Opens Thursday, Dec. 17, at Helzberg Hall
Clad in a white jacket and bright red shirt while wearing an expression of excited wonderment, associate conductor Aram Demirjian resembles an enthusiastic game-show host in the photo that accompanies the Kansas City Symphony’s solicitation for its annual Christmas Festival concerts. The formality and challenging artistic statements that are part and parcel of much of the organization’s Classical Series will be supplanted by an emphasis on genial entertainment at the family-friendly concerts. Christmas carol singalongs, appearances by Santa Claus and a jewelry prize to be awarded to one member of each audience will be overseen by the dashing Demirjian.
7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17; 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18; 1 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20; 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. 816-471-0400. kcsymphony.org. $15-$75.
Opens Thursday, Dec. 17, at Kansas City Improv
Justin Wilson, a wizened comedian who gained widespread celebrity for his televised cooking show, demonstrated that Americans have a big appetite for jokes told with a Cajun accent. Even so, no entertainer has managed to completely fill the void created by Wilson’s death in 2001. John Morgan is attempting to perpetuate Wilson’s legacy with a similar, albeit significantly more profane, Cajun sensibility. He lives up to his nickname as the Ragin’ Cajun with a manic, often apoplectic, presentation. Morgan’s routines include off-color jokes about the way people in his hometown of New Orleans prepared for Hurricane Katrina.
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17; 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18; 7 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19; 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. Kansas City Improv. 816-759-5233. improvkc.com. $15-$22.
Third Thursday at the Nelson
Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Frugal art lovers know that admission to the “American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood” exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is free from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Savvy revelers know that the institution holds one of the city’s ritziest parties every Third Thursday. Penny-pinchers and carousers will interact with one another at this month’s Making Spirits Bright celebration. Some visitors may opt to fortify themselves at one of two full bars or pay $10 for a tasting of Tom’s Town Distilling Co. products. A DJ and two performances by “antique pop” group Victor & Penny and the Loose Change Orchestra will provide the soundtrack for the evening.
5-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 816-751-1278. nelson-atkins.org. Free.
“Christmas Ain’t a Drag”
Friday, Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec. 19, at the Madrid Theatre
David George, a longtime Kansas City rock ’n’ roller, knows a thing or two about staging ambitious musical productions. He also has a thing for Christmas music. He combines his passions in “Christmas Ain’t a Drag.” George saw much of the world as a former member of John Fogerty’s band. He characterizes this production as a “rocking musical about four lives intersecting at a nightclub at Christmas.” Inspired by Liza Minnelli, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the holiday shows of the Brian Setzer Orchestra, George has assembled a musical that’s supported by versatile locally based musicians, including Shay Estes and Ryan Heinlein.
8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. Madrid Theatre. facebook.com/events/1675679549312223. $25-$105.50.
Friday, Dec. 18, Saturday, Dec. 19, and Sunday, Dec. 20, at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena
The Golden State Warriors are the toast of the sports world. The professional basketball team opened the season with an unprecedented winning streak. The Missouri Mavericks may not have a player on its roster with the level of fame of Stephen Curry, but the Mavericks also didn’t lose a single game in November. They will attempt to maintain the hot streak at three home games this weekend. Win or lose, the franchise will reward fans with special promotions. Youth jerseys will be distributed on Friday. Saturday’s contest is also “Star Wars” Night. Adult fans will receive jerseys on Sunday.
7:05 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec. 19, 4:05 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. 800-745-3000. missourimavericks.com. $16-$38.
“Dancing With the Stars Live!”
Friday, Dec. 18, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland
The most recent season of “Dancing With the Stars” featured such contenders as actor Gary Busey, chef Paula Deen and R&B vocalists Tamar Braxton and Chaka Khan. They’ve since returned to their primary careers. Alek Skarlatos is the only celebrity who’s part of the cast’s current tour. A National Guardsman who helped thwart a terrorist attack in France in August, Skarlatos placed third in the 21st season of the competition. His dance partner, Lindsay Arnold, and other professional hoofers familiar to viewers of the show are the primary attractions of Friday’s event. Previous “Dancing With the Stars” tours have included dance lessons and question-and-answer sessions. Fans are advised to prepare accordingly.
