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A Connecticut Christmas Carol comes to The Terris Theatre Photo courtesy of Goodspeed Musicals

A Connecticut Christmas Carol comes to The Terris Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodspeed Musicals )

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A Connecticut Christmas Carol comes to The Terris Theatre Photo courtesy of Goodspeed Musicals

A Connecticut Christmas Carol comes to The Terris Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodspeed Musicals )

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A Connecticut Christmas Carol comes to The Terris Theatre. Photo courtesy of Goodspeed Musicals

A Connecticut Christmas Carol comes to The Terris Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Goodspeed Musicals )

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The Magic Toyshop by Starship Dance Theater come to the Andrews Memorial Town Hall in Clinton. Photo courtesy of Starship Dance Theater

The Magic Toyshop by Starship Dance Theater come to the Andrews Memorial Town Hall in Clinton. (Photo courtesy of Starship Dance Theater )

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The Nutcracker takes on a local theme in the Eastern Connecticut Ballet performance at The Garde Arts Center. Photo courtesy of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet

The Nutcracker takes on a local theme in the Eastern Connecticut Ballet performance at The Garde Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet )

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The Eastern Connecticut Ballet presents The Nutcracker at The Garde Arts Center. Photo courtesy of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet

The Eastern Connecticut Ballet presents The Nutcracker at The Garde Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet )

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Hartford Stage returns A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas for its 21st season. Photo courtesy of Hartford Stage

Hartford Stage returns A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas for its 21st season. (Photo courtesy of Hartford Stage )

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A Christmas Carol? Or Nutcracker? Or Something Else Entirely?

Published Nov 28, 2018 • Last Updated 01:27 pm, November 27, 2018

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A Christmas Carol vs The Nutcracker. These two perennial holiday favorites each have loyal adherents. For some, it wouldn’t be the holidays without seeing a production of A Christmas Carol. For others, the holidays mean The Nutcracker. And some want both.

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, there are multiple options. In addition, there is a variety of other holiday inspired theater, music, and dance options.

People are often surprised to learn that The Nutcracker hasn’t always been a holiday classic. When the ballet about Clara and the nutcracker that comes to life debuted in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892, neither Tchaikovsky’s music not the choreography by Marius Petipa was praised. In fact it wasn’t even performed outside of Russia until 1934 in England and 1940 in the U.S. It was the San Francisco Ballet that made it an annual event, then George Balanchine’s choreography at the New York City Ballet in 1954 propelled the piece into everyone’s consciousness.

Now it is a staple of ballet companies through the country; often ticket sales from these performances help these companies survive.

There are numerous productions of The Nutcracker all over the state, including two on the Connecticut shoreline, one in New London and the other in New Haven.

The Eastern Connecticut Ballet will perform The Nutcracker at The Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street, New London on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 9. The Eastern Connecticut Ballet is debuting new scenery and some special effects in its production of the ballet. The scenery will set the ballet with reference to the area’s seafaring past. Yale Drama School graduate Fufan Zhang’s set includes a sea captain’s Victorian home, sailing ships in port, a lighthouse, and even the ice fields of the Arctic.

The special effects include a snowstorm on stage and a flying Christmas tree.

Guest artists supplement the cast from area ballet companies and schools. Sara Means and Jared Angle, both members of the New York City Ballet, will dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier roles. Also in the cast will be guest artists from the Miami City Ballet.

For tickets, visit tickets.gardearts.org or call 860-444-7373, ext. 1.

At the Shubert in New Haven, the New Haven Ballet is also presenting The Nutcracker, featuring many ballet students from the shoreline. Simone Messmer and Stephen Hanna will star in the production as guest artists. Messmer has been a soloist with the American Ballet Theater, and the Miami City Ballet. Hanna danced at the New York City Ballet as a principal dancer. New Haven Ballet’s performances will be Saturday, Dec. 15 and Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 and 5 p.m. For tickets, visit Shubert.com.

If you miss those dates, but still want to see The Nutcracker, The Kate in Old Saybrook will screen the 2014 Bolshoi Ballet production on The Kate’s big screen and in surround sound. That’s on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. For tickets, visit thekate.org or call 860-510-0453.

