December arts, music, events calendar

It’s hard to believe it’s the last month of 2018. Did you get to do everything you wanted to this year? For most of us the answer is “no,” but there’s still time to squeeze in some last minute adventures. The Bay Area has made sure the last weeks of the year are far from boring, so be merry and revel in the festivities we’ve compiled for December. The holiday spirit is contagious — don’t fight it! To help you close out 2018, BART is here to provide convenient transportation to all the events below.

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Holiday Concert (Dec. 1) at 19th St./Oakland

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir’s 33rd holiday concert is called “With One Voice” and it will be hosted by D’Wayne Wiggins, who is a founding member of Tony! Toni! Toné! And has worked with artists such as Beyoncé, Kehlani and Alicia Keys. Special guests for the concert include Lauren Byrd, Jacoree, and Half-n-Half, who will provide ASL interpretation. Tickets range from $14-$44 and can be bought online. Take BART to 19th St./Oakland and walk 2 minutes to Paramount Theatre.

Chronicle Chats

Chronicle Chats (Dec. 4) at Powell Street

Did you know The San Francisco Chronicle hosts an ongoing series of events discussing issues impacting the Bay Area? On Dec. 4, join San Francisco prima ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan, chef Mourad Lahlou, novelist Thi Bui, and singer Diana Gameros in an evening of live performance, conversation and treats as they share their immigration experience and reveal how being here has allowed them to flourish as artists. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 8 minutes to the Herbst Theatre. 

Crazy for You (Ends Dec. 6) at Powell Street

Crazy for You — winner of the Tony and Olivier awards for Best Musical — has wowed audiences on Broadway, the West End and around the world, reclaiming Gershwin songs into a book musical. Bay Area Musicals is providing an intimate version of the large scale musical, featuring the original Tony-winning choreography of Susan Stroman. See the zany rich-boy-meets-hometown-girl romantic comedy come to life on stage. Tickets range from $20-$100 and can be bought online. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 12 minutes to Alcazar Theatre.

ACT presents “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 6-29) at Powell Street

Featuring a lively cast of dozens, gorgeous costumes, and those deliciously spooky ghosts, the Bay Area's favorite holiday tradition returns with a sparkling, music-infused production of A Christmas Carol. Bring your family, bring your friends and check your "humbugs" at the door! Tickets range from $15-$85 and can be bought online. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 7 minutes to Geary Theater.

Opera Parallèle "The Little Prince" (Dec. 7-9) at Powell Street

Academy Award-winning English composer Rachel Portman’s “The Little Prince” returns for a second year at Opera Parallèle. The opera will be performed in two acts and will come with a twist, in collaboration with San Francisco Girls Chorus. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic tale will take on even more universal appeal with this performance; the principal characters will be played by women and girls. The characters will interact with each other and the production’s animation as they explore the universe in search of love, meaning and the answers to some of life’s biggest puzzles. Tickets range from $55-$75 and can be bought online. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 11 minutes to Marines’ Memorial Theatre.

Artwork courtesy of ODC/Dance.

The Velveteen Rabbit (Ends Dec. 9) at Montgomery Street

Margery Williams’ tale of a well-worn nursery rabbit coming to life — The Velveteen Rabbit — can now be enjoyed through music and dance, thanks to ODC/Dance. The Velveteen Rabbit celebrates a special relationship between a little boy and his stuffed rabbit, and the enduring power of love. ODC/Dance is presenting its 32nd season of the beloved Bay Area production, and there will be no shortage of wit, festive costumes, madcap characters and holiday cheer. Tickets range from $19.50 to $24.50 and can be bought online. Take BART to Montgomery Street and walk 5 minutes to YBCA.

Each year, the SF Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band blends Tchaikovsky’s classic Nutcracker Suite with a fun theme - this year is no exception with "Clara Potter and the Elder Baton". The result: a fun-filled musical production brimming with wit, artistry and ingenuity for witches and wizards of all ages! The talented cast sings and dances their way through a parody version of the Nutcracker. And when the “Dance-Along” sign flashes, the audience is invited to tug on their tutus and sashay along with the cast. Even audience members who don’t want to dance have a blast!  Take BART to Montgomery Street and walk 5 minutes to YBCA.
“Everything is Illuminated” tells the story of a young Jewish-American writer who embarks on a trip to Ukraine, in hopes to find the woman who he believes saved his grandfather from the Nazis — and to also find a town the Nazis wiped off the map. Guiding Jonathan on his tour are a pair of flamboyant Ukrainians, a grandfather and grandson and a dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. Along the way, they collide with increasingly surreal characters that merge the past and present. Come witness their adventure and see what Broadway World calls “riveting...masterful...the journey and the payoff are huge.” Tickets can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk 2 minutes to Aurora Theatre.

Photo courtesy of SFJAZZ.

