‘Tis the season for holiday shows in Sacramento

B Street Theatre celebrates the season with Jason Kuykendall, John Lamb, and Elisabeth Nunziato in “Snow Fever: A Karaoke Christmas.” (Photo by Rudy Meyers)

Performing arts organizations count on revenue from holiday productions

By Patti Roberts 

‘Tis the season for holiday stories: a time when theater, dance and music groups present their annual festive productions.  

For many, holiday shows create memories with families and friends. And for performing arts organizations, it’s a chance to introduce themselves to new audiences.  

Holiday productions are also an imperative part of performing arts organizations’ overall yearly budget, since they typically fill more seats this time of year compared to their other productions. And many offer discounts or special rates to entice new attendees. 

Each year, the organizations carefully choose plays or productions that appeal to a wide audience — sometimes picking traditional holiday shows or other times presenting original works.  

For Capital Stage, its overall budget relies on seasonal productions, according to Marketing Director Misty McDowell.  

“American culture seems to have a tradition of going to the theater more during the holidays than any other time of the year,” McDowell said. “We will get the folks that do not normally attend theater, alongside our stalwart theater goers.” 

This year, Capital Stage is presenting “Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley,” which McDowell describes as “family friendly.” 

“During the regular season, Capital Stage focuses on more complex social themes that may not be interesting or appropriate for anyone under 16 years of age, but our holiday show is truly meant for everyone,” McDowell said. 

James Ellison III, artistic director for Celebration Arts, said the theater is staging Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” as this year’s seasonal offering. 

“[Our target audiences] are individuals and families who seek out stories from the African American perspective and experience,” he said. “We rely heavily on our holiday plays to bring in the largest audience base for the season. In addition, we hope the holiday season encourages additional donations, as ticket sales do not come close to covering our monthly operational costs.”

Ellison added that ticket sales from the holiday show have exceeded sales from previous productions and that the theater has engaged various community groups through its rendition. 

For B Street Theatre, this will be one of its first original holiday productions not involving former Artistic Director Buck Busfield, who stepped down last year. But the theater is still committed to original productions.

“Simply put, both the Mainstage and Family Series shows are very important to our overall financial picture,” said current Artistic Director Lyndsay Burch. “Not only are they some of our best-selling shows but they also generate the largest group of subscriptions renewals. It’s very important to engage new or non-regular theater goers for the holiday show,” Burch said. “If they have a great time, they may consider buying tickets to another show in the season or even subscribing.’ 

Splinter Group Theatre, an offshoot of Sacramento City Theatre, is offering its annual original Panto shows. Panto is a form of theater that retells well-known fairy tales and stories in a satirical and cheeky format with a unique structure and sense of humor that plays on two concurrent levels — one for adults and one for kids.

For years, Christine Nicholson, a writer and producer with Splinter Group, helped put on Pantos for Sacramento City College’s City Theatre along with City College’s Luther Hanson. This year, they’ve expanded for a second Panto presented by the Splinter Group —– “Moby Dick, The Panto.” 

“Panto is the most popular holiday tradition in the U.K., and has been for over 150 years,” Nicholson said  “People from babes in arms to pensioners flock to it year after year, and we wanted to create that tradition here.”  

Sacramento Ballet and the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera have presented the “Nutcracker” ballet for more than 60 years, which brings both needed funds as well as recognition from patrons.  

Sacramento Ballet General Manager Sara Slocum said the holiday ballet is the company’s biggest show of the year and that despite offering more showings than any other production, they often sell out of “Nutcracker” performances — a testament to the time-honored tradition. 

“To keep any art alive, including ballet, you have to continually reach out to people who have never thought of attending a ballet,” Slocum said. “The way to do that is to make the tickets more affordable or offer ways for patrons to attend for free.” 

