the choir anchors features a ton of special guests: the piping voices of the Canterbury Youth Choruses, the rich, crisp sound of the OCU Faculty Brass Quintet, organ and harp accompaniment to age-old classics and a world premiere (courtesy of OCU alumnus David Janssen) alike – even the audience is invited to participate in belting out favorite carols. Visitors are invited to donate to the Regional Food Bank and Christmas Connection via special collections at the venue, and to stay for a cookie reception after the concert. Organizers have taken some pains to make the evening sound terrific.
Gingerbread House Contest
December 14, Edmond Historical Society
Participating in this construction project doesn’t require an architectural license, or even an entry fee; the only drawback is that it’ll be hard to keep yourself from snacking on the results. The Edmond Historical Society’s holiday contest is open to all ages over 5 – there are separate categories for children, teens and adults, with prizes to reward the best looking, most creative, most materially impressive gingerbread wonders. Just make sure to register in advance, and that your house is totally edible. Tidings of comfort and tastiness!
Norman Christmas Holiday Parade
December 14, Downtown Norman
Here’s the perfect family plan for Saturday, Dec. 14: Wake up the little ones with the magic words, “Who wants to see Santa in the parade today!?” Pack up the family, hot chocolate and portable chairs and head to Norman High School. Let the Norman Kiwanis Club serve you a delicious pancake breakfast. Listen for a tiny bell ringing (proceeds go to charitable causes). After breakfast, walk outside and marvel at the 80-90 entries lining up outside the Tigers’ lair. Stroll east along Main Street and pick a prime spot for parade viewing. Pop out the chairs and hot chocolate and thoroughly enjoy this year’s “Hometown Christmas.” Easy, huh?
Cowboy Christmas Ball
December 20, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Guitar-wielding troubadour Michael Martin Murphey may be around retirement age, but he’s been fascinated with Western culture, especially its lyrical side, since he was a pup. Since even cowboys make a special effort to observe the Christmas season, Murphey has made it a point for nearly the last two decades to help OKC celebrate in the finest Western style. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is all set to throw open its doors for the 19th annual ball, at which guests enjoy a lavish buffet and an evening of dancing, while Murphey and friends provide the classic carols, range standards and other music. It’s an all-ages show with room enough on the dance floor for all … if Santa shows up, as he has before, even he may lift up his boots and take a spin or two.
Lyric’s “A Christmas Carol”
Through December 28, Plaza Theater
Ecce Humbug – Behold the miser! The national-caliber actor Chris Bloch, fresh off a Washington, D.C. run of the Dickensian classic, takes the stage as hard-hearted scornmeister Ebenezer Scrooge in Lyric Theater’s annual production. A generous grant from Devon Energy locked the show into Lyric’s schedule and helps transport audiences onto the mean streets of Victorian London for a traditional retelling of the much-venerated tale – driven by the supernatural, but built around the universal regret for choices we could have made and the inspiring knowledge that we can all choose to become better people, every one. Directed by Michael Baron and featuring a cast laden with the metro’s premier thespians, it’s a treat for any age, an experience that is at once memorable for decades and fresh each time it is seen anew
December 21, Chesapeake Arena
Pyrotechnic prog-rock powerhouse TSO kicks out the jams all year round, but this particular holiday has been especially good to the band’s creative output and audience popularity. Still, all good things must come to an end, and after 15 years on the road the group is closing one chapter of its legacy by retiring the double-platinum rock opera “The Lost Christmas Eve” … right after playing it one more time.
Released in album form in 2004, the final chapter in the band’s Christmas trilogy tells the story of an inexperienced angel exploring New York City on Christmas Eve in search of righteousness – his journey encompasses several souls representing the best and worst of human nature, as well as elements of classical music, folk, R&B and blistering rock and roll. Busy as the Trans-Siberian December schedule is, they’re in town for one day only, and tickets to the two shows (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.) on the first day of winter will be hot commodities.
December 31, Downtown OKC
It all culminates with this. A month loaded with merriment, mirth and memories in the making ends with a shebang, as the Arts Council of Oklahoma City and more than 50,000 revelers ring in the new year in deliriously delightful style. Nine venues throughout downtown boast in excess of 25 performances of various stripes: headlining blues and soul balladeers Matt Stansberry & The Romance, spur-of-the-moment comedic stylings from the OKC Improv troupe, elite illusionist David Thomas and his award-winning World of Magic Show and much, much more – and that’s not including the spate of activities especially for children. Surrounded by throngs of friends and neighbors, giddy with the cumulative effect of hours of multifarious celebration, bathed in the radiant glow of a sky-sundering fireworks display and suffused with the limitless promise only found on the cusp of a brand-new year … why wouldn’t you get in on that?