As I write this, my house is decorated with pumpkins slot and spiderwebs—and we’ll bundled up in coats and hearing jingle bells in a matter of weeks.
You’re probably already marking your calendar for the next two months of inevitable parties, gift swaps, kids’ end-of-year recitals and other holiday bucket-list activities. So while your calendar’s out, consider this lineup of upcoming performing arts productions, and make plans to attend.
You may sense a nostalgia theme in this season’s offerings, but there’s plenty to suit any mood, whether you crave Christmas classics or holiday-free fare.
Ageless Repertory Theatre
Reno’s readers’ theater has two non-Christmassy options for people who just enjoy great stories. And if budget and lack of time are concerns, you’re in luck; ART’s shows take place on Tuesday and Friday afternoons, and admission is free (but donations are welcome).
Gather in The Dining Room Dec. 12 and 15, where this single dining room is the setting for 18 scenes from different white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant households that together tell a story of the demise of certain traditions and the notion of what progress means.
A.V.A. Ballet Theatre
This company puts on the largest-scale production of The Nutcracker every year. Accompanied by the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra performing the Tchaikovsky score, A.V.A. Ballet will perform the full ballet Friday-Sunday, Dec. 15-17, for a total of five performances at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. Principal roles will be performed by guest professional artists. If you have little ones, catch the Saturday or Sunday matinee—a special Sugar Plum Party will take place after those performances, allowing children to meet the dancers.
Brüka, which just opened its 31st season, is continuing its Brüka Theatre for Children production of The Paramount & Sometimes Wildly Ridiculous History of Nevada, a play that attempts to present The Silver State’s entire history in just 45 minutes. Though most of the performances are at libraries and schools, watch the website for updates on a public performance in November.
Then comes Christmas With the Crawfords, Dec. 1-22. Though we always love a good Buttcracker, the Brüka team likes to depart from that tradition now and then for the sake of other great holiday fare. In this 90-minute, campy comedy musical, Mommie Dearest herself, Joan Crawford, is looking to rebuild her image after being considered “box office poison.” Her friend, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, decides to host her live radio show from Crawford’s Brentwood, Calif., mansion, during which celebrity pals keep dropping by unexpectedly. It’s performed in drag, with several Brüka favorites playing lead roles, including John Paul Rivard, who played Lola in the company’s recent production of Kinky Boots.
Though the argument over whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie (I’m in the “no” camp—there, I said it) rages on, the holidays are about joy, and when it comes to a Goodluck Macbeth original parody, you can count on finding joy. Die Difficult is an original parody written by GLM’s Ashley Atack, Amanda Alvey-Fannin, Rhiannon Box, Ryan Costello, Ryan Kelly, Joe Daniel Montelongo, Lily Perez and Ian Sorensen. It will run Dec. 1-23 and capture all the adventure of ex-cop John McClane’s journey through an office building’s walls, undetected, to thwart a terrorist plot—but with fewer special effects, a lot more Christmas feeling crammed in, and a lot more laughter than the original.
For a few extra laughs, local actor and comedian Aaron Foster will perform his Funny Words in Reno standup show at GLM Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 5 and 6.
Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus
If traditional holiday music is a must for you, make your way to the new Hug High School on Sullivan Lane in Sparks on Friday and/or Saturday, Dec. 8 and 9. Its gorgeous new theater is the venue for the Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus’ A Holly Jolly Spectacular, featuring a mix of traditional and pop Christmas classics, with some high notes from guest soloists. Backing them up will be high kicks from members of the Conservatory Dance Theatre.
Reno Dance Company
For many locals, nonprofit RDC’s annual production of The Nutcracker is a beloved tradition, and this year, it will come first in the Reno battle of the ballets, on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 13 and 14, at the Grand Sierra Resort’s Grand Ballroom. Assistant director Brianna Sherwood-Kopko points out that this is an all-local-dancers production with an immense cast of about 80 student dancers, ages 5 and up.
Those who remember the venue from its Reno Hiltondays may recall its grand set pieces—an elegant, sweeping staircase; a massive growing tree; and golden elephants. All will be incorporated into the show as props, adding to the visual spectacle.
Reno Little Theater
Longing for the good ol’ days? This season’s shows are brimming with nostalgia. After all, two of Reno’s biggest theater companies are presenting plays about radio shows from the ’40s. At RLT, you’ll find Joe Landry’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, which will transport you to an era when families gathered around their radios together to hear stories, from Nov. 10-Dec. 17. Six actors play the roughly 40 characters in this classic tale about George Bailey, and a foley artist will bring the magic to life with some creative, old school sound effects. For this intimate show, RLT will depart from proscenium seating and return to its old open-stage seating on three sides.
