Embrace the holidays with both new and familiar live productions around the region


Ellen Travolta is celebrating her 10th annual holiday show at the Coeur d’Alene Resort by collecting some of her favorite material from her hit productions of Christmases past, such as “Christmas with a Twist” and “Christmas Miracles.” It’s being billed as “THE BEST OF CHRISTMAS.”

“I call it ‘best of,’ but I think I like ‘highlights’ more,” Travolta says. “And we’re doing new stuff too. We’re doing some stuff that’s never been done before, never been seen before.”

Quibbles about the title notwithstanding, this year’s event retains the intimate, relaxed variety format that has earned Travolta such a devoted holiday audience over the years. It will include a mix of songs, stories and skits, enlivened with anecdotes and contributions from Travolta herself as well as her sister Margaret and her daughter Molly Allen.

The trio of Travolta family members are accompanied onstage by top-tier performers who are well known throughout the region: cabaret singers Abbey Crawford and Mark Cotter, plus musicians Jenny Shotwell (piano) and Eugene Jablonski (upright bass). They’ll be performing the tunes that go hand in hand with the holiday season. The show itself is being directed once again by a luminary of the regional theater scene, Troy Nickerson.

Apart from the standard performance tickets, the Coeur d’Alene Resort has also put together accommodation and dining packages for audience members who want to make “The Best of Christmas” part of a larger holiday getaway and enjoy Coeur d’Alene at its most festive.

“It’s a wonderful way to start the holiday season,” Travolta says, “with warm performers who are incredibly talented. Sharing stories, singing songs, making you laugh.”

Nov. 25-Dec. 18, Thu-Sat at 7:30 pm, Sun at 5 pm, $35, Coeur d’Alene Resort, 115 S. Second St., cdachristmas.com

Nov. 25-Dec. 18

No matter how familiar Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale might seem, its message never gets old. Because we all want to believe that even the frostiest, most jaded individuals can discover the true spirit of the season. With this popular, brisk adaptation by the late Barbara Field, the Spokane Civic Theatre will make it possible for audience members of all ages to delight in Dickens’ ghost story and take part in this holiday tradition. This production is co-directed by longtime Civic stalwarts Bryan Durbin and Kearney Jordan. Thu-Sat at 7:30 pm, Sun at 2 pm, $35, Spokane Civic Theatre, 1020 N. Howard St., spokanecivictheatre.com

Dec. 1-4

Year after year, the State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara and the Spokane Symphony have paired their talents around the holidays to put on The Nutcracker, a ballet based on an E.T.A. Hoffman short story and famous for its score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. And while many might initially be drawn to this annual production for the iconic twinkle of the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” it’s the graceful choreography, the stunning set design and the amazing music that make this such a memorable occasion. Thu-Sat at 7:30 pm, Sat and Sun at 3 pm, $25-$99, Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, 1001 W. Sprague Ave., spokanesymphony.org

Fridays in December

Ever since on-demand videostreaming took off, so has the production of saccharine seasonal movies about chance encounters with royalty and happily-ever-after winter romances. In fact, even now they’re probably starting to flood the libraries of your favorite streaming services. Fortunately, the improv troupe at Blue Door Theatre aren’t having any of it. Every Friday in December, their “Ha!!mark Holiday Special” satirizes the entire genre with a totally improvised, madcap version of the sappy flicks you know and love. Love ironically, of course. Right? 7:30 pm, $8, Blue Door Theatre, 815 W. Garland Ave., bluedoortheatre.com

Dec. 2-11

In a tiny Texas town, the Futrelle sisters aren’t really feeling the Christmas spirit. Frankie is pregnant with her second set of twins. Twink, bitter over a recent jilting, is in jail for arson. Meanwhile, menopausal Honey Raye is struggling to keep her church’s nativity play together. Now add a surly Santa and an Elvis impersonator to the mix and see what happens. If you’re hankering after A Tuna Christmas and not getting your fix anywhere in town, this show is for you. Fri-Sat at 7:30 pm, Sun at 3 pm, $14, Pend Oreille Playhouse, 236 S. Union Ave., Newport, pendoreilleplayers.com

Dec. 9-22

Traditions of Christmas takes everything that we associate with the holidays — plus a little extra — and turns it into a dazzling parade of set pieces à la Radio City Music Hall on the Salvation Army Kroc Center stage. Victorian carol singers? Check. Lavish nativity scenes? Check. Huge kicklines in seasonally inspired outfits? USO-style dance numbers? A showcase of winter celebrations in foreign countries? Check, check and check. There’s even a visit to the North Pole to see Santa’s workshop. It’s an extravaganza for the whole family. Showtimes vary, $36, Kroc Center, 1765 W. Golf Course Rd., Coeur d’Alene, traditionsofchristmasnw.com

Dec. 9-11

For this seasonal show at the Gladish Community Center, Pullman Civic Theatre’s very own in-house playwright, Sam Opdahl, adapted the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his fortuitous run-in with a trio of Christmas spirits. Bear in mind that this is a dinner production, so you’ll have the dual pleasure of feasting while you’re being entertained. Fri-Sat at 7:30 pm, Sun at 2 pm, $40, Gladish Community Center, 115 NW State St., Pullman, thegladish.org

Dec. 8, 10, 16-17

In one of its many ongoing collaborations with the Art Spirit Gallery, Drawn Together Arts is presenting It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Adapted by playwright Joe Landry, this live production based on the iconic Frank Capra film is a performance twice over: a stage performance of an old-time radio production. Tracey Benson directs the show, which features a who’s who of local acting talent and takes place amid the festive original artwork of the gallery’s annual small works exhibit. 7:30 pm, $20, The Art Spirit Gallery, 415 Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene, drawntogetherarts.com


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Article by E.J. Iannelli

Photo by Ryan Wasson