For the first time in recent memory, not a single local theater is producing the classic Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” — usually a mainstay for the Sacramento Theatre Company, whose main stage productions remains dark following financial challenges

Capital Stage 

Megan Wicks and Fatemeh Mehraban play sisters in Capital Stage’s production of “Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley.” (Photo by Charr Crail)

“Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley” is the third part of the ”Christmas at Pemberley” series, which Capital Stage has produced since 2017, McDowell said. She describes the play as “meddlesome families and outmoded expectations won’t stop Georgiana and Kitty from forging their own way in a Jane Austen holiday tale filled with music, ambition, sisterhood, and forgiveness.” 

Student Rush is $10 at the door, available one hour prior to curtain. Discounts are also offered for students, seniors, groups and military personnel when purchased in advance.

“Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley” runs through Dec. 31; $35-50; Capital Stage, 2215 J St.; (916) 995-5464; capstage.org

Celebration Arts  

Celebration Arts presents “A Raisin in the Sun” with Sené Goss, Donald Lacy, Tammie Denyse, Spencer Goss and Jasmine Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Martinez)

Described as the first play written by a Black woman produced on Broadway in 1959, “A Raisin in the Sun” tells the story of a lower-class Black family’s struggle to gain middle-class acceptance. 

“We have discounted tickets on Thursdays for $15 for all patrons,” said Artistic Director Ellison. “Groups of more than 25 people enjoy additional savings.”

“A Raisin in the Sun” runs through Dec. 24; $15-$23; Celebration Arts, 2727 B St.; (916) 455-2787; celebrationarts.net.

B Street Theatre 

This year, playwright Robert Caisley is debuting his “Snow Fever: A Karaoke Christmas,” described as a small band of co-workers and malcontents at The Wet Whistle bar who are determined to make this holiday memorable despite running low on food, a busted toilet and a jukebox on the fritz. 

Discounts are available for Friday date night (two-for-one tickets), students, seniors and military, and for subscribers to bring additional guests, said Burch.  

“Snow Fever: A Karaoke Christmas” by Robert Caisley runs through Dec. 14. $27 – $39; 2700 Capitol Ave., (916) 443-5300. bstreettheatre.org

Splinter Group Theatre 

Splinter Group Theatre stages their annual British Panto — this year it’s “Moby Dick,” with James Gilbreath as Moby Dick and Mia Matista as Ishmael. (Photo by Sean Thomas Olivares)

For its annual Panto, Splinter Group Theatre brought back one of the favorites they wrote and produced a couple years ago: “Moby Dick, The Panto.” 

“Pantos are always love stories and/or stories of good versus evil,” said writer and producer Nicholson. “We took the original story of ‘Moby Dick’ and upended it completely. I imagined Moby as the hero of the play, a whale in love with Ahab, who was misunderstood, and who, on accident, bit off Ahab’s leg through an ill-fated attempt to kiss him.” 

The theater offers student, senior and military discounts at $15 dollars; Children under 5 years old are $5 dollars, and general admission is $20.   

“Moby Dick, The Panto” runs through Dec. 23; $5 – $ 20; West Sacramento Community Center Black Box Theatre, 1075 Capitol Ave., West Sacramento; splintergrouptheatre.com.

Sacramento Ballet & Sacramento Philharmonic  & Opera

Sacramento Ballet and the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera present their annual production of the “Nutcracker. (Photo by Marissa Gearhart)

The Sac Ballet and Sac Philharmonic have been producing the “Nutcracker” for 69 years. Each year, there have been changes in scenery and costumes, but the traditional story remains the same. 

Children 12 and under are $35 and student tickets are half-priced. According to General Manager Slocum, they invite about 1,000 students and their families from Title 1 schools in the Sacramento City College Unified School District to a full dress rehearsal and they work with various other organizations that serve lower-economic communities. They also offer two student matinees during the week in the morning for school groups at $25 each.   

“There are three schools that requested to join us who did not have the funds to pay for the tickets so we waived their fees,” said Slocum. 

“Nutcracker” runs through Dec. 23; $35-$101; SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center, 1302 L St., Sacramento; (916) 552-5810; sacballet.org.

This story is part of the Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative. Solving Sacramento is supported by funding from the James Irvine Foundation and Solutions Journalism Network. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.

Be the first to comment on "‘Tis the season for holiday shows in Sacramento"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.