- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

Signs of the approaching season: shopping, eating and enjoying a holiday show.

The Washington area has dozens of ways for patrons of the arts to celebrate the season. From the Washington Ballet's annual performance of "The Nutcracker" to your local school's holiday pageant, anyone can get into the holiday spirit.

"The Nutcracker" is perhaps the most traditional Christmas show. The ballet dates to 1892, when composer Peter Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write a score to accompany a story by German writer E.T.A. Hoffman. It was performed only in Russia until 1934 and became popularized in the 1950s, when choreographer George Balanchine presented the "Nutcracker" most Americans have come to know.

The Washington Ballet has been performing "The Nutcracker" for more than 40 years. It is a massive production, featuring 200 pounds of flameproof artificial snow and a cast of more than 200 professional dancers and students at the Washington School of Ballet.

The Washington Ballet's performances of "The Nutcracker" begin at the Warner Theatre Friday and run through Dec. 20. Tickets range from $33 to $53. Tickets can be purchased by calling 202/432-7328.

For younger children, several local ballet companies have shortened versions of "The Nutcracker." The Alexandria Ballet has a 45-minute performance designed for children ages 3 to 11. Performances will take place today and Dec. 7, 8, 14, 21 and 22 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. Tickets are $12 for adults and $9 for children and are available by calling 703/548-0035.

Another holiday show suitable for the whole family is Adventure Theatre's "A Little House Christmas." The show is based on the much-loved "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, says Adventure Theatre Executive Director Tyler Whitmore.

"The show has all the same characters as in the book: Laura, Mary, Nellie," Ms. Whitmore says.

The show features local students in most of the roles. Kelsey Elving, a ninth-grader at Georgetown Day School, plays Laura Ingalls. Elizabeth Kauffman, a sophomore at Catholic University's Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, plays Mary.

The show runs Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. through Dec. 22 at the theater in Glen Echo Park. Tickets are $6. For reservations and information, call 301/320-5331.

Other notable shows:

•The Metropolitan Chorus, a group sponsored by Arlington County Parks and Recreation, is hosting its annual "Messiah" sing at 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, 601 N. Vermont St. Participants can sing along to Handel's masterpiece with the chorus members or just enjoy the music. Scores will be available for rent or purchase. Admission is free. For more information, call 703/933-2500.

•The Cathedral Choral Society, the resident symphonic chorus at Washington National Cathedral, will present its annual holiday concert, "The Joy of Christmas," at 4 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the cathedral, at Wisconsin and Massachusetts avenues NW. Tickets range from $15 to $48. For reservations and information, call 202/537-5527.

•Smithsonian Associates will present "Seasons of Light," at 10 and 11:30 a.m. beginning Tuesday and running through Dec. 20. The show, for children ages 5 to 11, will incorporate the traditions of many holidays, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Christmas, Ramadan and the winter solstice. The show will take place at the Smithsonian's Discovery Theater, located in the Arts and Industries Building, 900 Jefferson St. SW. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for children and $3 for Smithsonian Resident Associates members. Tickets can be purchased by calling 202/357-3030.

•The Washington Chorus will present "Music for Christmas" at the Kennedy Center. The show will feature 200 singers performing holiday favorites and accompanied by brass, percussion and organ. Performances are at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 15, 5 p.m. Dec. 22 and 2 p.m. Dec. 23. Tickets are $15 to $49. For more information, call 202/342-6221.

•The Young Artists Theater of Laurel will present "A Holiday Happening." This play, suitable for children ages 3 to 14 and their parents, is about a director who tries to put on a holiday musical against hilarious odds. The show features young students from the company's drama classes. Performances at the theater, located at Routes 29 and 216, will take place at various times tomorrow through Dec. 22. Tickets are $7. For more information, call 301/604-2844.

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