By the way, Disney has released a film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. I haven’t seen it, but I do know that most of the music and dance has been deleted from this film geared for young children.

An Immediate Success

If The Nutcracker wasn’t immediately successful, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas was. He wrote the short novel in 1843 and it sold out in days. Since then it has never been out of print. From the novella, numerous film, stage, and even opera adaptations have been created.

Connecticut has two unique versions of this story of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s redemption.

Last year, Goodspeed Musicals produced A Connecticut Christmas Carol at its Chester theater as a workshop. It featured music and lyrics by Michael O’Flaherty and a book by LJ Fecho. In this version, Scrooge is famed actor William Gillette who “leaves his castle (now a state park) to go to the Goodspeed Opera House to adapt the novel into a play. Well-known Connecticut residents Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum, and others make appearances.

It’s a revised show that will play at the Norma Terris Theatre from Friday, Nov. 30 through Sunday, Dec. 30. This year the role of Gillette/Scrooge is played by Tony-nominated Robert Cuccioli. He starred in Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway as well as in Spiderman, Les Miz, and other shows. For tickets, visit goodspeed.org or call 860-873-8668.

Hartford Stage continues its long running (21 years) A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas through Saturday, Dec. 29. Adapted and originally directed by former Hartford Stage Artistic Director Michael Wilson, this production focuses on the ghostly aspect of the story. The ghosts fly and Marley rises from under the stage. Michael Preston, who was Scrooge last year, returns, as do many of the cast. For tickets, visit hartfordstage.org/Christmas-carol.org or call 860-527-5151.

Want Something Different?

Ivoryton Playhouse is offering something different for the holidays—two things actually. Broadway and Opera star David Pittsinger returns to the playhouse for The Christmas Hour with David Pittsinger and Friends, a holiday concert Wednesday, Dec. 5 to Saturday, Dec. 8. It’s staged as a 1940s radio show. Joining Pittsinger for an evening of holiday standards and sacred songs are his wife, Patricia Schuman, also an opera performer, and his son Richard, currently a voice student at Julliard, as well Carly Callahan, Ryan Bloomquist, Anna Fagan, and others. Fagan, Bloomquist, and Callahan have all performed at Ivoryton.

Coney Island Christmas is what artistic director Jacqui Hubbard calls a holiday show. Written by playwright Donald Margulies, it is a story about various people and faiths coming together at this time of year. Among the cast include Corey Candela, Amy Buckley, Norm Ruddy, and others who are seasoned performers. Sasha Bratt is directing the cast that includes local actors. It runs Thursday, Dec. 13 to Sunday, Dec 23.

For tickets to either or both events, visit ivorytonplayhouse.org or call 860-767-7318.

Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration is being produced by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the UConn campus in Storrs, Thursday, Nov. 29 to Sunday, Dec. 9. This is an epic story about our nation’s capital during the Civil War. Many stories intertwine: an escaped slave and her daughter are seeking freedom, a young Confederate supporter runs away hoping to join the war, Mrs. Lincoln is seeking a gift for her husband, and more. For tickets, visit crt.uconn.edu or call 860-486-2113.

TheaterWorks returns with its jaundiced look at the adulthood of various child heroes in Christmas stories and films with Xmas on the Rocks Tuesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 23. It’s funny and slightly cynical. If you ever wandered about Richie (from A Christmas Story) as an adult or Clara, or Charlie Brown, you will thoroughly enjoy this. For tickets, visit theaterworkshartford.org or call 860-527-7838.

Music

Highlights of the area’s musical performances is the Boston Pops at UConn on Saturday, Dec. 1. Closer to home the New Haven Symphony Pops concert featuring the Elm City Girls’ Choir is at Hamden Middle School on Saturday, Dec. 15.

The symphony will also present Handel’s Messiah on Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Madison Congregational Church. It will also be presented at Woolsey Hall on Thursday, Dec. 20. For tickets, visit newhavensymphony.org or call 203-787-4282.

A cabaret holiday celebration is at Long Wharf’s Stage II, Thursday, Dec. 13 to Sunday, Dec. 16. Anne Tofflemire, an award-winning cabaret performer, will “take us on journey through American popular songs that capture the joy and tenderness of our holiday celebrations.” For tickets, visit LongWharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

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