Thanksgiving marks the official start of the holiday season. Just ask any retailer.
In fact, Turkey Day represents the first day of holiday shopping, the first round of holiday parties, and the first feast in a month of delectable delights.
It’s also the premiere of apacked performing arts calendar that includes music, theater and dance. Below are a few events sure to make spirits bright.
‘Holiday Extravaganza’Great American Melodrama, now through Dec. 31 ($20 to $22)
Audiences have been flocking to the Great American Melodrama’s holiday show for more than 30 years. The evening’s festivities begin with a one-act stage version of Charles Dickens’ classic story of redemption, “A Christmas Carol,” followed by the fractured fairytale “Cinderella, or The Shoe Must Go On,” and the heartwarming “Holiday Vaudeville Revue” in a night of song, dance and comedy.
‘A Christmas Story’San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, Dec. 2 to 23 ($15 to $25)
All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder rifle. Yet every time he tells anyone about his wish, he gets the same response: “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Bah, humbug!
Based on Jean Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” as well as the 1983 movie, “A Christmas Story” is a smart, unsentimental and sidesplittingly funny portrait of childhood, set in small-town Indiana in the 1940s.
‘The Nutcracker’Templeton Performing Arts Center, Dec. 2 to 4 and 9 to 11 ($17 to $22)
Directed by Cheryle Armstrong, this dazzling dance production stars more than 60 dancers from Class Act Dance Studio in Paso Robles and the Paso Robles Chamber Ballet.
Everybody Can Dance and the Santa Maria Civic Ballet present “The Nutcracker” Nov. 26 and 27 at the Clark Center, while Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo performs Dec. 10 and 11 at the Cohan Center and Allan Hancock Youth Dance appears Dec. 16 and 17 at the Clark Center. Younger children will enjoy Pacific Dance Center’s “Holiday Sweets,” Dec. 11 at the Spanos Theatre.
‘Babes in Toyland’Clark Center, Dec. 3 ($18 to $25) Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet brings this magical ballet back for a fourth year. “Babes in Toyland” transports audience members to the enchanting world of Toyland, home to such colorful nursery rhyme characters as Mary Contrary, Tom Tinker, the Three Blind Mice and Bo Peep and her Sheep. This show has something for everyone: romance, adventure and whimsy.
‘A Christmas Celebration’Cohan Center, Dec. 3 ($10 to $20)
This Cal Poly choral concert is sure to put the audience in a festive mood. PolyPhonics, The University Singers and Take It SLO will take the stage alongside the Cal Poly Brass Ensemble and Early Music Ensemble — joining forces to perform “Glory, Glory, Glory to the Newborn King” and “Shepherd, Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep!” A carol sing-along closes the show.
Gold Coast Barbershop ChorusUnity of San Luis Obispo, Dec. 3 (free) Do you love barbershop singing? This holiday season, the all-male Gold Coast Barbershop Chorus is teaming up with the all-female Pacific Horizon Chorus to spread some yuletide cheer. The choruses and their quartets will perform traditional Christmas songs including “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” in four-part harmony. Although the event is free, donations are appreciated.
‘Celebrate the Season with Joy and Peace’Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Dec. 3 ($15 to $40); Cohan Center, Dec. 4 ($8 to $38)
Directed by Gary Lamprecht, the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble invites you to join them for a holiday celebration. This concert illustrates the timeless Christmas story with a combination of classic cathedral songs, traditional carols and contemporary holiday tunes. Selections include Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” Arial Ramirez’s Latin-flavored “Gloria” and Paul Christiansen’s “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.”
‘A Celtic Christmas Celebration'South Bay Community Center, Dec. 4 ($18 to $20)
Celtic band Molly’s Revenge returns to the Central Coast for a festive night of song and dance featuring Irvine folk singer Christa Burch, the Rosemary Turco Irish Dancers, The Murray Irish Dancers and other guests. The toetapping performance will highlight old and new Christmas songs with a Celtic twist, as well as music from the newest Molly’s Revenge album, “Aged Ten Years.” Later, the band will lead a sing-along of holiday carols.
‘A Dickens of a Mystery’Spyglass Inn Restaurant, Dec. 4 through Jan. 29 ($49)
It’s Christmas in London, which means it’s time for the annual holiday party held by Fred and Edwina Sawyer. But what’s become of Ebenezer Scrooge, magically transformed just a year ago from a miserable miser to the embodiment of the holiday spirit? Audience members are invited to help solve the mystery with the help of characters from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Charles PhoenixCal Poly Pavilion, Dec. 17 ($22 to $28)
Pop culture humorist Charles Phoenix takes audience members on a candy cane-strewn trip down memory lane with his “Retro Holiday Slide Show,” an endearingly kitschy look at holiday seasons past. He’ll track the tragic life of a Thanksgiving turkey, go behind the scenes of a Christmas bondage party and showcase the most politically incorrect New Year’s Day parade floats. Festive dress is encouraged.
‘La Boutique Fantasque’Dance Obispo, Dec. 16 through Dec. 18 ($18 to $23)
Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo’s latest holiday show takes place in a magical toyshop where the playthings have lives of their own. When two harlequin dolls fall in love, the toys rally to keep them from being separated. “La Boutique” features choreography by Melissa Barnett and music by Ottorino Respighi, whose score was inspired by Gioachino Rossini’s piano pieces. The program includes “Winter Concerto” and “A Winter Wonderland.”
Cuesta Master ChoraleCohan Center, Dec. 17 ($15 to $25)
Hear selections from “Madama Butterfly,” “The Marriage of Figaro” and other beloved operas when the Cuesta Master Chorale presents “Great Opera Choruses Unwrapped.” The chorale will perform such favorites as “Habanera” from “Carmen” and “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from “Nabucco,” joined onstage by soprano Jumi Kim, mezzo-soprano Sarah Kleeman and tenor Ben Gulley and accompanied the Cuesta Master Chorale Orchestra.
Community Christmas & Holiday Sing-AlongClark Center, Dec. 18 ($6 to $12)Forbes Pipe Organ Holiday Concert & Sing-AlongCohan Center, Dec. 18 ($12)
Join your friends and family members in joyous song at two holiday singalongs. The Community Christmas & Holiday Singalong showcases several local groups spreading seasonal cheer. The Forbes Pipe Organ Holiday Concert & Sing-Along, meanwhile, features performances by the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble, the Central Coast Children’s Choir and Cal Poly organist Paul Woodring. (Proceeds benefit the Performing Arts Center’s Youth Outreach program and both participating choirs.)
‘Jingle Bell Rock: A Raucous Holiday Revue’Clark Center, Dec. 20 ($39 to $48)
Here’s a contemporary spin on the classic yuletide revue. This fast-paced, family-friendly show, which features singers backed by a live band, showcases more than 35 holiday favorites including “Sleigh Ride,” “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” There’s also a hilarious send-up of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a look back at classic Christmas television specials, and appearances by Suzy Snowflake and Santa Claus.
‘I’ll Be Seeing You ... WWII through the Eyes of Radio’Clark Center, Dec. 30 through Jan. 15 ($30 to $40)
Ring in the New Year with Sorcerer Productions’ nostalgic tribute to the golden age of radio. Performed in front of a live orchestra, the show features swing dancers cutting a rug to such period standards as “Shoo Shoo Baby,” “Juke Box Saturday Night,” and, of course, “I’ll be Seeing You.” Come experience the music, comedy and dance of the Greatest Generation. Editor's note: This event has been postponed until sometime next year. Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.