A Sun Staff Report

If you're already in the Christmas spirit, prepare to ratchet it up to the next level.

And if you're still waiting for that certain something to spark the Santa within, check out our list of upcoming events in the next few weeks.

From "Nutcracker" presentations to tree lightings, holiday fairs to Christmas caroling, visits with Santa Claus to holiday house tours, you're sure to find something on this page and the next to bolster your Christmas spirit or light the spark. And if you don't, we hope you find some other way to kick your holiday spirit into gear.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

The Concord Orchestra, conducted by Richard Pittman, presents a Holiday Family Concert on Saturday, Dec.

"Hip Hop Nutcracker" at Colonial Theatre in Boston on Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16. WWW.BOSTONTHEATER.COM
"Hip Hop Nutcracker" at Colonial Theatre in Boston on Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16. WWW.BOSTONTHEATER.COM
1, at 2 and 4 p.m.

The orchestra performs "The Composer is Dead," an amusing murder mystery with narration by Lemony Snicket and music by Nathaniel Stookey. Narrator Joyce Kulhawik is the inspector who interviews the instruments in the orchestra, who are all murder suspects.

Each section of the orchestra gets a chance to show off as the inspector questions them. There are many inside jokes about the instruments of the orchestra. For example, we learn that the first violins have the trickier parts to play, but the second violins "are more fun at parties." The violas complain that everyone forgets about them and that they have to stay late after performances to stack up the chairs.


Kulhawik is best known as the Emmy Award-winning arts and entertainment critic for CBS Boston WBZ-TV from 1981 to 2008. She has covered local and national events from Boston and Broadway to Hollywood and co-hosted movie-review shows with Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin.

Also on the program is the lively "Marche Joyeuse" by Chabrier. The Westford Academy Honors Orchestra joins the Concord Orchestra strings for David Diamond's "Rounds for String Orchestra," the composer's most joyous and frequently performed work. The 34 high-school students are led by director Ken Culver. They are mostly seniors with some select sophomores and juniors.

The performance concludes with a sing-along of holiday music.

David Coffee plays Ebenezer Scrooge at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly for the 25th straight year. WWW.NSMT.ORG
David Coffee plays Ebenezer Scrooge at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly for the 25th straight year. WWW.NSMT.ORG

Concord residents Grant Anderson, Jane Bailey, Veronica Kenney, Marilyn Kloss, Marian Levinstein, Barbara Marden, Bill Moran, Deborah Peirce, Siri Smedvig, Carol Steele and Carole Wayland play in the orchestra as volunteers.

Performances are at the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden in Concord. Tickets for adults are $20 at the door, $19 online. Tickets for children and young adults under 21 are $10. For tickets and information, call 978-369-4967 or visit www.concordorchestra.com.

Old Sturbridge Village is planning its biggest Christmas by Candlelight -- the living-history museum's annual celebration of New England holiday traditions, held on weekend evenings the first three weeks in December, as well as an additional Thursday evening on Dec.


An area of the museum will be transformed into the North Pole Village, complete with a Santa Claus experience that has families walking through a super-sized "The Night Before Christmas" storybook illustrated by acclaimed artist Charles Santore. Families can see a model railroad display, including the train set featured in the 2015 major motion-picture "Joy," and make crafts at a Christmas craft workshop.

Now in its 16th year, Christmas by Candlelight will once again transform the historic village into an enchanted winter wonderland. Christmas by Candlelight includes:

* Historic village decorated with hundreds of candles and thousands of feet of evergreen garland and wreaths.


* New England Christmas traditions brought to life by costumed historians and artisans.

* Regional musical groups and strolling carolers performing holiday classics.

* An extensive miniature nativity display with more than 500 figures.

* Professional and amateur bakers compete in a gingerbread-house contest.

* Visitors sing Christmas carols in a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh (snow permitting).

* Musical tree-lighting ceremony kicks off each evening's festivities.

* Outdoor marketplace features holiday snacks, drinks, gifts and a roaring bonfire.

Also, the Bullard Tavern, Oliver Wight Tavern, Museum Store, and the Old Sturbridge Inn & Reeder Family Lodges will be open for holiday dining, shopping and lodging during Christmas by Candlelight.

Admission is $28 for adults, $14 for 4-12, and free for ages 3 and younger; purchase online at www.osv.org/cbc or call 800-SEE-1830.

Seacoast Repertory Theatre presents its holiday musical, "Annie," running Nov. 29 through Dec. 23.

"Annie" is a timeless musical about a plucky red-headed orphan who goes from a dingy orphanage to the lap of luxury in New York City to stay at billionaire Oliver Warbucks' mansion for a week during the holidays. When Annie wins the hearts of Warbucks and his staff, they set out on a mission to find her parents. Meanwhile, the conniving Miss Hannigan, who runs the orphanage, in partnership with her brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily, attempt to make some money out of this unique situation. The stories become intertwined as the lovable Annie's story hits the national spotlight -- and the president's desk.

