"Kurious" the lates from Cirque du Soleil.
It's the holidays in San Francisco. You know what that means: Giant snowflakes on Market Street, a giant non-denominational tree of some kind at City Hall, and Santa has come back to town and banished evil Elmo to jail to give us all a holiday repriever (or something like that? We might not have followed that story close enough). It also means your in-laws are in town and as the local in the family you've got to show them a good time. Here's our guide to the holiday stage, with four shows heavy on seasonal cheer and four a little more outlandish in case your in-laws are the type who don't go in for that crap.
Kurious: Cabinet of Curiousities at AT&T Park (November 14 - January 18)
Cinderella at the African American Shakespeare Company (Dec. 6 -21) It's an AASC's holiday tradition. You know the drill: Poor girl, fairy godmother, dancing dancing dancing, glass slipper for the win. For extra endearing power, director Margo Hall has been waiting literally her entire life "I was Cinderella for Halloween. I begged my mom to let me wear my glass slippers everywhere." We defy you to turn your nose up at kid Margo Hall's dreams. See it if: Your in-laws are suckers for a classic.
Promises, Promises at SF Playhouse (Nov. 18 through January 10) This was Mad Men back before Mad Men was cool...also back before it existed, since this musical is actually from 1968 and nothing was ironic yet. Director Bill English's new production promises "a lovelorn young executive and a romantically troubled waitress, knotted in a twist of sexual affairs and corporate shenanigans." Yowza. See it if: Your in-laws are bored by all this family-friendly crap anyway.
A Christmas Carol at ACT (Dec. 5 - 28) You already know what this one's about. Don't play that game. Local actor James Carpenter has been playing Scrooge at ACT's annual holiday show seemingly since Dickens set down his pen on the first draft. And you know what? He's still really damn good. See it if: Your in-laws love a tradition.
La Boheme at SF Opera (Nov. 14 - Dec. 7) Puccini's oft-imitated tale of impoverished creatives. Gee, I wonder if anyone in San Francisco can relate to that?. You know all those stories where there's a love triangle with a poor guy and a rich guy and a beautiful woman and at the end someone dies? Like Rent? Or Moulin Rouge? Or Titanic? This is where all that came from. "It's basically the perfect opera," says opera general director David Gockley. "There's a reason some shows never fall out of favor." See it if: Your in-laws want something sophisticated and educational and don't mind a downer ending. (It's an opera, after all.)
ELF the Musical at the Curran Theatre (Dec. 12 - 28) If you're skeptical of a Broadway musical based on a Will Ferrell movie, well, you're probably not alone, but people really, really like this one. When it opened it came in third that year to Wicked and the Lion King, which is basically like coming in third against Einstein and Tony Stark at Jeopardy. Even New York Times critic/weapons-grade curmudgeon Charles Isherwood gave it some grumbling praise, and this in a review in which he admits to hating Christmas (as well as everything else). See it if: You have kids and the in-laws want to treat them to something.
Red Hot Patriot at Berkeley Rep (Nov. 21 - Jan. 4) Holy crap, Kathleen Turner is coming to town. This has got nothing to do with the holidays, we're just spazzing out about it right now. And she's making her Berkeley Rep debut playing crusading liberal journalist Molly Ivins in a show written by two journalists. So, we're all getting what we want for Christmas here, is basically the takeaway. "“I think people right now are really desperate to hear Molly’s voice," Turner said of her Washington D.C. run of the show back in 2012. After this last election, yeah, folks in Berkeley probably are too. See it if: Your in-laws are Jewish. And liberals.
Nutcracker Sweets at Fort Mason Center (Dec. 13 -21)
SF Ballet does their lavish Nutcracker every year, and we still think it's great. But if you don't have the scratch for it or you just plain want something new, Mark Foehringer's crew offers a 50-minute, four-scene version with seven dancers and no fat for a pretty good deal. See it if: Your in-laws get dewy-eyed remembering childhood dance recitals.