The holidays in film
December at Alamo Drafthouse
There’s nothing wrong with watching favorite holiday movies at home, but lasting memories can be made at interactive screenings of seasonal classics at Alamo Drafthouse. Props and other surprises will accentuate the on-screen hijinks during showings of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” “Elf,” the amusing 2003 vehicle for Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel, will be accompanied by “a snowball fight in the theater … jingle bells for everyone, bubbles for a few key scenes, and a special scratch ’n’ sniff card.” One member of the audience will win a “Gremlins”-themed sweater during a showing of the campy 1984 horror film. “The Polar Express” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” are among the other Christmas-themed movies that will be screened at Alamo Drafthouse in December.
Alamo Drafthouse. 816-474-4545. drafthouse.com. $8.75-$12. Movies and show times:
▪ “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie party, 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, Sunday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15.
▪ “Elf” movie party, 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16.
▪ “Gremlins” 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.
Kansas City Symphony, Handel’s “Messiah”
Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 3-6, at Helzberg Hall
The ubiquitous blare of holiday songs in public spaces between Thanksgiving and Christmas is capable of transforming even the jolliest folks into ill-humored misanthropes. Not everyone is eager to hear the aggressively festive music of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, let alone Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” for the umpteenth time. Annual renditions of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” act as sophisticated respites from the seasonal cacophony. The partnership between the Kansas City Symphony, the Symphony Chorus and the Independence Messiah Choir is one of the region’s most spectacular annual collaborations. The full complement of more than 250 vocalists and the Symphony will help audiences forget the less cultivated sounds outside the confines of Helzberg Hall.
7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. Helzberg Hall. 816-471-0400. kcsymphony.org. $25-$60.
“So You Think You Can Dance”
Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland
Inquisitive consumers of popular entertainment might wonder whether reality-based television programming is designed to act as an extended infomercial carefully crafted to sell tickets and related merchandise at the end of each broadcast. Following the conclusion of the 12th season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” participants hit the road for a 70-city tour. The show features the 10 top finalists reviving their most popular routines and a few pieces designed specifically for the tour. A “stage vs. street” scheme is intended to heighten drama as tradition-minded dancers like tap dancer Gaby Diaz, the season champion, are contrasted with hoofers including Jaja Vaňková who are influenced by hip-hop styles.
8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3. Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. 816-283-9921. midlandkc.com. $39.50-$69.50.
The SantaLand Diaries
Opens Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Copaken Stage
Even the most cynical theatergoers and the most outspoken advocates of modernism can’t deny the enduring power of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The Kansas City Repertory Theatre stages a lavish production of the seasonal staple every year. Yet not everyone wants to indulge in Dickens every December. In offering concurrent performances of the contemporary classic “The SantaLand Diaries” at the downtown Copaken Stage, the company provides holiday-minded audiences with the best of both worlds. The 80-minute show is based on the sidesplitting story that served as most people’s introduction to the peculiar world view of satirist David Sedaris.
Thursday, Dec. 3-Thursday, Dec. 24. 816-235-2700. kcrep.org. $25-$59.
“The Nativity,” Paul Mesner Puppets
Friday through Sunday, Dec. 4-6, at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral
Some of the best actors in the Kansas City area aren’t even human. The ensemble at Paul Mesner Puppets breathes life into inanimate objects. The work of the behind-the-scenes crew is often so convincing that audiences tend to forget that they’re being entertained by bits of cloth, wood and papier-mâché. The central figures in the company’s annual showing of “The Nativity” are far more than glorified props. The high ceilings of Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral allow for correspondingly large-scale creations. The ambitious production features the seemingly magical work of more than 40 puppeteers in an unconventional but entirely gripping retelling of the biblical saga.
10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral. 816-756-3500. mesnerpuppets.org. $16 and $11 for children.
Friday, Dec. 4, and Monday, Dec. 7, at Helzberg Hall
Anti-bullying campaigns came too late for the majority of the participants of Tubachristmas. The students who played tuba during middle school and high school were often targets of teasing from their mean-spirited peers. Tubists and euphonium players will have their revenge at Helzberg Hall on Friday and Monday. Motivated in part by a desire to “improve the literature and public image of our chosen instruments,” the two area installments of the international Tubachristmas event will transpire in the bully-free zone of Helzberg Hall.