The winner of seven Tonys, including Best Musical, Annie is a Broadway smash that features such iconic songs as "Hard Knock Life," "Tomorrow" and "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile."

A preview performance will be held Thursday, Nov. 29. After that, showtimes are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., through Dec. 23. Tickets are available online at https://red.vendini.com, or through the box office at 603-433-4472, Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents its annual "ChristmasTime" spectacular Dec. 1-9, at 617 Lexington St., Waltham. Reagle's beloved Christmas show has been transporting family audiences for more than three decades with a cornucopia of holiday magic from heartwarming choral numbers to the eye-popping tap routines of precision dancers. Yuletide magic includes the delightful Teddy Bears' Nutcracker, Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, Santa's Workshop, Precision Dancers, Victorian Christmas and the inspirational Living Nativity that captures the true meaning of the season.

"ChristmasTime" will run for nine performances -- Saturday, Dec. 1 at noon and 4 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 2, at noon and 4 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8, at noon and 4 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 9, at noon and 4 p.m.

Tickets range from $39 to $66; discounts apply for youths, groups of 10 or more, and seniors. Purchase at www.reaglemusictheatre.org, by calling 781-891-5600, or at the theater box office.

The Boch Center Wang Theatre hosts "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" through Dec. 9. Tony-nominated Gavin Lee plays the title role. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased online at Bochcenter.org, by calling 800)-982-2787, or via Ticketmaster.

"Hip Hop Nutcracker" offers a different interpretation of a classic story. Bringing the traditional "Nutcracker" story to life in modern-day New York City, it reimagines and remixes Tchaikovsky's classic score through explosive hip-hop choreography using a dozen all-star dancers, an on-stage DJ and an electric violinist to bring a contemporary vibe to the production.

It hip-hops into the Colonial Theatre in Boston on Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16. Visit www.hiphopnutcracker.com for more information.

The Holiday Carnival in Mystic, Conn., is Saturday, Dec. 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It includes free entertainment all afternoon. The Fly-by-Night Comedy Jugglers will delight audiences of all ages, and children can meet at the Duck Pond for a live Birds of Prey demonstration from 2 to 2:45 p.m., hosted by the Denison-Pequotsepos Nature Center.

The Mystic River Chorale will serenade visitors as they stroll the village from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ledyard High School Choir will also roam the village, singing holiday classics from 1 to 3 p.m. The Vince Thompson Band will play from 1 to 3 p.m. Nancy & Kevin will appear at the Gazebo from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., followed by the Festive Brass Band from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Children can do some holiday shopping at the very popular Santa's Workshop at the Meeting House from noon to 4 p.m. Santa's elf will assist children in selecting that special gift in a store designed just for them. All items will be priced under $10, and proceeds will benefit Project Outreach, a student organization based upon volunteerism and advocacy.

The Mystic Luxury Cinema will have a free showing of "Polar Express" at 1:30. A donated canned item is requested but not necessary for entrance. Donations will benefit the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center. Everyone is invited.

Santa will be in front of Raining Cats & Dogs for photos with pets only from 1 to 3 p.m., with proceeds going to charity.

The Cannon Theatre, 410 Great Road in Chelmsford, presents a different twist on the old classic -- "A Christmas Carol Radio Show." The story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future is just as charming and heart-warming when presented as a 1940s radio show.

Shows are Friday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 8, at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Get tickets at www.onthestage.com/the-cannon-theatre.

John Hancock Hall will host eight performances of "What the Dickens!," a contemporary dance-theater rendition of Charles Dickens' timely classic, "A Christmas Carol," that includes ballet, tap, hip hop, flamenco, projections, narration and more.

The production, presented by Deborah Mason's Cambridge Youth Dance Company and a roster of stellar guest artists (and some surprise appearances!), runs Dec. 14-23, with showtimes Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $65-$25; purchase at www.cydp.org. John Hancock Hall is at 180 Berkeley St., Boston.

The Concord Museum is celebrating its 23rd annual "Family Trees: A Celebration of Children's Literature" through Jan. 1.

Admire 31 fancifully decorated holiday trees and wreaths inspired by themes from children's literature throughout the museum's new Rasmussen Education Center. This year, award-winning children's book author and illustrator Melissa Sweet is serving as honorary chair.

"'Family Trees' combines two things I loved growing up: books and making things," Sweet says, "and it's no surprise that I ended up becoming a picture-book artist and writer. It's been an honor to have more than one of my books interpreted over the years in this festive event. The trees bring the books to life in a kind of visual storytelling. They are a creative delight!"

Concord Museum has other holiday events lined up as well, including:

The Fete, Friday, Nov. 30, 7-9 p.m.: An evening with signature cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a visit to "Family Trees"; organized by the Guild of Volunteers and supports the museum's educational initiatives; tickets required.

