Arts and Culture

They’re as much a part of holiday tradition as Christmas trees and stockings hung by the chimney: the holiday shows that we go to see, year after year.

This is not the time of year when local arts organizations are especially concerned with innovation or challenges. It’s not a time to be provocative, or to make audiences reflect on tough issues.

Instead, it’s about slipping back into familiar music and storylines, as comfortable as favorite slippers and a mug of hot chocolate.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Actor’s Theatre of Louisville is among the first to kick off the season with its annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” starring William McNulty in his 13th year as Ebenezer Scrooge. You can visit with the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future until Dec. 23.

For a different take on the holiday classic, a comic riff on Scrooge’s tale returns to The Bard’s Town Theatre with “The Kings of Christmas,” written by, directed by and starring Doug Schutte, who also co-owns the venue and perhaps never sleeps. This is the fifth year for this show, which Schutte describes as like “‘A Christmas Carol’ if Dickens were an idiot.”

Louisville Ballet’s “Nutcracker” will also be returning, sparking little girls’ dreams of wearing that glittery tutu someday. For many people, this is their introduction to ballet, and there couldn’t be a better one. Both matinee and evening performances will run Dec. 12-20 at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

There are a few other takes on Nutcracker, including the University of Louisville Dance Theatre’s annual performance of “Clara’s Dream,” which covers the second half of the traditional story and serves as a showcase for middle and high school dancers (Dec. 4-6). There’s also a considerably shortened version geared for children called “Nutcracker in a Nutshell,” presented at the Louisville Palace (two performances on Dec. 5). The Louisville Skating Academy will perform “Nutcracker on Ice” at Iceland Sports Complex on Dec. 19 and 20 — wear a warm coat and bring something to sit on, because those metal bleachers are cold.

The Louisville Orchestra has Christmas-themed programming for various tastes, including two performances of Handel’s “Messiah” on Dec. 4 and 5, the family-oriented “Home for the Holidays” on Dec. 5, and a performance with Christian rock group Mercy Me at the Louisville Palace.

If you’re interested in going back in time for the holiday, there are a couple of options.

A 1940s-themed evening at the Ogle Center at IU Southeast in New Albany will feature a full orchestra and chorus, along with Andrews Sisters-style trio The Birdies and local actors portraying radio announcers (Dec. 5 and 6). (Note: The Birdies includes WFPL News producer Laura Ellis.)

If you want to go all the way back to the early 19th century, you can take your hoop skirts to “Christmastide at Locust Grove,” which includes food cooked over an open fire, music and conversation, and a real live Beefeater from the Tower of London. (Dec. 4 and 5)

Featured image: “The Kings of Christmas,” submitted by The Bard’s Town Theatre

Tara Anderson is a contributing editor for WFPL News, and the host and producer of Five Things, a podcast about the physical objects that tell our stories.