A Light in Dark Places

A special guest conductor leads the L.A. Phil’s holiday sing-a-long. Photo by Jamie Pham

Holiday spirit has been muted this year in the Santa Monica Mountains by the Woolsey Fire and its aftermath.

Because of the fire, we missed Hanukkah this year, and half the Christmas calendar has already flown by, but there are still many amazing opportunities outside the mountains to celebrate the season. Tickets to a holiday play or concert is an ideal way to escape for a few hours into another world, and there are still numerous world-class options to choose from.

Carols and special holiday plays have been a traditional part of the celebration of Christmas since medieval times, a light in dark times. With arguably some of the finest musicians and theater companies in the world in the Los Angeles area, that tradition is alive and well. For mountain and canyon residents who are still recovering from recent events and struggling to transition from disaster survival mode to merry and jolly, it might be just the ticket.

“A Christmas Carol”—If it wouldn’t be Christmas without seeing Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” then a trip to see the celebrated Pasadena theater company, A Noise Within, is essential. This is the seventh year the theater company has staged the much-loved story of forgiveness and redemption. This year’s show is adapted by Geoff Elliott, and directed by Elliott and his wife, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. It’s a gorgeous production. Performances run through December 23. Tickets start at $25, and are available online at anoisewithin.org; or (626) 356-3121. Pay What You Can night is Friday, December 14 at 8 p.m.  A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 91107.

“It’s a Wonderful Life”The Pasadena Playhouse has produced a live radio play version that runs through December 23. The play is adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra, and Jo Swerling. Director Cameron Watson brings this classic Christmas story to life onstage as a 1940s-style radio broadcast. Simon Helberg is the down-on-his-luck George Bailey whose guardian angel shows him what his town would have been like had he never been born. Tickets start at $25. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, 91101. pasadenaplayhouse.org/event/its-a-wonderful-life/

All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914”The Broad Stage in Santa Monica is presenting a more somber Christmas play for one performance only on Saturday, December 22, 7:30 p.m.: “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.” Described by New Yorker Magazine as, “A heartbreaking tribute to the men, who, in defiance of their commanders had the courage to affirm their common humanity,” the play is based on a real event A German soldier stepped out of the trenches into No Man’s Land singing “Stille Nacht,” on Christmas day, 1914, and created a moment of peace and comradery in the midst of senseless slaughter. It’s “a remarkable true story, told in the words and songs of the men who lived it.” The play was written by Peter Rothstein, with musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach. One performance only, Saturday, December 22, 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $45-$85. The Broad Stage is located at 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401.

The LA Phil—Strike the harp and join the chorus at Disney Concert Hall and fa-la-la all the way with this popular Holiday Sing-Along that returns December 22, with two performances, 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., featuring the hall’s massive pipe organ, a full choir, a jazz combo, and a “cheerful selection of seasonal favorites.” When the announcement states it’s “a jolly good time!” it’s not an exaggeration.

White Christmas”— The LA Phil will be screening the1954 film, White Christmas, at Disney Concert Hall, with live musical accompaniment and an opportunity for the audience to sing along. Tickets start at $29. Two performances on December 23, are at 3 p.m. and again at 8 p.m.

Grant Gershon conducts the orchestra, the Master Chorale Singers and the audience at
“the Messiah” sing-a-long. Photo by TAo Ruspoll/Marie Noorgergen

Los Angeles Master ChoraleFor a more sublime sing-along experience, join the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s popular DIY performance of Handel’s Messiah, also at Disney Concert Hall, where the audience is the chorus. The 38th annual Messiah Sing-Along takes place on December 17, at 7:30 p.m. Participants are encouraged to BYOS—bring your own score—but scores will also be available for purchase in the lobby. Tickets are $25-$75. A limited number of $150 VIP onstage tickets are also available for a complete Master Chorale performance experience. VIP Tickets include: backstage entrance, warm-up with the Master Chorale singers before the performance, complimentary musical score, an opportunity to perform onstage along with the singers, and an intermission reception with champagne and holiday treats.

Check the website (laphil.com)for tickets and additional holiday-themed concerts, including “A Chanticleer Christmas” on December 19,  and a “Swinging Christmas” with the Arturo Sandoval Big Band on December  21.  

Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, 90012.

Messiah Sing-along—On December 17, Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village is offering a Messiah Sing-along a little closer to home. The performance will be led by a choir from surrounding churches, and conducted by Dr. Board of Pepperdine University, with the Westlake Symphony. Music will be provided to anyone in the audience who wishes to join in. The concert will conclude with a selection of carols. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 per person and can be purchased in advance at calvarycc.org/messiah.


Children under 10 are free. Calvary Community Church is located at 5495 Via Rocas, Westlake Village, CA 91362.


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at suzanne@messengermountainnews.com

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