Where to find Nutcrackers, Christmas Carols and holiday favorites on stage in Sarasota-Manatee

Jay Handelman
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Hallmark Channel may have started its Countdown to Christmas well before Halloween, but Sarasota area arts organizations have shown some patience by waiting at least until Thanksgiving weekend to start ringing the holiday bells and singing carols. There are plenty of old favorites, along with new twists on familiar themes in this year’s lineup.

Here’s a brief look, in chronological order, at some of the ways you can keep up with holiday traditions in new ways in the Sarasota-Manatee area.

A scene from the 2019 edition of Florida Studio Theatre’s Children’s Theatre Series production of “Deck the Halls.”

Now playing

“Deck the Halls” Florida Studio Theatre’s Children’s Theatre brings audiences a new version of its annual holiday show, with four elves who have traveled to the Sarasota theater from the North Pole to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, Florida style. Created by Sarah Durham and Caroline Saldivar, the family-friendly show features new songs and audience interaction. Through Dec. 24 in Florida Studio Theatre’s Bowne’s Lab, 1265 First St., Sarasota. 941-366-9000; floridastudiotheatre.org

Arts Newsletter:Sign up to receive the latest news on the Sarasota area arts scene every Monday

Review:Florida Studio Theatre turns ‘Buddy Holly’ musical into a party

A little theater history:10 things to know about Florida Studio Theatre

Dancers with the Sarasota Ballet Studio Company join with the choral ensemble Key Chorale for “Sheer Grace.”

Nov. 28

“Sheer Grace” – Sarasota’s Key Chorale joins with the Sarasota Ballet Studio Co. and Trainees for “Sheer Grace” at 4 p.m. in the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. The program features original choreography by Sarasota Ballet company members Arcadian Broad and Richard House and performances of Eric Whitacre’s “Five Hebrew Love Songs,” Ola Gjeilo’s “Dark Night of the Soul” and John Rutter’s tuneful “Magnificat.” Soprano soloist Mary Wilson will be featured. Tickets are $20-$55. For more information: 941-552-8768; keychorale.org

A scene from Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Nov. 29

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze”The troupe that has been seen by more than 50 million people around the world puts a circus spin on the season at 7:30 p.m. in the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. In “Holidaze,” holiday storybook characters come to life in an elaborate wonderland with ballerinas, nutcrackers, snowmen, reindeer, gingerbread people and more. Tickets are $52-$106. 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 941-263-6799; vanwezel.org

Dave Koz.

Nov. 30 

Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2021 – The Grammy-nominated saxophonist has become a part of the holiday season in Sarasota with his annual tour. This year, he is joined by South African guitarist and singer Jonathan Butler, trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonist Richard Elliot and vocalist Rebecca Jad in performing new renditions of Christmas classics and some Hanukkah music. Tickets are $32-$87. 8 p.m. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 941-263-6799; vanwezel.org

Cast members from the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s holiday show “Joyful! Joyful!” clockwise from top left, Michael Mendez, Raleigh Mosely II, Marta McKinnon, Katherine Taylor and Canela Vasquez.

Dec. 1

“Joyful! Joyful!” – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe introduces a new show to mark the season. It was created by founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs, who says he wanted to offer an uplifting celebration in the wake of the pandemic. It features troupe members and young performers from its Stage of Discovery training program singing and dancing to holiday classics with an R&B edge to them. Through Dec. 30 at the Westcoast Black Theatre, 1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota. 941-366-1505; westcoastblacktheatre.org

William Waldrop conducts the Sarasota Orchestra Great Escapes “Holiday Lights” concerts.

“Holiday Lights” – The Sarasota Orchestra turns on the “Holiday Lights” with this Great Escapes concert. William Waldrop, music director and conductor of the recent Broadway revival of “Cats” and conductor of several productions of “The Phantom of the Opera” leads the orchestra. The program includes such favorites as “White Christmas,” “March of the Toys” from “Babes in Toyland,” “The Christmas Song,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Festive Sounds of Hanukkah.” Through Dec. 5 in Holley Hall, Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, 707 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $42-$65. 941-953-3434; sarasotaorchestra.org

“A Child’s Christmas in Wales” – Lemon Bay Playhouse presents Dylan Thomas’ lyrical story recalling his own childhood holidays with curmudgeonly uncles, tipsy aunts and boyhood friends as they figure out a way to celebrate Christmas. Polly Hogan adapted the original story and directs the production, which runs through Dec. 19. 96 W. Dearborn St., Englewood. 941-475-6756; lemonbayplayhouse.com

School groups perform during The Ringling’s Holiday Splendor events.