8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18. Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. 816-283-9921. midlandkc.com. $45-$79.50.
Gospel Jazz Christmas Concert
Friday, Dec. 18, at Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ
A case can be made that the decline in the popularity of jazz is directly linked to its gradual drift away from the sounds associated with the church. It’s no coincidence that Ramsey Lewis’ 1966 rendition of the spiritual “Wade in the Water” was one of the last notable mainstream jazz hits. The cerebral output of many of today’s most critically acclaimed jazz artists is almost entirely devoid of the sounds heard during Sunday morning worship services. That won’t be the case at the Second Annual Boone Tabernacle Gospel Jazz Christmas Concert. Keith Newton, the bassist of the band, is an area pastor. Other participants include exciting young vibraphonist Justin “Justefan” Thomas and gospel-based organist Jeremy Thomas.
7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18. Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, 1317 E. 12th St. 816-471-0955. boonetabernacle.org. $15 in advance, $20 at the door.
David Benoit Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown with Jane Monheit
Friday, Dec. 18, at the Folly Theater
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired in December 1965. The soundtrack of the animated program has acted as an inviting introduction to jazz for a few generations of viewers. The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s thoughtful renderings of traditional holiday material and extraordinarily delightful original compositions like “Linus and Lucy” are essential ingredients of the program’s success. David Benoit, a smooth jazz artist for decades, has documented his affinity for Guaraldi’s work on albums including his 1992 release “Here’s to You, Charlie Brown.” Keyboardist and vocalist Jane Monheit will collaborate at a Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown concert on Friday.
8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18. Folly Theater. 816-474-4444. follytheater.org. $20-$50.
Saturday, Dec. 19, at the RecordBar
Before the RecordBar became one of the region’s most cherished rock clubs, the site in a strip mall near Southwest Trafficway and Westport Road housed an Irish pub. The venue will return to its roots on Saturday. The Elders, one of Kansas City’s most popular musical ensembles, will give 300 fans a chance to experience a rousing Celtic rock performance at the RecordBar a couple of weeks before the club’s lease expires. Just as the owners of the RecordBar are expected to carry on at a different location in 2016, the Elders are likely to continue to delight fans for years to come. The addition of new fiddler Diana Ladio is the latest development in the band’s evolution.
9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. RecordBar. 816-753-5207. therecordbar.com. $15 in advance.
Saturday, Dec. 19, at Kelly’s Westport Inn
Santacon isn’t helping the image of old St. Nick. In perpetuating the stereotype of a debauched Kris Kringle, Santacon isn’t likely to be endorsed by the men who portray Santa Claus every holiday season. The motto of the annual Santacon fundraiser — “No force on Earth can stop 100 drunken Santas” — plays off the image popularized by Billy Bob Thornton in the 2003 movie “Bad Santa.” More than 300 jolly participants in this year’s Santacon will meet at Kelly’s Westport Inn before embarking on a pub crawl to establishments in Brookside, Waldo and Martini Corner. Adult beverages furnished on buses will keep the festive party rolling. Proceeds benefit the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. 913-461-1254. santaconkc.brownpapertickets.com. $40.
Monday, Dec. 21, at Helzberg Hall
One of the leading lights of Broadway for 20 years, Audra McDonald has earned six Tony Awards. Next year she’s slated to star in the highly anticipated “Shuffle Along, or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.” McDonald is performing Broadway favorites and material from the Great American Songbook on a tour that recently included two nights at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Noting that she is in her prime, a critic for the Los Angeles Times suggested that “no one on Broadway can touch her.”
7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. 816-415-5025. hjseries.org. $30-$80.