Joey Alexander (Dec. 13-16) at Civic Center/UN Plaza

Jazz pianist Joey Alexander is only 15 years old, but possesses an expressive range and musical maturity that confounds the stereotypical definition of a jazz prodigy. The Bali-born Alexander has performed at the 2016 Grammy awards and the White House, has had a feature segment on 60 Minutes, and has appeared at a TED conference and on the Today show. He will be playing material from his 2017 Motéma release Eclipse and a few holiday tunes from his new EP A Joey Alexander Christmas, joined by guest saxophonist Chris Potter. The young star is championed by legends Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis. Tickets are $35-$95 and can be bought online. Take BART to Civic Center/UN Plaza and walk 12 minutes to SFJAZZ.

Smuin’s “The Christmas Ballet” (Dec. 13-24) at Montgomery Street

The weather outside may be frightful, but The Christmas Ballet is oh-so-delightful. This Bay Area favorite returns to kick off the holidays in 2018 with two acts packed to the brim with the best of both worlds: flawless classical ballet and red-hot contemporary numbers. Tickets range from $34-$91 and can be bought online. Take BART to Montgomery Street and walk 5 minutes to YBCA.

SFCMP Free Community Concert (Dec. 16) at 16th St. Mission

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) offers Bay Area audiences world-class contemporary classical music performances, and it’s now celebrating its 47th season. Each year, SFCMP hosts community events that explore contemporary music in a festive atmosphere. Its event this year invites the audience to add their voices to the musical recitation of an ancient Confucian text. Guests will be able to enjoy singing, good vibes and sonic meditation. Admission is free and the event is family-friendly.  Take BART to 16th St. Mission and walk 8 minutes to The Women’s Building.

Photo courtesy of African-American Shakespeare Company.

African-American Shakespeare Company presents “Cinderella” (Dec. 21-23) 

Back by popular demand, the holiday season once again sees the return of this heartwarming holiday show where Cinderella, a young, beautiful dreamer, toiling away as a lowly scullery maid to please her evil stepmother (and masculine stepsisters) comes in contact with a Fairy Godmother who means business with a capital B. Aided by the help of a little bit of magic, Cinderella finds her Prince Charming and learns that anything — even miracles — are possible when you believe in yourself. This holiday treat for the entire family has been delighting audiences for over 24 years. Tickets range from $25-$45 and can be bought online. Take BART to Civic Center and walk 9 minutes to Herbst Theatre.

‘Tis the Symphony (Dec. 22) at Walnut Creek

“The Snowman” — nominated for an Oscar in 1983 — is an animated short film about a boy who builds a snowman that then comes to life. It will be shown at the California Symphony, where guests can watch it on the big screen while the Symphony and the Pacific Boychoir Academy perform the soundtrack live. It’s a great way for holiday lovers of all ages to get into the spirit of the season. Guests who come early can enjoy mulled wine, cocoa and free activities in the Hofmann Lobbyies, starting one hour before curtain. Tickets range from $52-$82 and can be bought online. Take BART to Walnut Creek and walk 12 minutes to Hofmann Theatre at the Lescher Center of the Arts.

Photo courtesy of Oakland Ballet.

Graham Lustig’s “The Nutcracker” (Dec. 22-23) at 19th St. Oakland

Oakland Ballet Company and its artistic director, Graham Lustig, are bringing the Nutcracker and the spirit of the holidays to life. Guests will get to cheer on Marie and her soldiers as she rescues the Nutcracker Prince, and then soars to the Land of Sweets where luscious treats await. The Oakland Symphony and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir will be performing Tchaikovsky’s classic score. Tickets range from $17-$88 and can be bought online. Take BART to 19th St. Oakland and walk 2 minutes to Paramount Theatre.

The Craneway Craft Fair takes place December 22 and 23 from 10am-5pm both days in the gorgeous Craneway Pavilion on the Richmond waterfront.  The Fair showcases 200 juried and diverse exhibitors, including both master artisans and emerging newcomers. Their original art and crafts fill the pavilion along with fair trade and non-profit vendors, live entertainment, and gourmet foods. Stop by for your last minute shopping.  Admission is $12 for ages 18-64, $8 for Seniors and ADA and free for under 18.  Take BART to Richmond and jump on the free shuttle.

The Great Dickens Fair (Ends Dec. 23) at Balboa Park

Enjoy a Victorian Christmas card come to life! Enter the world of Charles Dickens' Victorian London, where it's always Christmas Eve and the streets resound with revelry of the season. Lively calls of street vendors ring out and mingle with holiday carolers, tempting aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air and enticing shops overflow with one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts. Take BART to Balboa Park and hop on a free shuttle to the fair.

New Year’s Eve with Hot Tuna! (Dec. 29-31) at Downtown Berkeley

Hot Tuna started as a side project during Jefferson Airplane days, and two of its founding members — Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady — are performing at Freight & Salvage for the last few days of 2018. The two started playing together as teenagers near Washington DC, then spent years exploring psylodelic rock in San Francisco. They have spent the last 50 years leading up to their current acoustic and electric blues sound and building one of the most enduring friendships in rock history. The two are 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees and Lifetime Achievement Award winners at the 2016 Grammys. Tickets for their show range from $42-$46 and can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk 3 minutes to Freight & Salvage.

