Holiday shows offer chance for youths to take to the stage

Cast members of Charleston Stage's upcoming play, 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,' are (from left) Molly Hunsinger, Benjamin McCoy, Joshua McCoy, Denver Smith, Lila Clark and David Lynch.

Provided

Now's the time to take your children to the theater. Not only are there so many classic productions, but they will see performers their own age on stage.

Here are some local productions that are for the young and the young at heart.

'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'

Based on Barbara Robinson's popular children's book of the same title, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" is a great opportunity for families to introduce young ones to the theater, said play director Marybeth Clark of Charleston Stage.

"People are often intimidated to bring young kids to the theater, but this is a great time for them to see Dock Street Theatre, especially since it's such a big part of Charleston's history," Clark said.

The play tells a tale of the wackiness that ensues when the worst kids in town receive the lead roles in the annual Christmas pageant.

And at 50 minutes long, Clark said, it isn't at odds with the shorter attention span of younger viewers.

Clark said the play's 25-member cast is largely a blend of young actors, fourth grade and older, with a handful of adult roles.

Cast member Patsy Newitt, 13, said her role as Beth, the play's narrator, is the largest part she's ever had. She said being in the production has been a challenge but that it's taught her a lot about acting.

"It's hard because I have a lot of lines, but you learn what it's like to be in bigger plays, and how you have to work harder to memorize them all. It's a big commitment," said Patsy of Mount Pleasant.

Despite the challenges, Patsy said she's had fun being part of the production and that whole families will enjoy seeing it.

"The kids will like it because it's really funny, but the parents will like it, too," she said.

Catch performances of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" at 3 p.m. Dec. 10 and 17, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Dock Street Theatre. Tickets are $22.

For more information visit www.charlestonarts.sc or call 577-7183.

'The Great Russian Nutcracker'

For many, the holidays aren't complete without "The Nutcracker."

Moscow Ballet holds a tour of this classic production across North America annually. And as a special treat, area youths from each city's performance are given a chance to dance alongside professionals in walk-on roles.

Audrey Alexander of Charleston is only 10, but said this is her third year performing a role in the Moscow Ballet rendition.

Audrey said she first fell in love with "The Nutcracker" from watching the movies, but that being in the ballet is like a dream come true.

"The ballet is cool because you hear a lot of the same music that you hear in the movies. To actually get to dance in it is like a dream that you have when you're a child, but you never really thought that you'd be able to," Audrey said.

This year, Audrey said she can be seen on stage playing the part of an angel.

"The angels are just graceful, and you have to hold your hands like you're praying. You really have to be the part. It's like acting, too, and not just dancing," she said.

Audrey said she thinks local children will enjoy seeing other kids on stage. "There are some really cool parts with the big dancers that kids would like, but they'll see other kids up there and think they can do it, too," Audrey said.

See Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker" at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center.

For more information, visit www.nutcracker.com.

A musical 'Night'

With so many classic songs associated with the holidays, now can be the perfect time to expose little ones to the joy of music.

Sandra Nikolajevs of Chamber Music Charleston said she hopes to do just that with the latest in her series of classical kid's concerts, "The Night Before Christmas."

Children can look forward to listening and singing along to their favorite holiday tunes while chiming in with their own set of provided sleigh bells throughout the 45-minute concert.

While most of the concert's performers are adults, Nikolajevs said a few children will assist on stage singing and playing the bells, including her son, 7-year-old Peter O'Malley of West Ashley.

"I like playing the bells because they make funny noises," Peter said. "... I like doing it because there are other kids doing it. I just wanted to meet some other kids."

Nikolajevs said many children will see Peter when they first walk into the theater, as he will help out as a greeter passing out programs as well.

"When children come to the theater, a lot of times they're surrounded by adults sort of looking down on them. But when they walk in and see Peter -- another child -- at the door greeting them, that can make them feel more at ease with the whole experience," Nikolajevs said. "He's like a little promotional guy, which is cute."

Check out "The Night Before Christmas" at 1 p.m. Dec. 23 at the Dock Street Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children and free for children under 3.

For more information, visit www.chambermusiccharleston.org.

'The Muttcracker'

Charleston Ballet Theatre uses children from around the area to perform during its version of "The Nutcracker," and this year they have some other special stars. During the party scene, children will share the stage with homeless dogs.

CBT teamed with the Charleston Animal Society for the adoption promotion.

Audience members at each "Nutcracker" performance will have the opportunity to meet the dogs before the show and during intermission.

"Anytime we can raise awareness about the needs of animals, we're happy to do so," said CBT's Administrative Director Kyle Barnette.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 and 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Galliard Auditorium; and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 and 3 p.m. Dec. 17 at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25-$45.

Visit charlestonballet.org.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.