The 7: Stuff to do this weekend including … Mommy, why is Santa so surly?

Did you see that crazy sunset the other day? Deep, vibrant, blood-red set against dramatic clouds, looked like the End of the World as directed by Baz Luhrman—Apocalypse Wow! Really made one grateful for all the airborne hazmat material up in the sky that reacts so beautifully with the fading light. Thanks, poison!

It was also a beautiful reminder that we really need to live for today … or, the weekend. (Thanks, Loverboy!) So, in this week’s edition of The 7, we’ll tell you how to make someone else’s—and your—Christmas very special; defend the anti-capitalistic screed that is “It’s a Wonderful Life!” head to the ballet and the concert hall and throw back a few with 50 Santa’s looking to make it a White (Russian) Christmas.

THURSDAY

The Long Beach Playhouse is in full holiday mode, being midway through a run of that yuletide warhorse “A Christmas Carol.” It’s a stage play based on the Dickens classic, the one with a fantasy conceit at its center. No, no, not the thing about ghosts, that part where people actually change. See kids, in the real world, Scrooge would be all Johnny Goodwill To Men for a few weeks but, by February, he’d be back to complaining about taxes and binge-watching Fox News. Still, it’s a great story, and pretty much singularly responsible for transforming Christmas from a little considered or celebrated also-ran of a holiday into the behemoth that now devours our lives and money. Thanks?

Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 23.

Closing Thursday at 8 p.m. is the Playhouse’s interpretation of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Now, the movie version gets a bad rap as being overly sentimental. I don’t know how anyone could get this from actually watching Frank Capra’s classic. “It’s a Wonderful Life” remains one of the darkest takes on American life ever presented on film.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great—I choke up every year when George Bailey’s brother says “To my big brother, George. The richest man in town!”—but there’s little doubt the movie is pointing a finger at the inequities in our society; the chance of privilege, the debilitating envy engendered by an economic system based on competition.

What makes it so dark is that it’s all shown against a thoroughly benign backdrop most of us recognize and inhabit, one that we desperately try to tell ourselves is fair and satisfactory. So, when Harry Bailey says his brother is the richest man in town, everyone cheers because they want it to be true; but everyone knows who’s the richest man in town: the guy with the most money.

Enjoy the show!

FRIDAY

If you read our recent piece on the folks who run Long Beach Coffee & Tea, you know that they are a very kind, very giving bunch. This Christmas they’ve put up an “Angel Tree” for local veterans who find themselves struggling in one way or another.

The shop, working in concert with local veteran outreach agencies, has gathered names of vets along with items they really need. This information is written on an ornament and hung on the tree so that anyone can walk in and take one off. Simple.

Once they have fulfilled the Christmas wish, they can drop the gift off at the shop where veterans organizations will pick them up on Christmas Eve to distribute accordingly. There is no need to buy anything from the shop—though, one would be foolhardy not to partake of the Prilosec sandwich or the Drunken Irishmen or the Lock Jaw or the Mama Don’t Like Meat or … —they just want to help connect people for the betterment of all.

And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? No, seriously, I’m asking. I get a lot of mixed signals this time of year.

Long Beach Coffee & Tea is located at 480 Pine Ave.

 

Courtesy photo.

Speaking of shopping, you’re probably smack dab in the middle of it right now. Remember you live in a town rife with unique shopping possibilities, with boutiques of all sizes and ilks dotted all over the town.

You can find some of the more unique possibilities in this piece about one-of-a-kind gifts. One of those is the above “Sport Kilt” which is made by the largest kilt company in the USA which is located in Long Beach. Who knew?

SATURDAY

“The Nutcracker” is back and, like every year, lots of people will show up, all dressed up, their kids too, to be enchanted by Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet. Thing of it is, Nutcracker has not always been like this, in fact, when Tchaikovsky first presented the ballet it was roundly criticized and the great composer died thinking he’d written a dud.

Turns out, what Dickens did for Christmas, George Balanchine did for “The Nutcracker.” His productions of the ballet in the mid-’50s reignited interest and then devotion.

Long Beach Ballet has been putting on its own production for 36 years; a lavish affair with a huge cast, huge stage, huge special effects, even a horse. A real, live, horse. Hooves and all! Expect an all-inclusive kind of experience as the courtyard of the Terrace Theater is decked out with all manner of holiday decorations, lights and waterworks. Wall-to-wall enchantment … and a horse!

The Terrace Theater is located at 300 E. Ocean Blvd.

Cal State Long Beach’s Carpenter Center has a holiday tradition of its own: David Benoit’s Charlie Brown Christmas. Jazz pianist Benoit, a five-time Grammy nominee, plays Vince Guaraldi’s classic, and completely awesome soundtrack from the classic, completely awesome “A Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special.

Now, I’m one of those who enjoys Christmas music in small doses, say, about 10 days before the day itself; no putting on KOST 103 the day after Halloween for me. But I play Guaraldi’s soundtrack all year long, it’s that good.

Benoit has considerable Charlie Brown chops. After the death of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, Benoit released a memorial album entitled Here’s to You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years. He also did the music for later “Peanuts” specials and his 1985 version of Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” (above) is many times credited with helping to launch the smooth jazz movement.

The Carpenter Center is located at 6200 Atherton St.

SUNDAY

Oh, this is so, so sweet. The Big RED Bus is putting on a Santa Crawl. Here’s how it works: a bunch of folks dressed up as Santa or some other Christmas themed-personage, i.e. Mrs. Claus, Elf, Santa’s loser cousin, Brandon, get on board a Big RED Bus and then flit from bar-to-bar-to-bar to fete on drink specials, group appetizers and the terrified looks of unprepared patrons suddenly set upon by wave after wave of Santa ???

Now, the organizers make it clear. You not only have to be at least 21 to participate, you must be dressed in Christmas themed-garb and we’re assuming a single necktie with a snowflake on it doesn’t qualify.

The Crawl begins at 1 p.m. in front of the old Tilted Kilt in the Marketplace shopping center. You’re advised to show up by 12:45 p.m. Ho Ho Hold the ice!

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Steve Lowery began his journalism career at the Los Angeles Times, where he planned to spend his entire career. God, as usual, laughed at his plans and he has since written for the short-lived sports publication The National, the L.A. Daily News, the Press-Telegram, New Times LA, the District and the OC Weekly. He is the Arts & Culture Editor for the Post, overseeing the Hi-lo.
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