Noon Friday, Dec. 4, and noon Monday, Dec. 7. Helzberg Hall. 816-471-0400. kcsymphony.org. Free.
First Friday in the Crossroads
Friday, Dec. 4, in the Crossroads Arts District
Shoppers on the prowl for unique gifts and dedicated art enthusiasts will converge in the Crossroads Arts District for the December edition of First Friday. The offerings at a few galleries are particularly appealing. The Buttonwood Art Space (3013 Main St.) will host the MidAmerica Pastel Society’s “Color, Color, Color!” show and the Joplin Regional Artist Coalition’s “Spectrum” exhibit. Melanie Sherman, a German-born graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, will feature her ceramics-oriented work in “Schema: A Journey Through Traditional Patterns and Imagery” at Belger Crane Yard Gallery (2011 Tracy). Leedy-Voulkos Art Center (2012 Baltimore Ave.) will display “Sense of Place,” a set of images captured by Jeff Burk during the photographer’s rambles on “disused highways and rural routes.”
Friday, Dec. 4. Crossroads Arts District. 816-994-7313. kccrossroads.org. Free.
Friday, Dec. 4, at the Sheraton Crown Center
Arianna Huffington, an intriguing businesswoman, media mogul and social commentator of the new millennium, is the keynote speaker of the Women’s Foundation’s annual luncheon. She’s an appropriate match for the organization’s mission of addressing “issues affecting the economic well-being of women and their families throughout the region with the goal of eliminating barriers women face in achieving long-term economic self-sufficiency.” Although she’s best known as the founder of the Internet aggregator The Huffington Post, the Greek-born Huffington has also been a biographer and a politician. Her cogent commentary on politicians and social issues is often delectably acidic.
11:15 a.m. Friday, Dec. 4. Sheraton Crown Center. 816-988-2000. womens-foundation.org. Tickets begin at $71.
Friday, Dec. 4, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland
Chris Cornell of Soundgarden noted Heart’s groundbreaking achievements in his speech at the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013: “Somehow it never occurred to us that Ann and Nancy Wilson were women existing authentically in a world dominated by men. Heart, with two Joan of Arcs standing up front … blasted down any sexist barriers in front of them.” In advancing the sound of Led Zeppelin, the Seattle sisters and their band mates were part of one of the most compelling rock bands of the 1970s and one of the most commercially dominant acts of the 1980s. Heart’s performance on Friday is a benefit concert for the Kansas City affiliate of Susan G. Komen.
8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4. Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. 816-283-9921. midlandkc.com. $39.50-$150.
Santa Dives With Penguins
Begins Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Kansas City Zoo
None of Santa Claus’ feats is more remarkable than his annual trek across the globe delivering gifts. His ability to transcend the rules of time and space is astonishing. Santa’s role as an international ambassador of goodwill places him in other unusual positions. The Kansas City Zoo will put him to work in the Helzberg Penguin Plaza on the weekends leading up to Christmas. He’ll dive with penguins at 11 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday. Partly because the natural habitat of penguins is in the Southern Hemisphere, far from his base at the North Pole, Santa probably lacks much experience with the creatures. Visitors may elect to return to the penguin exhibit at 2 p.m. each corresponding weekend for a “penguin waddle” down a red carpet.
11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. Kansas City Zoo. 816-595-1234. kansascityzoo.org. $13.50, $12.50 for people 55 and older, $10.50 for children 3-11.
Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland
Masterful guitar slingers are a dime a dozen. In Kansas City alone there are many guitarists who possess jaw-dropping technical proficiency. Although his specials on public television have catapulted him to a level of fame that surpasses some of his equally talented peers, Tommy Emmanuel merits his celebrity. The Australian’s showmanship and exquisite sense of melody have impressed millions of viewers. The members of Saturday’s audience can expect Emmanuel to perform audaciously intricate and emotionally resonant renditions of seasonal material and selections from his impressive new “It’s Never Too Late” album during his “Classics & Christmas” concert.
