It’s the last full weekend before Christmas, and it’s pretty much your last chance to catch some holiday-themed entertainment. Luckily, there are lots of options, but you might want to act soon to ensure you get a good spot.
From what I hear, for example, some of the five scheduled performances of “Elf: The Musical” at Thalian Hall are close to selling out. To wit:
When I was leaving Thalian Hall last Sunday after seeing Thalian Association Community Theatre’s fully charming production of “Elf: The Musical,” I overheard a woman saying how she “really needed some true holiday entertainment. I’m so glad that’s what this was.”
She’s absolutely right in that, when it comes to feel-good holiday entertainment, “Elf: The Musical” — which of course is based on the beloved movie starring Will Ferrell — checks all the boxes: sweet, slightly sentimental story; bright, catchy tunes; humor that’s mostly edge-free but with a few subversive moments; and just enough emotion and nostalgia to make you feel warm and fuzzy about the Christmas season.
This is the second time time the Thalians have staged “Elf” since 2019, and under the direction of Chandler Davis it’s a well-presented, quickly paced show that packs a ton of fun into a two and a half hours.
Jeff Hidek returns in the title role of Buddy the Elf, who crawled into Santa’s sack as a toddler as was unwittingly brought back to the North Pole by the Big Guy (played by James Bowling in a successfully subtle, low-key turn as Santa). Santa’s elves raised Buddy as one of their own. Now an overgrown (for an elf) 30-year-old possessed of all the innocence in the world, the time has come for Buddy to travel to New York City to meet the dad he never knew he had, a Scrooge-like children’s book executive named Walter (Stuart Pike, giving the story’s villain a nasty edge and a nicely redemptive arc).
Hidek delivers the mix of cringe, sweetness and cluelessness the role of Buddy calls for, especially when interacting with his “human family:” stepmom Emily (Emily Graham, equal parts caring and no-nonsense) and half-brother Michael (Eduardo Flores, pure sweet-kid energy, with a lovely singing voice).
Stealing the show, however, might be Amy Carter as Jovie, Buddy’s cynical co-worker and love interest. Carter not only has a knockout voice but also delivers the show’s biggest moments of emotion when she lets her character’s jaded facade crack a bit to reveal the hurting, loving soul within.
The ensemble chips in as well, whether during the Act II-opening showstopper “Nobody Cares About Santa Claus” or when the talented children play elves and other roles.
Katie Richmond Deese’s band carries the tunes, and Samantha Ray Mifsud’s choreography and Jen Iapalucci’s costumes add plenty of sparkle.
If you need to get into the holiday spirit and fast, “Elf: The Musical” fits the bill.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16-18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18-19 at Thalian Hall. $32. 910-632-2285.
Have yourself a jazzy little Christmas when six-time Grammy-nominated singer Nnenna Freelon and North Carolina bandleader John Brown team up for an evening of holiday-themed jazz. Both are coming down from Durham for the show. Expect a mix of traditional arrangements, revamped classics and a few Christmas surprises. Freelon, who released a new album in March, her first in a decade, did a residency in Wilmington at UNCW in 2015.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at Kenan Auditorium, $35-$50. 910-962-3500.
After staging two stellar Christmas shows at Mayfaire over the past two weekends, you might think Wilmington’s Opera House Theatre Co. would be done for the holiday season. You’d be wrong, as Opera House is staging two more Christmas concerts this weekend.
Completing Opera House’s series of seasonal shows is its annual holiday revue “Hark the Herald Angels Swing” on Friday and Saturday nights and its Christmas cabaret and fundraiser on Sunday. Directed by Ray Kennedy, “Hark” is a collection of song and dance numbers featuring top performers and a holiday theme, while the cabaret will deliver an array of tuneful holiday hits.
Details: “Hark” is 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Blockade Runner in Wrightsville Beach. $85 includes meal and donation to Opera House. The cabaret is noon Dec. 19 at the Country Club of Landfall. $75 include brunch and donation to Opera House. OperaHouseTheatreCo.org.
Last call for “The Nutcracker”! The Wilmington Ballet Company and U.S. International Ballet present a cast of professional and amateur dancers in telling the timeless “Nutcracker” tale with the famous score by Tchaikovsky. This will be the last time Wilmington Ballet Co. founder Elizabeth Hester presents the Christmas favorite before turning over the company’s reins to Aunika Browne. With an appearance by the special needs A Chance To Dance program from Charlotte.
Details: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 3 p.m. Dec. 19 at CFCC Wilson Center, 703 N. Third St., Wilmington. Tickets start at $25. 910-362-7999 or WilsonCenterTickets.com
The Whoobie what, now? The Grinch is alive and well and, apparently, coming to Kure Beach for the holidays. Dress up like a citizen of Whoville, learn the identity of the 2021 Kure Beach Cheermeister (aka the person with the best-decorated home in Kure), and watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” while making Grinch crafts or getting your face painted (green). Features a special appearance by the Grinch himself.
Details: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 17, 105 Atlantic Ave., Kure Beach.
If you’re down for some good-hearted, holiday-skewering humor, Big Dawg Productions’ last four shows of this comedy runs through Sunday. Actors Steve Vernon, Randy Davis and Josh Bailey stuff as many Christmas show references as possible — from “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” to the Rankin-Bass TV specials and everything in between — into the 90-minute show. From the StarNews review by Bob Workmon: “An affectionate skewering of tradition and innocence (in which) funny is the premium value.”
Details: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16-18 and 3 p.m. Dec. 19 at Thalian Hall. $25. 910-632-2285.
If you miss out on holiday entertainment this weekend, here are a couple of options for next week:
This Christmas concert features an impressive array of top-notch vocalists performing carols and holiday songs. Soloists include mezzo soprano and Wilmington native Lucy Baker, a graduate student at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; longtime Wilmington vocal instructor and soprano Sara Westermark; and singers Caroline Braza (treble), George Potulov (tenor) and Bob Workman (tenor).
Accompaniment provided by John Sullivan on piano, with Hilary Flowers on cello and Clark Spencer on viola.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at St. James Episcopal Church, 25 S. Third St., Wilmington. Free. Donations to A Safe Place, which aid victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking, accepted.
Annual screening of the holiday movie classic at Thalian Hall. Lobby will be filled with holiday treats for all, as well as Thalian Hall director Tony Rivenbark’s toy collection. Details: 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 23 at Thalian Hall. 910-632-2285.
Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or [email protected]