Believe there’s a war on Christmas? Well, here’s some news from the front: If there is such a cultural battle going on, Christmas is winning. Handily.
Despite the best efforts of Starbucks and its color-coded coffee cups, Simon malls and its attempt to relocate Santa to a tree-free ice dome, and the many people subversively offering “happy holidays” greetings in lieu of acknowledging the reason for the season, Christmas is once again the undisputed holiday king—even in the reputedly left-leaning world of the arts.
Just look around.
The Indiana State Museum has expanded its “Celebration Crossing” Santa-centric activities (through Jan. 3), including breakfasts with the man in red. The Indiana Historical Society is dressed up for its annual Festival of Trees (through Jan. 2) and packed with related programming. The Yule Slide at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis remains a holiday go-to, as part of its “Jolly Days Winter Wonderland” (through Jan. 3), where Santa is available for pictures. “Jingle Rails” (through Jan. 18) has become a holiday tradition at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and keeps getting larger with new stops added to the display. And the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is offering special holiday tours of the garland-trimmed mansion.
Behind its new paywall, the Indianapolis Museum of Art has a giant Christmas tree on its lawn and has once again decked out the Lilly House with 1930s/1940s holiday accoutrements (through Jan. 3). And amid the light displays, Mrs. Claus is on hand to decorate cookies with kids while carolers entertain at “Christmas at the Zoo” (through Dec. 29).
School groups as well as adults who actually have a choice in the matter are flocking to productions of “A Christmas Carol” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (through Dec. 26) and Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre (through Dec. 23)—with the latter also offering “A Beef & Boards Christmas” (through Dec. 23). If you prefer the story musicalized, there’s Buck Creek Players’ “Scrooge! The Musical” (through Dec. 20) and if you like to add your own elements to the story, there’s ComedySportz’s “A Christmas Carol: Unscripted” (through Dec. 18 with an all-ages show on Dec. 19).
Actors Theatre of Indiana revisits its charming “A Year with Frog and Toad” (through Dec. 27). ATI also is offering a “Completely Christmas Cabaret” at the Warehouse on Dec. 17-18. Theatre on the Square has a stage version of the holiday favorite “A Christmas Story” (through Dec. 20). And the Madame Walker Theatre hosts Black Santa on Dec. 14.
Sure, the annual “A Very Phoenix Xmas” anthology show at the Phoenix Theatre (through Dec. 20) can be irreverent, but the spirit is celebratory. It’s impossible to predict what the NoExit Performance folks will come up with for “Drosselmeyer’s XXX-Mas Cabaret” at the White Rabbit (Dec. 10). Also hard to know if Q Artistry’s “Christmas Cabaret” will balance out its “Prozac: The Sad Elf” (both Dec. 11-12), and if there will be any collateral damage to the holiday from $3 Bill’s “Advent Calen-Durr!” at the Indy Fringe Theatre (through Dec. 19). But the edge of these groups tend to be balanced by their hearts.
Need something more traditional? Gospel star Sandi Patty is once again anchoring the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Yuletide Celebration (through Dec. 23). And if I started listing all the local productions of “The Nutcracker,” I’d have to continue in next week’s column. For a variation on the music, the University of Indianapolis offered Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite” and you still have time to lend your voice to the “Holiday Sing-a-long” at the Jazz Kitchen on Dec. 21 with vocalist Wendy Reed.
At the Palladium, the Indiana Wind Symphony, the Wright Brothers and Michael Bolton have sung the holiday’s praises. Still to come are concerts by Jim Brickman (Dec. 17), and the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir (Dec. 18-20) and pairing with the ISO for Handel’s “Messiah” (Dec. 13). Meanwhile, Clowes Hall is hosting Keith & Kristyn Gerry for “Joy—An Irish Christmas” (Dec. 15) and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra joins with the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church Choir for Handel’s “Messiah” (Dec. 13-14, with the latter being a sing-a-long). The Indianapolis Men’s Chorus mixes the sacred and the Santa in “Dash Away All” (Dec. 18-19).
There’s more, of course. But the above should make it clear that those trying to usurp Christmas really need to step up their game.
And to the rest, here’s hoping your December arts experiences bring you both comfort and joy. And that these holiday crowd-pleasers help fuel a creative 2016.•
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