Dec. 2

Ringling Museum’s Holiday Splendor – Bring an unwrapped toy and get in free to The Ringling Museum and Ca’ d’Zan from 5-8 p.m. Dec. 2, 9 and 16. Toys will be donated to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots collection drive. Admission for others is $15 for adults and $5 for children. Toys are available in the Ringling Museum Store. Local schools will provide entertainment on the grounds and there will be food and drinks available for purchase. All venues will be open for self-touring. 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota. For more information: ringling.org/events/holiday-splendor.

Martina McBride performs “The Joy of Christmas” concert at Van Wezel.

Dec. 4

“Joy of Christmas” with Martina McBride – The country superstar who has been producing top hits for more than 30 years, is celebrating the season with her Joy of Christmas tour at 8 p.m. at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall at 8 p.m. She will be joined by a local orchestra to perform seasonal favorites. Tickets are $37-$107. 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 941-263-6799; vanwezel.org

The musical ensemble Frisson performs for Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota.

Dec. 5

Classic Christmas with FrissonFrisson means “a shiver or a thrill,” but this ensemble of young musicians led by oboist Thomas Gallant intends to warm the heart in the Artist Series Concerts program. They will play such favorites as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” and the group’s own arrangements of Handel’s “Messiah” and Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” 7 p.m. in the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets are $20-$55. 941-306-1202; artistseriesconcerts.org

Live performances return:Artist Series plans full season of concerts with a new artistic leader

Sam Nelson, music director and choirmaster at Church of the Redeemer.

Dec. 7

“Sounds of the Season” – The Chamber Orchestra of Sarasota presents two one-hour concerts back-to-back at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Church of the Redeemer, 222 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. The orchestra, led by music director Robert Vodnoy, will perform holiday favorites and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major. Soloists include concertmaster Sun-Young Gemma Shin, flutist Carmen Newell Bannon and organist/harpsichordist Sam Nelson. Tickets are $25-$30. 219-928-8671; chamberorchestrasarasota.org

Sarah Brightman performs “A Christmas Symphony.”

Dec. 14

Sarah Brightman: A Christmas Symphony – The popular singer who captured the world’s attention as the star of “The Phantom of the Opera” in London and on Broadway, is in the midst of her first holiday season tour. Joined by a local orchestra and choir, she presents her own take on Christmas traditions, following up on a streaming concert she presented last year. She performs at 8 p.m. in the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $145-$185.  941-263-6799; vanwezel.org  

Brad Wages plays Ebenezer Scrooge in the Venice Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Dec. 10

“A Christmas Carol” – Venice Theatre’s original musical version of the Charles Dickens tale is back for the 21st year, with Brad Wages once again playing Ebenezer Scrooge. The musical has grown and changed since it was first created by book writer and lyricist Scott Keys and composer E. Suzan Ott. It now has additional music by Keys, Eli Schildkraut, and the late Jason Brenner. It runs through Dec. 20 in the Jervey Mainstage, 140 W. Tampa Ave., Venice. For ticket information: 941-488-1115; venicetheatre.org

On stage this year:Venice Theatre plans a return to regular schedule next season

The School of Russian Ballet returns with its annual production of “The Nutcracker.”

Dec. 11

“The Nutcracker” The School of Russian Ballet is back for its annual production of the Tchaikovsky favorite with two performances at 5 p.m. Dec. 11 and 1 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. It is choreographed by Vadim Fedotov, a former principal dancer with the National Opera and Ballet of the Ukraine. Luciana Paris, a soloist with American Ballet Theater, performs the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Sergii Sydorskyi dances the Nutcracker Doll and Nutcracker Prince. Tickets are $25-$65. 941-328-1300; sarasotaopera.org

Dec. 12

“Ring in the Holidays” – The Pops Orchestra celebrates the season with concerts featuring Ring Sarasota, the area’s premier handbell ensemble. Robyn Bell leads the concerts at 3 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Riverview Performing Arts Center, 1 Ram Way Sarasota, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at Neel Performing Arts Center on the State College of Sarasota Manatee-Sarasota campus, 5840 26th St., West, Bradenton. Tickets are $30-$35. For more information: 941-926-7677; thepopsorchestra.org

Key Chorale joins with the Venice Symphony for “A Jolly Holly Holiday” concert.

