There’s a lot to pick from this year when it comes to holiday entertainment in eastern Maine. Heartwarming plays and musicals. Multiple interpretations of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Vocal ensembles singing the music of the season. Ladies dancing, pipers piping, drummers drumming and so on. Please let us know if you see any swans a-swimming or geese a-laying. You might want to call the Audubon Society while you’re at it.
Here’s a long list of concerts, shows, revues and more to whet your appetite for holiday fun this month. Please contact local venues or theaters for complete ticket information.
Many in eastern Maine look forward each year to two perennial holiday favorites: Penobscot Theatre Co.’s annual December musical, and the Robinson Ballet and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet will be performed by the ballet and the orchestra at 2 and 7 p.m. on Dec. 20 and 3 p.m. on Dec. 21 at the Collins Center for the Arts. PTC’s production this year is “Matilda,” a Tony-winning musical adaptation of the Roald Dahl book, and a Maine premiere. Performances of this irreverent but heartfelt show are set for Dec. 5-29 at the Bangor Opera House.
Fun for all ages
If you want to introduce your littlest ones to two of the most beloved holiday stories, we have two recommendations. Bangor Ballet’s “Nutcracker in a Nutshell” — a condensed version of the ballet — is set for 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Gracie Theatre at Husson University in Bangor. There’s also Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers retelling of “The Grinch,” set for 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday at the Grand Theatre in Ellsworth, and 6 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor.
Looking for something for all ages? In Bar Harbor, Acadia Community Theatre presents “Closed for the Holidays,” a holiday comedy set for Friday and Saturday at the Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor, and Dec. 13 and 14 at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor. And for adult audiences, Penobscot Theatre and Improv Acadia have teamed up to offer “A Kick in your Dickens,” an improvised holiday show, with performances set for Dec. 12-29 at the theatre’s Dramatic Academy space at 51A Main St. in downtown Bangor; tickets are available at penobscottheatre.org.
Humbugs for everyone
There are a whopping four versions of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” being performed in eastern Maine this holiday season. If you plan it right, you just might be able to attend all of them! In Bangor, Ten Bucks Theatre presents a version of the tale as written by former Penobscot Theatre director Mark Torres, with local actor Ken Stack again playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Performances are set for Thursdays-Sundays, Dec. 5-15 at Ten Bucks’ Bangor Mall theater space.
There are two musical versions of the story of Scrooge this year. “A Musical Christmas Carol” is set for Dec. 13-15 and Dec. 20-22 at the Grand Theatre in Ellsworth, featuring all original songs from local writers. In Waldo County, the Belfast Maskers present “Bah Humbug! A Family Holiday Musical,” set for Dec. 6-8 and Dec. 13-15 at the Basil Burwell Community Theatre at 15 Court St. in Belfast. And a touring show from the Nebraska Theatre Caravan will bring a version of “A Christmas Carol” to the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono on Dec. 12.
Sacred or secular
There are many wonderful ways to hear the music of the season. Bangor has three great concerts coming up, starting with the annual Musica Sacra, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at St. John’s Catholic Church on York Street, featuring St. John’s Chamber Choir led by Kevin Birch. That same weekend, the University of Maine’s choral ensembles and student orchestra will perform their Yuletide Celebration program at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono.
The following weekend, the New Renaissance Singers give their holiday concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor. At 4 p.m. on Dec. 15, the Bangor Arts Exchange hosts the Winter Solstice Cello Fest, which features a multitude of local cellists playing the music of the season, led by the Bangor Symphony’s Noreen Silver.
On the midcoast, the Downeast Singers perform their holiday concert, with guests the Midcoast Brass Ensemble, on Dec. 13 at the Belfast Unitarian Church, and on Dec. 15 at the Rockport Opera House. In Blue Hill, the Blue Hill Bach Orchestra and Chorus will present Handel’s “Messiah” at 7 p.m. Dec. 14, at the Blue Hill First Congregational Church. And at 7 p.m. on Dec. 21 the local choral ensemble Divisi, led by Molly Webster, offers its annual holiday concert at the Bangor Arts Exchange.
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Swing around the Christmas tree
Celtic, jazz and more are on the bill for several Maine locales. Belfast will host the Mondaynite Jazz Orchestra’s Big Band Christmas, set for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Belfast Boathouse. At the Gracie Theatre at Husson University there’s A Celtic Christmas, featuring the Atlantic Canadian ensemble Coig, at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, while another Celtic ensemble, Lunasa, also performs a holiday show on Dec. 13 at the Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor. At 7 p.m. on Dec. 14, the Heather Pierson Jazz Trio will perform Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in its entirety at the Bangor Arts Exchange. And at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono, British a capella group the Swingles perform a holiday show at 7 p.m. on Dec. 17.