Also on RLT’s schedule is a musical from the Broadway Our Way education program called ’Twas the Week After Christmas, running Dec 9 and 10. This fun family show imagines what happens at the North Pole after the elves and reindeer experience burnout and lose their Christmas spirit.
Reno Wind Symphony
This professional-level wind ensemble will perform Sounds of the Season on Sunday, Dec. 17, at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Nightingale Concert Hall. The show is an annual holiday celebration featuring many interpretations of winter songs that are uniquely composed for wind instruments.
Sierra Nevada Ballet
You’ve got full productions of The Nutcracker to choose from, but if you’re thinking of bringing your little ones, may I suggest an abridged version? SNB’s annual production of The Peanutcracker: The Story in a Nutshell condenses the Tchaikovsky ballet into a more manageable length (45 minutes) for little ones, to hold their attention—the story remains intact, but it moves along quickly—with narration from artistic director Rosine Bena.
SNB will tour the show in area schools, and public performances will take place on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Carson City Community Center, with a 2 p.m. show in English and, new this year, a 4 p.m. Spanish version. Then it heads to Reno for two shows at the Pioneer Center on Sunday, Dec. 3.
The Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts
In addition to local shows mentioned above, The Pioneer also will host Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, from Nov. 21-26. It’s the classic holiday tale come to life on stage, with the songs we love from the original movie, such as “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Max the Dog narrates as the story of the meanie greenie whose heart is “two sizes too small.”
The Eldorado Showroom can always be counted on for a holiday extravaganza. This year’s is Christmas on Ice, from Nov. 21-Dec. 30. Great for the whole family, it will feature synchronized and freestyle figure skating on a real ice rink, as well as song, dance, and holiday warm-fuzzies.
RogueWorx’s The Game takes the stage for the first three Fridays in November. This cabaret-style show composed of vocals, outstanding choreography, aerial and acrobatic stunts, and comedy is recommended for those ages 13-plus. Learn more at rogueworx.net.
Kevin and Caruso’s Magique, with its impressive illusions, spectacular special effects, incredible choreography, and multimedia, continues to run every Saturday night (in addition to other dates) and is appropriate for all ages.
TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada
This teaching theater company is excited to present a student-directed show this season. Clue: The Musical will run Friday-Sunday, Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3, under the direction of high school junior and longtime TWNN student Ledger Tye. The show is based on the game and is entirely interactive. The audience will receive forms on which they can suggest a solution from clues. Because there are 216 possible solutions, every performance should be different.
Warming things up will also be two murder mystery shorts presented by TWNN’s younger actors.
Restless Artists Theatre
COVID-19 and some website snafus may have led you to think RAT was DOA, but it’s back—with a new dot-com web address and a renewed commitment to staging some long-ago-planned plays. Next is Off Peak by Brenda Withers, from Nov. 3-13. In this brisk, character-driven story, two ex-lovers encounter each other on a train and spend the trip hashing out their unfinished business.
Then, from Dec. 29-Jan. 22, RAT will present Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know to Be True, about a family that seems perfect on the surface, but as this heart-wrenching story unfolds and secrets are revealed, it becomes clear they are anything but.
Sierra School of Performing Arts
On the heels of this year’s popular Disney film, SSPA is excited to present Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr!, an abridged version of the beloved Disney story for little audience members. It runs Dec. 15 -17 at Damonte Ranch High School’s theater, and high schoolers from area schools play the lead roles in a cast made up of a whopping 115 students ages 12 to 18. Directed by Jared Lively and Elise Van Dyne, it features choreography by Keely Cobb, jaw-dropping costumes by Amie Billinghurst, and set design by Tom Ready featuring original mural work.
Carson City/Carson Valley
Carson Valley Community Theatre
This community theater troupe is known for its comedies and upbeat cabaret-style musical revues. This season, CVCT will present Wacky and Wonderful Christmassy Stuff–A Yuletide Cabaret, from Dec. 21-30. It offers a whole new take on ’Twas the Night Before Christmas in a story about the time Santa and Mrs. Claus had to apply for their current jobs.
Wild Horse Productions
Don’t judge a play by its movie. Wild Horse Children’s Theater may make you a fan again with its charming children in adorable costumes for CATS: Young Actors Edition, running the first two weekends in December at the Brewery Arts Center’s Performance Hall. As the company’s executive director, Carol Scott, explains, she’s been moved by the passion the student actors have developed for the show. And then there are the $4,000 worth of costumes and the professional makeup artist who will utterly transform the kids into cats, as well as the kids’ time spent in “cat college” to help with their feline movement. This one-hour version of the original Broadway musical, abridged for young audiences, is all the better for it.