Photo courtesy of Winter Walk SF’s website.

Winter Walk SF (Ends Dec. 31) at Powell Street

For five weeks, locals and visitors to San Francisco can enjoy holiday decor, food and craft beverages curated by Off the Grid, family-friendly activities, art, community performances and entertainment, sponsored activations and 17,000 square feet of open green space — all right next to Union Square Park. This holiday pop-up pedestrian plaza will be open from 9am to 9pm everyday on Stockton Street between Geary and Ellis until Dec. 30. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 3 minutes to the plaza area.

Winter Park at Civic Center (Ends Jan. 6) at Civic Center/UN Plaza

The Winter Park is the first attraction of its kind in the Bay Area. Located in the historic Civic Center Plaza, there will both an ice rink and 400-foot skating track, letting guests weave through a lighted tree forest. The park will also feature special events such as a holiday tree lighting ceremony, curling lessons and iHeart Wednesday dance parties. Tickets range from $15-$20 and can be bought online. Take BART to Civic Center/UN Plaza and walk 4 minutes to Civic Center Plaza.

Arcadia (Ends Jan. 6) at Ashby

Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece “Arcadia” is set on a country estate between 1809 and the late 20th century, and it explores mathematics, landscape gardening, Byron and the undeniable power of the human heart. Tickets range from $8-$52 and can be bought online. Take BART to Ashby Theatre and walk 4 minutes to the Ashby Stage.

Photo courtesy of Embarcadero Center.

Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center (Ends Jan. 6) at Embarcadero

Delighting families, couples and ice skating enthusiasts for over 26 years, the Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center opens each winter for nine magical, fun-filled weeks. Get ready to skate under the sun and stars along the beautiful waterfront at the largest outdoor rink in San Francisco. Tickets range from $7-$12. Take BART to Embarcadero and walk 4 minutes to Embarcadero Plaza.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Christmas Show (Ends Jan. 6) at Powell Street

Give your young ones the holiday treat they deserve by taking them to a Christmas show at Bay Area Children’s Theatre. This one will include colorful giant puppets in a new production inspired by Eric Carle’s beloved stories, including Dream Show, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Along with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Recommended for ages 3 to 8. Tickets range from $65-$85 and can be bought online. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 9 minutes to the Children’s Creativity Museum.

Exploratorium Holidays (Ends Jan. 20) at Embarcadero

Exploratorium’s holiday exhibits include “Curious Contraptions” and “Glow.” Curious Contraptions explores surreal worlds through mechanical sculptures known as automata — which are brought to life by intricate arrangements of handmade cams, cranks and other simple mechanisms. They each perform an absurd miniature drama — sometimes a myth or fairy tale — while also revealing a sense of humor. Exhibit runs through Jan. 20.

“Glow” is the museum’s annual festival of lights. Guests can bask in the mesmerizing gleams of special installations and kinetic sculptures. Illuminating exhibits, scintillating activities and special guest artists and experiences are sure to delight. Exhibit runs from Dec. 6 to Jan. 6. Take BART to Embarcadero and walk 15 minutes to the Exploratorium.

Walnut Creek on Ice (Ends Jan. 21)

Walnut Creek on Ice returns for its 14th season, and is open Monday through Thursday noon to 8pm, Friday noon to 11pm, Saturday 11am to 11pm and Sunday 11am to 8pm. Admission is $12-$18. Take BART to Walnut Creek and catch County Connection Route 4, affectionately known to locals as the “Free Ride Trolley.” Yes, the trolley ride is free and drops you off right at the rink.

Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square (Ends Jan. 21)

The Holiday Ice Rink will be open from 10am to 11:30pm with 90-minute skating sessions starting on every even hour (10am, noon, 2pm … you get the idea). Admission is $18 for adults and $13 for children (eight and under). There will be various themed evenings throughout the season, such as “Drag Queens on Ice” and a “Silent Skate Party.” Take BART to Powell Street and walk 7 minutes to Union Square.

Cirque du Soleil “Volta” (Ends Feb. 3) at Embarcadero

Those that love the thrill around extreme sports will love Cirque du Soleil’s VOLTA. Never-before-seen Big Top acrobatics will be paired with a stirring melodic score and set in a visually striking world. There will also be performances involving ballet, rope skipping and BMX biking. VOLTA is centered around self-discovery and unveiling your personal powers. Tickets range from $54-$290 and can be bought online. Take BART to Embarcadero and walk, bike, or take a MUNI or rideshare to AT&T Park.

Artwork courtesy of Bay Area Children’s Theater.

Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure (Ends Feb. 10) at Downtown Berkeley

Lewis Carroll’s characters from his beloved tales will be coming to life in this lively rock and roll performance. Bring your family and tumble into Wonderland, where everything will get “curiouser and curiouser” as Alice questions who she is and what her destiny will be. Recommended for ages 5 to 12. Tickets range from $17-$28 and can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk 2 minutes to the BACT Berkeley Center, The Osher Studio.

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