The magic is back as holiday shows open

The magic is back as holiday shows open

The magic is back as holiday shows open
The 2019 cast of Center Rep’s “A Christmas Carol” featured Michael Ray Wisely as Scrooge. This year’s show runs through Dec. 23 at the Lesher Center. (Photo by Kevin Berne)

Columns Sally Hogarty Stage StruckCONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Dec. 8, 2021) — Last December felt so odd without the plethora of holiday events to write about and to see.

Thankfully, this year is a bit more normal – with local companies now doing live performances and celebrating the holidays once again. Here are a few of the local offerings.

Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center has several productions in its three theaters, including Center Rep’s annual “A Christmas Carol,” running through Dec. 23. Many years ago, I played the Ghost of Christmas Past in this production. What fun – appearing out of a cloud of smoke (at least when the special effects were working). The special effects have since been improved and enhanced, with even more gorgeous costumes and set dressings.

The Lesher also features Diablo Ballet’s “The Nutcracker Suite” in an expanded version of Julia Adam’s holiday hit showing digitally through Dec. 12.


The magic returns for the holidays with magician Alex Ramon. The family-friendly show with highly visual illusions and audience interaction takes place Dec. 10-12.

Those little ones running around your house won’t want to miss the “North Pole Experience” with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The immersive, live theater experience takes place Dec. 11-23.

You can also catch the Concord High School Choir and the El Dorado Singers for a holiday concert Dec. 16-17.

For tickets to any of the above shows at 1601 Civic Dr. in Walnut Creek, call 925-943-SHOW or go to

It’s a Wonderful Life

Meanwhile, Town Hall brings back an old favorite with “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” through Dec. 19 in at its Lafayette theater, 3535 School St. Daniel J. Eslick directs, with actors John Blytt, Sarah Negrón, Chris Rodriguez, Alicia Rydman and Amy Stringer doing a variety of characters as they take audiences back to the 1940s and the story of George Bailey.

The classic holiday show is Eslick’s debut as Town Hall’s curator of artistic programming. Eslick plans to reexamine familiar shows and add an updated twist. In this case, he cast Negrón as George Bailey.

“In auditions, Sarah was one of the only people who didn’t just pull from the film and was able to bring it down to the level of intimacy the radio play medium requires,” said Eslick.

For tickets, call 925-283-1557 or go to


If you love puppets, don’t miss Diablo Symphony Orchestra and the Fratello Marionettes in a special holiday concert featuring music ranging from Sibelius’ wintery violin concerto to Hannukah and Christmas favorites. The marionettes will perform their own version of “The Nutcracker.” It all happens at 2 p.m. Dec. 11 at Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church, 1801 Lacassie Ave.

For tickets, call 925-943-SHOW or go to

If the often-hectic holiday season has you feeling a bit overwhelmed, take time out for a laugh with Improv Playhouse of San Francisco Players at the Campbell Theater in Martinez, 636 Ward St. The four performers – Mark Duncanson, Tim Orr, Lisa Rowland and Regina Saisi – have only a bare stage, a suggestion from the audience and each other as they create characters and a storyline on the spot. Improv Playhouse performs at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18.

Go to

Sally Hogarty
Sally Hogarty

Sally Hogarty is well known around the Bay Area as a newspaper columnist, theatre critic and working actress. She is the editor of the Orinda News. Send comments to