HARVIN COLUMN: Get into the holiday spirit

Sparkle, glitz and glitter. Holiday cheer is everywhere. And the theaters are alive with the sound of music.

This time of year, there are so many productions going on that it is hard to choose. The good part is that there are classics out there; the bad part is you may have a hard time fitting them into your yuletide schedule.

So here are some must-sees, even if you think they're just for children. They have endured because they are good at putting audiences in a festive mood.

'The Nutcracker'

This joyful Christmas tale is a tour de force of ballet. Every ballerina worth her toe shoes wants the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy because she gets to dance away with her prince. But in case you think this is just a tale for girls, it has a magician, a fight scene between the Nutcracker's Army and the Mice, and the Christmas tree grows to enormous height.

The costumes, music and dazzle make it worth seeing every few years.

Some of the companies performing it are: Mount Pleasant Performing Arts Company at the Sottile Theatre on Dec. 3 and 4; Charleston Ballet Theatre at Gaillard Auditorium on Dec. 10 and 11, and at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on Dec. 16 and 17; and Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker" at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on Dec. 20.

If you can't get to a live performance, Regal Cinemas will be showing "NYC Ballet Presents George Balanchine's The Nutcracker Live" in HD at 6 p.m. Dec. 13 at 215 Azalea Square Blvd. in Summerville and 2401 Mall Drive in North Charleston.

'It's a Wonderful Life'

Here's another classic full of sadness and joy, and one that has forever endeared Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey.

Here's a tidbit about that movie: Stewart and Donna Reed are dancing "The Charleston" when they fall into the swimming pool.

I have no idea how or if the Footlight Players will reproduce that scene, but the script of the movie also makes a wonderful play.

It tugs at your heartstrings, and I'm sure the production will live up to the classic.

The production starts Friday at the Footlight Theatre at 20 Queen St. and runs to Dec. 18. Visit www.footlightplayers.net.

And you can catch the classic movie at 8 p.m. Dec. 3 and on Christmas Eve on WCBD-TV Channel 2.

Get out the hankies!

'A Christmas Carol'

It wouldn't be Christmas without the scary ghost story of Scrooge. We all love to see the miserly Scrooge get his hard lessons that show him the value of his existence, and it doesn't come down to money.

It's a great lesson for us at this time of year. Personal generosity makes a difference in other people's lives.

Julian Wiles at Charleston Stage has adapted this, and there's a special treat: The ghosts actually fly through the air. Also, there is a new musical score that promises to be exciting.

Performances start Friday and run through Dec. 18. Check with the Dock Street Theatre box office at 577-7183 for times and performance dates. Visit charlestonstage.com.

'A Christmas Story'

A favorite is the late Jean Shepherd's holiday story about Ralphie Parker, a young boy living in 1940s Indiana. He desperately yearns for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

Despite protests from his mother that he'll shoot his eye out, Ralphie persists, unsuccessfully trying to enlist the assistance of both his teacher and Santa Claus.

Ralphie navigates a landscape of school bullies and family squabbles in this timeless Christmas comedy.

Performances by the Flowertown Players start Dec. 9 at the James F. Dean Community Theatre. Call 875-9251 or visit www.flowertownplayers.org for tickets and show times.

Cable TV networks almost always air this movie for 24 hours straight around Christmas, so keep an eye on the TV guide for the next showtime.

Charleston classics

There are a few local performances that are not to be missed.

On Dec. 3, "CSO Gospel Christmas," with Dr. Jeffrey Redding as conductor, will showcase 100 voices of the CSO Gospel Choir performing traditional gospel and holiday favorites.

The event is at 7:30 p.m. at the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium.

Then there is "The Charleston Christmas Special" produced by Brad and Jennifer Moranz at the Charleston Music Hall. This is a musical revue of Christmas carols and comes with lots of yuletide humor and laughter.

It starts Dec. 9. Call 800-514-3849 or visit etix.com for show and ticket information.

And finally, it wouldn't be Christmas in Charleston without the Charleston Christmas Candlelight Service at The Citadel's Summerall Chapel. Cadets from all denominations sing and the regimental band plays.

There is a procession of lights that creates a warm glow. It has become so popular that the service is on three different nights: 7:30 Friday, Saturday and Dec. 4. It's free and open to the public.

Check our calendar below and the holiday calendar next Sunday for more details.