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Celebrate the season in Pittsburgh with an assortment of shows

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
Lobeline Communications
Bill Gaither
James Curry as Flick and Dominic Raymond as Ralphie Parker in Little Lake Theater's 'A Christmas Story.' Little Lake Theater
The cast of Pittsburgh CLO's 'A Musical Christmas Carol.' Matt Polk
Rachel DeShon Pittsburgh Symphony
A scene from Pittsburgh Musical Theater's 'A Lyrical Christmas Carol.' Patti Braham
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Lewis Lee
American Gramophone
Mannheim Steamroller
Peter White Chapman Management
Lois Greenfield
Alexandre Silva dances as the Nutcracker in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.'
Clay Aiken Elko Productions
B.E. Taylor in 2006

If you need help getting into the holiday spirit, there is no shortage of entertainment options to help. From plays to concerts to dance performances, local arts groups are putting on their Santa hats and getting ready to deliver holiday fun.

B.E. Taylor

For a rocking-but-reverent take on holiday classics like “Silent Night” and “O, Come All Ye Faithful,” rocker and Aliquippa native B.E. Taylor is hard to beat. The man with the golden voice and tresses to match scored regional hits with “Vitamin L” and “Love Won the Fight.” But he shines when performing the sacred and devotional Christmas hymns that are close to his heart. His annual Christmas tour, which comes to Heinz Hall for two shows Monday and Tuesday, long has been a seasonal favorite among fans. The tradition was born after an overwhelming response to a 1996 concert in Wheeling, W.Va. It was intended as a one-off performance of his album, “A B.E. Taylor Christmas,” but fans were having none of that. Taylor eventually had the enviable problem of having to add a second show to accommodate demand. With the help of friend and guitarist Rick Witkowski, Taylor and his band put the Vitamin C back in Christmas. Both concerts begin at 7:30. Admission is $35.75 to $48.75.

Details: 412-392-4900,

— William Loeffler

‘The Nutcracker'

More than 180 performers take to the stage in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's spectacular staging of “The Nutcracker,” which opens Friday in the Cultural District, Downtown.

The ballet tells the story of a magical Christmas Eve for Marie, a girl on the verge of becoming a young woman, and has been a staple of holiday family entertainment for more than a half century.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's production is set in Pittsburgh, starting at Marie's house in Shadyside, where her parents are hosting a Christmas party. The sets are full of iconic Pittsburgh references, from a view of the city seen from Mt. Washington to a ride at Kennywood.

The performances start at 7 p.m. Friday and Dec. 14, 21, and 28; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 15, 22 and 29; noon Sunday and Dec. 30; and noon and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 16 and 23. Admission is $22.75 to $95.75.

Details: 412-456-6666 or

— Mark Kanny

Highmark Holiday Pops

Just as Christmas stockings should be filled with a variety of gifts, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Highmark Holiday Pops concerts led by Daniel Meyer will feature singers, dancers, the Mendelssohn Choir and even Santa.

Rachel De Shon, for example, will sing “Christmas Eve in My Hometown” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas” before “O Holy Night” with the Mendelssohn Choir. Dancers from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School will perform four numbers from “The Nutcracker,” concluding with the exciting Russian Dance.

The program also includes the Mendelssohn Choir performing Robert Shaw's arrangements of carols and the traditional sing-along.

The performances start at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, 8 p.m. Dec. 21, 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 22, and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23 at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $20 to $98.

Details: 412-392-4900 or

— Mark Kanny

Mannheim Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller deals with the somewhat-tricky blessing of doing something well.

It presents Christmas music in such a clever, likeable and characteristic way, all of its other skills are rather much forgotten.

The group has been around since 1975, presenting recordings of music that examine topics from Greek mythology to wildlife issues. But its 1984 “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas” became so popular, it has made the band as much a part of the season as that famous reindeer.

It has 12 holiday albums, and every year, does holiday tours, and is a steady visitor at events such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.

The band will present its music here at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 and 12 at the Benedum Center, Downtown. Tickets are $37.35 to $82.25.

Details: 412-456-6666 or

— Bob Karlovits

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Besides powerhouse music and pyrotechnics mindful of a holiday other than Christmas, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is bringing a new show to its holiday tour.

Retiring “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” after 13 years, the rock-opera band is climbing up onto its amazingly lit stage with a new show, “The Last Christmas Eve.”

Paul O'Neill, one of the founders of the group, says the new story, about a tycoon looking for the child he abandoned, fits in well with some of the eyebrows raised these days at the filthy rich.

But, never fear, even with a new show, Trans-Siberian Orchestra still will offer its versions of Christmas classics, hits from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Ludwig van Beethoven, and all of the roaring flame your eyes can handle.

Music is at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16. Admission: $40 to $68.50.

Details: 800-745-3000 or

— Bob Karlovits

Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

Trumpeter Sean Jones has always wanted the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra to be a part of the area cultural scene. That role also makes it part of the Christmas scene.

Since its first year in 2009, the band has presented a Christmas show that does well-known bits of holiday music and new looks at the material by arranger and band co-founder Mike Tomaro.