8th annual Holiday House Tour, Saturday, Dec. 1, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.: Tour a selection of Concord's most beautiful private homes, professionally decorated in the holiday spirit by local and nationally renowned interior designers; pick up programs for the day at the Wright Tavern after 10 a.m.; $40 for museum members, $45 for non-members ($45 and $50 after Nov. 30); www.concordmuseum.org or 978-369-9763, ext. 216.

With Santa, Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Enjoy a delightful visit and photo with Santa, as well as a number of engaging seasonal crafts and activities, including face painting, treasure hunts, cookie-decorating, letters to Santa and more; organized by the Guild of Volunteers; reservations required; $25 for members' children (adults free), $30 for non-members' children ($10 for adults).

Costumed Character Days, Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16, 1-3 p.m.: Meet Pete, the famous groovy blue cat from the brain of Kimberly and James Dean, as well as award-winning musician Eric Litwin; free with admission.

The sixth annual Sea Festival of Trees Holiday Wonderland started in Salisbury with a tree-lighting on Nov. 17, but you still have a chance to catch some of the activities to support the Salisbury Beach Partnership's fund to bring back the historic carousel known to visitors as The Broadway Flying Horses. You can check out the trees Thursday, Nov. 29, 5-9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30, 5-9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Here are some of the remaining activities.

Sip, Stroll & Shop Ladies Night, Thursday, Nov. 29, 6-9 p.m.: Hosted by 92.5 FM The River morning DJ Dana Marshall, the ladies night out features cocktail mixology and sampling, holiday demonstrations by a local spa, florist and dessert-maker, 20 percent off at By the Sea Gift Shop, amazing door prizes and more.

Meet Official Bruins Mascot Blades the Bruin, Friday, Nov. 30, 6-8 p.m.: Includes photo ops and a chance to win Bruins tickets.

Polar Express Pajama Party Brunch, Sunday, Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-noon: Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury hosts this event, which includes a full brunch, a reading of "The Polar Express" book by a jovial conductor, a "Polar Express"-themed scavenger hunt through the Sea Festival of Trees, hot cocoa and homemade fudge brownies delivered by servers in white chef coats and hats, a visit from Santa and a keepsake silver bell for every child from Santa's elves; $35; 978-462-5888.

Boston Ballet's production of Mikko Nissinen's "The Nutcracker" opens Thursday, Nov. 29, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 30, at Boston Opera House.

Since its world premiere in 2012, Mikko Nissinen and Robert Perdziola's re-envisioned production has been delighting audiences and critics alike.

There will be an "All-Access Nutcracker" presentation Sunday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m., featuring additional accommodations, events and support designed to make the show more accessible and enjoyable for the community, including, large-print programs, live audio description, audio-enhanced equipment, ASL interpretation, specialized seating options, and a digital "social story" to preview the Opera House experience and story of "The Nutcracker."

Also, on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m., there will be a "Nutcracker Study Break Night" for college students to relax during exam week with a pre-performance concert by the Boston College Acoustics and student discounts at the Boston Ballet Shop.

Finally, there will be a "Corporate Night at The Nutcracker" on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 5 p.m., for business leaders, clients and staff to experience the beloved holiday classic with a cocktail reception, character meet-and-greet, and exclusive behind-the-scenes tour, followed by the performance.

The Boston Opera House is at 539 Washington St., Boston. Tickets start at $37; visit www.bostonballet.org/nutcracker, or call 617.695.6955.

North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly will once again present "A Christmas Carol" from Friday, Dec. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 23, featuring David Coffee as Ebenezer Scrooge and Cheryl McMahon as Mrs. Dilber, both celebrating 25 years with the show.

Tickets are $64-$79, with children 18 and under $35. Evening shows start at 7:30, while matinees start at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets by call 978-232-7200, visiting www.nsmt.org, or in person at 62 Dunham Road, Beverly.

Toys for Tiny Tim's Toy Drive will be collected in the lobby during all performances.

The Westford Family FunFest and the Westford Business Association present the sixth annual Festival of Trees, Wreaths and Creative Holiday & Gingerbread Celebration from Dec. 7-27, at the Westford Regency Inn, 219 Littleton Road.

The Regency's atrium and lobby walls will be decorated with trees, wreaths, and creative holiday and gingerbread creations.

Opening night is Friday, Dec. 7, 6-8 p.m., with music, light refreshments and more.

The Macaroni Kid's second annual Candy Cane Hunt, Scavenger Hunt & Holiday Fair for all ages is Saturday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; free admission; visit www.lowell.macaronikid.com.

Kids have two chances to have Breakfast with Santa, on Saturday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 15, 8-11:30 a.m.; bring your own camera for free photos; Westford Girl Scouts will provide crafts and music; for reservations call 978-692-8200, ext. 520.

Make an ornament and put it on the Community Tree from Dec. 6-12;l the tree will be part of a silent auction, and money raised will go toward local sponsored organizations.