Ten holiday shows to suit any mood or creed

Lemony Snicket's The Composer Is Dead
Berkeley Rep
Originally conceived as a piece for narrator and orchestra, The Composer Is Dead proved hugely successful upon its world premiere with the San Francisco Symphony in 2006, eventually making its way to several symphonies throughout North America. Now author Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) and composer Nathaniel Stookey have teamed up with director Tony Taccone, clown Geoff Hoyle, and the puppeteers of Phantom Limb to produce a fully staged version at Berkeley Rep. It's bound to be witty, grim, kid-pleasing fun, with just enough morbid humor to get you through the next round of holiday cocktail parties.

Nov. 26-Jan. 15 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $14.50-$73; 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org.

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes
Trannyshack
No San Francisco holiday would be complete without watching a group of drag queens play everyone's favorite AARP members. Heklina, Cookie Dough, Matthew Martin, and Pollo del Mar are back for another run at Dorothy, Sofia, Blanche, and Rose, respectively, with a special guest appearance by Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go's.

Dec. 2-23 at CounterPulse, 1310 Mission (at Ninth St.), S.F. $25; www.heklina.com.

A Christmas Carol
ACT
You've seen it parodied, you've seen it in CGI, and you've seen it with Bill Murray. But much like The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol is a chestnut that can please even the Scroogiest among us, no matter how many times we've roasted the damn thing on an open fire. ACT's slick, crowd-pleasing annual production is a fine holiday outing for anyone who prefers their Dickens straight — no irony, no in-jokes, and (mercifully) no Jim Carrey.

Dec. 2-24 at A.C.T., 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. $15-$103; 749-2228 or www.act-sf.org.

Cora Values' Christmas Corral
EXIT Theatre
If you prefer your Dickens served with a side of hash browns, then this might just be your new favorite Christmas show. Sean Owens, playwright-in-residence at EXIT Theatre, returns for another holiday gig as Cora Values, proprietor of the Gas 'N' Gulp on Interstate 19. Cora, you see, has unearthed a "forgotten literary classic" known as A Christmas Carol — the only problem is that she's missing a few pages. Distinctly non-Victorian hilarity ensues.

Dec. 3-11 at EXIT Cafe, 156 Eddy (at Mason), S.F. $15-$25; 931-1094 or www.sffringe.org.

Joyful Noise: A Gospel Celebration of Christmas
Lorraine Hansberry Theatre
If the phrase Joyful Noise doesn't ring a bell, that's because the show used to be called Black Nativity. But don't worry — the annual gospel tradition won't undergo a radical change just because it's changing its name. Musical director and star Robin Hodge-Williams is back for the fourth year in a row, and she knows better than to mess with success.

Dec. 10-31 at the Southside Theater, Fort Mason Center (Marina at Buchanan), Building D, S.F. $40-$50; 345-7575 or www.lhtsf.org.

Siddhartha, the Bright Path
Marsh Youth Theater
Looking for a family-friendly holiday musical that doesn't involve a bearded stranger shoving toys down your chimney? The Marsh offers an enlightening alternative. Siddhartha, the Bright Path premiered in San Francisco in 2007 before traveling to Dharamsala, India. Now the show returns for the holidays — just in time to spread the crazy idea that you can't make yourself happy just by accumulating more stuff.

Dec. 10-Jan. 9 at the Marsh, 1074 Valencia (at 22nd St.), S.F. $10-$50; 826-5750 or www.themarsh.org.

Candid
Sweet Can Productions
The holiday season can feel like a three-ring circus, so why not celebrate accordingly? Sweet Can Productions' kid-friendly Candid offers up an intimate showcase of acrobatics, juggling, and contortion throughout the second half of December, with a special holiday cabaret called Mittens and Mistletoe showing exclusively on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Dec. 17-Jan. 9 at Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St. (at Mission), S.F. $15-$60; 273-4633 or www.sweetcanproductions.com.

Mr. YooWho's Holiday
Theatre of Yugen
A combination of European clowning, Yiddish absurdism, and Kyogen-style Japanese comedy, Mr. YooWho's Holiday returns to NOHspace for another holiday run. Creator and star Moshe Cohen has appeared onstage in more than 40 countries over the course of 30 years; he keeps finding new techniques and influences to lend more subtlety and depth to his holiday hybrid.

Dec. 17-Jan. 2 at NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), S.F. $10-$15; 621-7978 or www.theatreofyugen.org.

Naughty and Nice: A Meg and Billy Christmas
Aurora Theatre
Meg Mackay and Billy Philadelphia, the cabaret duo who brought A Little Cole in Your Stocking to the Aurora stage in 2005 and 2006, are back with another holiday tribute to the Great American Songbook. As a bonus, audiences will be the first to see a production in Aurora's brand-spanking-new Nell and Jules Dashow Wing.

Dec. 17-30 at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $23-$25; 510-843-4822 or www.auroratheatre.org.

Kosher Comedy
Kung Pao
For every clan of WASPs gathered around the ancestral table to eat ham on Christmas Day, there's a lonely city dweller desperately looking for ways to avoid anything resembling the Baby Jesus. Why not distract yourself from the birth of Christ by taking in a little Jewish comedy at a Chinese restaurant? Kung Pao's 18th annual Kosher Comedy features Tonight Show vet Wendy Liebman, Vietnamese-Jewish comedian Joe Nguyen, and a roomful of urban heretics — so forget about the Messiah and have an egg roll already.

Dec. 23-26 at New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific (at Stockton), S.F. $42-$62; 925-275-9005 or www.koshercomedy.com.

 
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