There are two extreme reactions around the holiday season: people who “Deck The Halls” while humming the song unironically, and folks who go out of their way to avoid as much of the season as they possibly can. If you’re the former, then you should go straight on to this list of 10 holiday-themed shows.
But for those other folks, the ones who could do without endless consumerism, grumpy men in red suits, and that god-awful music on repeat in public places, this is the list for you.
While others will seeing It’s a Wonderful Life for the 5th time straight, you’ll be strolling down The Drive to some different tunes, Panto-style. While those bushy-eyed chums take in yet another choral arrangement of the same old mall tunes, you’ll be solving interrelated murder mysteries or falling under the spell of an unauthorized Harry Potter production.
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For the Scrooges in all of us, here are 10 anti-holiday shows to mix up the most wonderful time of the year.
In East Vancouver’s proud alternative tradition to stock holiday shows, Panto takes over the York Theatre with new twists on old fables. Like a well-crafted Pixar movie, the show mixes kid-pleasing antics with adult-pleasing jokes.
Where: York Theatre — 639 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
When:November 23 to December 31
Tickets: From The Cultch, $10-$65
Just like you, these kids don’t quite fit into their surroundings. Six adult actors play tweens vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime — or, the solid guarantee that they’ll never, ever run with the cool kids. Six spellers enter; one speller leaves. At least the losers get a juice box. Get your dictionaries out for this geeky story of the ultimate underdogs.
Where: Pal Studio Theatre – 581 Cardero Street, Vancouver
When: November 23 to December 10
Tickets: From Vendini, $35-$40
Showing that you don’t need the obvious swelling orchestral score to make audiences care, CREEPS boldly sweeps in the door with three cast members from the disability community, performing alongside four professional local actors. This dark comedy about four disabled men marked one of the first times a Canadian play openly addressed discrimination in such a raw, gritty manner. Realwheels’ production demonstrates how far we’ve come, while reminding us how far we have yet to go.
Where: Historic Theatre at the Cultch — 1895 Venables Street, Vancouver
When: December 1 to 10
Tickets: From The Cultch, $18-$40
Aim for the Roses might be the ultimate anti-holiday movie. You could categorize it as a documentary, but the film also has major silver screen elements lovingly crafted by Vancouverite John Bolton, all in the painstaking recreation of a little-known Canadian stuntman. Backed by a haunting and bizarre soundtrack by local composer Mark Haney, Aim for the Roses needs to seen in order to be believed, and is a surefire way to stick it to those lipid holiday films.
Where: Vancity Theatre – 1181 Seymour St, Vancouver
When: December 2 to 8
Tickets: At Vancity Theatre, $12
Here’s a new twist on the holiday shows — The Mystery Plays is a chilling holiday thriller, presented in two interrelated one acts. Up-and-coming director Madelyn Osborne explores an obsession for horror movies in The Filmmaker’s Mystery, about a terrible trainwreck, and Ghost Children, about making peace with a brutal murderer. The content wrestles meaningfully with some hefty ideas: the mysteries of death, the afterlife, religion, faith, and forgiveness. Here’s to your true Winter Wonderland… lying six feet underground.
Where: Havana Theatre — 1212 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
When: December 6 to 10
Tickets: At Brown Paper Tickets, $20
The Santaland Diaries is based on David Sedaris’ hilarious book of the same name. Adapted by Joe Mantello and starring North Vancouver’s Alan Marriott as Crumpet, the play gives audiences an in-depth look into the secret lives of elves…or at least the ones who work at Macy’s department store in New York City. The Santaland Diaries is loaded with mature content, so it might be best to leave the little ones behind to recreate Home Alone… the first film, of course.
Where: Presentation House Theatre — 333 Chesterfield Avenue, North Vancouver
When: December 8 to 17
Tickets: From Presentation House, $20-$25
We had to include at least one more show that didn’t scare the pants off of the kids, and Alice in Wonderland fits the bill for least amount of canned holiday traditions. A visually stunning production that combines all of Lewis Carroll’s best moments from the books, the cast of 11 runs around bringing over 50 characters to life. The production is from Alchemy Theatre, an emerging group known for producing alternative theatrical works, as well as old classics with a new spin.
Where: Studio 1398 — 1398 Cartwright Street, Vancouver
When: December 8 to 18
Tickets: At Alchemy Theatre, $14.50-$25
Blink and miss this remount, but if you’re hankering for meatier substance in the midst of holiday fluff, you’ll be sad that you did. Called a “compassionate comedy,” The Mirror Test is about all the real stuff in life: body image, obesity, masculinity, self-image. When you look in the mirror, do you like the person you see?
Where: The Orpheum Annex — 823 Seymour Street, Vancouver
When: December 9 to 10
Tickets: From KOKOSKACO, $20
With the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, HP is back on top and these two performers are scrappily cashing in on the craze. Admit it, a Harry Potter parody sounds so much better than sitting through another two hour Christmas show. This unauthorized production crams all seven original books into 70 minutes, and is for both loyal fans and the uninitiated (if any of those still exist).
Where: Vogue Theatre — 918 Granville St, Vancouver
When: December 13 to 24
Tickets: From Vogue Theatre, $20-$100
If you have to sit through one choral concert this holiday season, make it the blues-jazz-folk inspired Ding Dong with musica intima. This marks the vocal ensemble’s first dive into non-traditional Christmas music, featuring grumpy and dirty classics spanning over the last century. Feel part of the flock with everything from Pentatonix to Sara Bareilles to Ingrid Michaelson, mixed in with catchy tunes like A Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis and Rebel Jesus.
Where: The Anza Club — 3 W 8th Ave, Vancouver
When: December 20
Tickets: From Eventbrite, $20