8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. 816-283-9921. midlandkc.com. $34.50-$44.50.
Kansas City Ballet, “The Nutcracker”
Opens Saturday, Dec. 5, at Muriel Kauffman Theatre
The Kansas City Ballet has given its most popular annual production an eye-popping makeover for 2015. Devon Carney, the artistic director of the company, explained the motivation for the new look of “The Nutcracker”: “Just like a uniform needs shining up and getting some sparkle into it, we’ve got a lot of technology nowadays that we didn’t have 30 years ago. There’s so much more that we can add to a show now.” Redesigned sets, new costumes and altered choreography are among the changes. Traditionalists needn’t worry — the plot of the captivating fairy tale and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s hummable score didn’t require any revisions.
Saturday, Dec. 5-Thursday, Dec. 24. Muriel Kauffman Theatre. 816-931-8993. kcballet.org. $54-$129.
Jazz Carol Fest
Sunday, Dec. 6, at Community Christian Church
Although the audiences at Jazz Carol Fest at Community Christian Church include many people who wouldn’t consider patronizing a Kansas City jazz club, the annual event provides a broad survey of the many of the musicians who are frequently featured at venues like the Blue Room and the Green Lady Lounge. Host and bandleader Tim Whitmer, a central figure on Kansas City’s jazz scene for decades, organizes a fast-paced show that offers a variety of seasonal sounds from many accomplished artists. Notable participants at the charitable concert include fleet-fingered guitarist Rod Fleeman, brash trumpeter Stan Kessler, powerhouse vocalist Millie Edwards, masterful organist Everette DeVan and folk veteran Danny Cox.
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. Community Christian Church. 816-561-6531. community-christian.org. $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
Ann Hampton Callaway with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, “A Swinging Kansas City Christmas!”
Tuesday, Dec. 8, at Helzberg Hall
Marvelous vocalist Ann Hampton Callaway recently released a holiday album. True to her adventurous aesthetic, it’s as unconventional as it is pleasing. “The Hope of Christmas” is a collection of seasonal songs featuring the lyrics of William Schermerhorn, the creative director of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Respected for her velvety voice as well as for her work as a songwriter for artists including Barbra Streisand, Callaway’s witty approach will receive correspondingly sophisticated accompaniment from the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra. Under the direction of conductor Clint Ashlock, the acclaimed ensemble is dedicated to preserving Kansas City’s historic jazz legacy.
7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, Helzberg Hall. 816-994-7200. kauffmancenter.org. $20-$55.
Opens Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the Music Hall
The most appealing aspect of the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing” isn’t the smoldering acting of the late Patrick Swayze. Quotable lines like “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” aren’t the main attraction either. Although the dancing scenes are also memorable, the component that truly propels the film is the amazing soundtrack that’s one of the best-selling albums of all time. The combination of original material like the lush duet “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” with period classics like “Hey! Baby” is irresistible. The touring production of “Dirty Dancing” provides fans with a different way to enjoy the music. A critic for The Des Moines Register recently suggested that if “you’re a fan of the movie, you won’t be disappointed.”
Tuesday, Dec. 8-Sunday, Dec. 13. Music Hall. 800-653-8000. theaterleague.com/kansascity. $35-$110.
Karl Rove for “The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters”
Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Unity Temple on the Plaza
No one questions the intelligence of Karl Rove, but the judgment of the political operative and commentator is the subject of fierce debate from observers on all sides of the political spectrum. The former member of President George W. Bush’s administration is currently involved in a public feud with Donald Trump. In his new book, “The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters,” Rove suggests that a presidential election held 119 years ago is worthy of scrutiny during the current political cycle. Rove will discuss parallels between the political contentiousness of each era with Steve Kraske of The Kansas City Star on Wednesday.
7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9. Unity Temple on the Plaza. 913-384-3126. rainydaybooks.com. $32.50 plus sales tax, includes an autographed hardcover copy of “The Triumph of William McKinley.”
Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star