Keeping Tabs: Christmas in full force this week
A Different Nutcracker: Tired of the same old song and dance when it comes to Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker”? Here’s the alternative. BalletRox brings us Anthony Williams’ “Urban Nutcracker,” which re-interprets the classic ballet with a fusion of dances that include swing, hip-hop and tap to the sounds of the classic Tchaikovsky score along with “the pulsating beat of Duke Ellington. All the action in the production takes place in Boston as well. And the show expands on the idea of a broken toy and a fantasy world. It’s a history lesson of music and dance that has a good chance of warming the hearts of ballet scoffers everywhere. Dec. 13-16, Thursday and Friday 7:30 p.m., Saturday 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at John Hancock Hall in Boston. Tickets: $20-$55. Call 877-548-3237.
The Same Nutcracker: Oh, you love the classical arts and don’t want your beloved holiday tradition messed with? Well, Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre’sproduction of “The Nutcracker” is here to make everything better. Here you’ll find the classic Tchaikovsky score you’ve grown to love, the classic ballet dances and the story about a little girl who finds a fantasy world inhabited by over-sized animals and toys. Along with the company’s dancers will be 200 children filling in roles as mice, soldiers, and angels and more (possibly…as more children maybe?). So don’t worry. The “Nutcracker” is still in town and will be forever. Dec. 14-16, Friday 7:30 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Spingold Theatre at Brandeis University in Waltham. Tickets: $15-$50. Call 781-736-3400.
Journey Back in Time: Instead of celebrating the holidays in 2007, how about jumping back to the fun, plague-infested times of 15th century England? Sure, people were dirty and barely had teeth, but man did they have some sweet sounding carols (perhaps this was where the lack of teeth came in handy). The Blue Heron Choir brings those traditional songs back with their concert “A Medieval English Christmas and a Burgundian New Year.” The choir may be starting a new holiday tradition with medieval carols, Advent and Christmas motets and songs to welcome the New Year (our New Year, not 1499). The program also features composers Du Fay and Binchois. Saturday, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. at the First Church in Cambridge. Tickets: $10-$40. Call 617-960-7956.
A Celtic Visit: Not the basketball team, the culture. And you’re not alone. I can’t get tickets either. This is WGBH’s 5th Annual “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn,” a show that is becoming a new tradition in the city’s Theater District. It features Brian O’Donovan, the popular Celtic radio host who originally created the series, and promises another intimate evening of holiday music, songs, dancing, poetry and “stories to warm the heart.” My family tells those stories too, but they end with a shot of whiskey. And don’t worry if you can’t make the show. Rounder Records is releasing the CD/DVD “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, Live” for you to enjoy. All of this supports WGBH and that’s better than just getting a tax credit for donating. Through Dec. 22, Thursday to Saturday 8 p.m. with matinees on Saturday and Sunday 3 p.m. at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston. Tickets: $125. Call 800-872-8997.
Help the Homeless: Baby, it’s cold outside and the hardest season to endure if you’re homeless. Thankfully, there’s Bread and Jams of Cambridge, a non-profit dedicated to giving people showers, warm meals and a technology center for job searching. So if you’re looking to do your part, why don’t you attend the 4th Annual Boston Christmas Cavalcade for the Homeless, an event featuring bands/musicians like Merrie Armstrong, T. Max, and The Shook Family Singers. And keep in mind that everyone gets that “donating” feeling around the holidays, but try to remember your favorite charities for the rest of the year. Thursday, Dec. 13, 8:30 p.m. at Johnny D’s in Somerville. Tickets: (suggested donation: $15). Call 617-776-7450.
Eclectic, Not Animalistic, Jazz: For 35 years, jazz enthusiasts have all the same question: Why are you guys called the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra? To the dismay of animal lovers, this isn’t a collection of gifted, four-legged creatures, but rather a group of skilled musicians who defy categorization. The name comes from an old classified column titled “Aardvark,” a place for items/jobs that didn’t fit into the various categories. And when founder and music director Mark Harvey learned more about the aardvark (nocturnal, hard digging, has features from various animals), he embraced the idea. So join Harvey and his fellow Aardvarks at the orchestra’s 35th Annual Christmas Concert. They’ll play holiday classics and the premiere of Harvey’s piece “Urban Meditations,” inspired by Rosie’s Place founder Kip Tiernan’s book of the same name (she will also guest-narrate the piece). Can’t make it? Pick up their new album “No Walls/A Christmas Concert.” As for me, I’m inspired to form a pop music group called the Orchestra of Sheep. Sunday, Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m. at the Emmanuel Church in Boston. Tickets: $15. Call 617-536-3355.