This year, the band has pulled away from is residency status at the August Wilson Center, working its way to nonprofit status of its own. In doing so, it has taken its shows elsewhere, like this one at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in the North Side.

Besides the change in site, the music probably will find some new directions, too,

The concert is at 8 p.m. Dec. 22. Admission: $30, $25 for students

Detail: 412-322-0800 or

— Bob Karlovits

Bach Choir of Pittsburgh

Thomas Wesley Douglas knows too much of a good thing can be a curse or riches.

For that reason, he has waited five years before offering the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh's “Messiah in Space” concert at the Hunt Armory in Shadyside. He says some attendees at the last concert told him he should do it “every year,” but he says he knows they were simply reacting to the timelessness of the message.

His offering of George Frideric Handel's “Messiah,” a story of hope and redemption presented amid the tools of war, is a statement on the constant need for a message of salvation. That story has not changed in five years, simply shifted around geographically a bit, he says.

The choir will offer the work in largely the same way as in 2007, spread throughout the armory along with the audience. The presentation will feature soloists Charlene Canty, Eugene Perry, Albert Lee and Darryl Taylor, who, at times, will take positions on tanks.

The singers will be accompanied by the Academy Chamber Orchestra, led by Warren Davidson.

The concerts will be at 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $30; $22 for seniors and $10 for students.

Details: 888-718-4253 or

— Bob Karlovits

Peter White

Christmas concerts give guitarist Peter White a much-needed break.

“For 11 months a year, we are playing many of the same songs, so don't you think it is a relief for play something else,” he says.

He, saxophonist Mindi Abair and trumpeter Rick Braun will bring their smooth jazz holiday show Friday to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side. It is part of a 19-day tour dedicated to holiday shows, and White is pleased to be on the road with it.

He started doing holiday shows in 2003 with saxophonist Dave Koz and began his own tours in 2009.

While the three stars of the show are instrumentalists, there is plenty of singing in the show — from the stage and by the audience — so White thinks their versions of the holiday songs will fit in well with the “collective memories” of listeners.

White, Abair and Braun will perform at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Both shows are sold-out, but returns are possible.

Details: 412-322-0800 or

— Bob Karlovits

‘A Christmas Story'

For fans of Jean Shepherd, it's not Christmas without at least one hearing of his fondly remembered “A Christmas Story.”

Set in the 1940s, the tale concerns young Ralphie Parker and his Christmas campaign to receive an Official Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

Adult concerns to the contrary, no one — including Ralphie — will shoot their eye out.

Little Lake Theatre Company is performing the family-friendly holiday saga on its stage at 500 Lakeside Drive in North Strabane.

Performances are through Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. Thursdays and Friday, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $18 to $20; $15 for age 15 and younger

Details: 724-735-6300 or

— Alice T. Carter

‘A Lyrical Christmas Carol'

Anthony Marino stars as Ebenezer Scrooge in Pittsburgh Musical Theater's “A Lyrical Christmas Carol.”

Created in 1991 by Pittsburgh Musical Theater's founding director Ken Gargaro and his wife, Jane, the show spins through Charles Dickens' original tale of a miser's Christmas Eve journey to redemption with a cast of student and professional actors.

Seasonal carols and snippets of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Vaughn Williams are woven through this family-friendly staging.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 to 22 and 2 p.m. Dec. 23 at the New Hazlett Theater, North Side

Admission: $20; $15 in advance; $15 for students; $10 in advance

Details: 412-539-0900, ext. 232 or

— Alice T. Carter

‘A Musical Christmas Carol'

Carolers take to the streets, the Fezziwigs dance up a storm, the Cratchit family takes delivery on a holiday turkey and Ebenezer Scrooge gains redemption as “A Musical Christmas Carol” returns to the Byham Stage.

The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production stars Tom Atkins in his fifth appearance as Scrooge, while 7-year-old Simon Nigam makes his Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera debut as Tiny Tim in the company's 21st retelling of Charles Dickens' venerable holiday tale.

Tim Hartman and Terry Wickline make their 15th and 13th appearances as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, and Jeff Howell returns yet again as Bob Cratchit.

Look for Amanda Serra, Hartman and Paul Domencic as the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future who lead Scrooge on his Christmas Eve journey to becoming a better person.

Performances are Friday through Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays; noon, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 6 p.m. Sundays at the Byham Theater, Downtown

Admission: $28.75-$60.75, half-price for ages 3-14

Details: 412-456-6666 or

— Alice T. Carter

Gaither Homecoming

Gospel recording star Bill Gaither and his Gaither Vocal Band will be bringing the Gaither Homecoming Christmas Spectacular on Saturday to Consol Energy Center. Over the past nearly five decades, Gaither — known for work as a singer, songwriter and mentor of new artists — has won several Grammy and Dove awards. Fans describe the Gaither Homecoming as an uplifting extravaganza with feel-good, happy, inspirational music, joy and laughter. Gaither fans' favorite songs include “Because He Lives,” “It Is Finished,” “Give It Away” and “I'm Gonna Sing.” The band members taking the stage with Gaither include Mark Lowry, David Phelps, Michael English and Wes Hampton. The show begins at 6 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $28.25 to $75.50.

Details: 800-745-3000 or

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