Dec. 17

“A Holly Jolly Holiday”Key Chorale and The Venice Symphony join voices and instruments in this special concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 and 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Venice Performing Arts Center, 1 Indian Ave., Venice. Troy Quinn leads the symphony and Joseph Caulkins leads the choir as they perform such favorites as “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night,” “Sleigh Ride,” “White Christmas,” “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah and a sing-along.  For tickets: 941-207-8822; thevenicesymphony.org

Live music:Venice Symphony plans return with eight-concert season

Dec. 18

“The Nutcracker” – The Diane Partington Studio of Classical Ballet returns for its 18th season of this traditional favorite featuring dancers from the school. The production includes handmade costumes, full sets and backdrops. It will be presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets are $30-$60. 941-328-1300; sarasotaopera.org

Amy Jo Connours is a soloist in the Choral Artists of Sarasota concert “What Sweeter Music.”

Dec. 19

“What Sweeter Music” – You will hear some old favorites in new ways during this holiday concert by Choral Artists of Sarasota at 5 p.m. Dec. 19 at Church of the Redeemer, 222 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. Artistic Director Joseph Holt leads the professional singing ensemble, with soloist Amy Jo Connours and organists Sam Nelson and Ann Stephenson-Moe. The program ranges from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World” to a Canadian Brass version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” and Bach’s “Wachet Auf.” For ticket information: 941-387-4900; choralartistsarasota.org

Geneva Lewis is the guest soloist for the Sarasota Orchestra’s Discover Mozart concert “Winter Dreams.”

Dec. 22

“Winter Dreams” – Though it’s not technically a holiday concert, the Sarasota Orchestra’s Discover Mozart program gets into the feeling of the season with Respighi’s “Adoration of the Magi” Debussy’s “Petite Suite” and Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 (Paris). Guest violinist Geneva Lewis will perform Massenet’s Meditation from “Thais” and Vivaldi’s “Winter” from “the Four Seasons.” Sameer Patel is the guest conductor of the concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets are $27-$65. 941-953-3434; sarasotaorchestra.org

Meet the new maestro:Sarasota Orchestra launches a new era with debut of music director Bramwell Tovey

A future home?:Sarasota Orchestra may have a site for new music center by spring

Jim Floyd plays Charles Dickens and all the other characters in a one-man version of "A Christmas Carol" for the Players Centre for Performing Arts.

“A Christmas Carol” – Jim Floyd returns to what he describes as one of his most challenging shows, playing more than 20 characters in a one-man version of “A Christmas Carol” for the Players Centre for Performing Arts. Last year it was presented outdoors. This year, he’s inside in the Players’ Studio 1130, the name for the company’s temporary home at the Crossings at Siesta Key shopping mall, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Suite 1130. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and 23. For tickets: 941-365-2494; theplayers.org

New year, new home:Players Centre shops for a season in new Sarasota mall venue

Looking to the future:Sarasota in talks with Players Centre theater to run historic Municipal Auditorium

Jugglers are among the performers in the Sarasota Sailor Circus Academy holiday show “Let it Snow.”

Dec. 26

“Let it Snow” – Young performers ages 8 to 18 from the Sarasota Sailor Circus put a holiday spin on a wide variety of circus skills in this year’s production, featuring aerial acts, acrobatics, roller skating tricks, juggling and more. Performances continue through Dec. 30 in the Sailor Circus Arena,  2075 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota. For more information: circusarts.org

The FST Improv Troupe

Dec. 31

FST Improv “Resolution Rewind” – You can ring in the new year with some laughs with a holiday weekend of FST Improv comedy. The troupe will be performing at 7:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve (and you’ll be out in time for the downtown Pineapple drop), and on New Year’s Day in Bowne’s Lab, 1265 First St., Sarasota. The show will feature games, sketches all built around the year just past and the year ahead, and you'll get a champagne toast. 941-366-9000; floridastudiotheatre.org

The annual Salute to Vienna New Year’s Eve concert returns to Van Wezel.

Jan. 3

“Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert” – It wouldn’t be a new year without the continuation of a 25-year tradition. The Strauss Symphony of America is joined by singers and dancers in this recreation of the traditional Neujahrskonzert (which translates to New Year's concert) with Viennese favorites. 7 p.m. Jan. 3. Tickets are $46-$89. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 941-953-3368; vanwezel.org

Follow Jay Handelman on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Contact him at jay.handelman@heraldtribune.comAnd please support local journalism by subscribing to the Herald-Tribune.