This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, December 18
It's hard to say "humbug" to Actors Theatre's popular presentation of A Christmas Carol, a beloved Valley tradition that makes Charles Dickens' haunting holiday story come alive, year after year. Directed by Michael Wiener, the production features many returning cast and crew members, including Kim Bennett in the role of über-grump Ebenezer Scrooge. Throughout the run, Actors Theatre also presents the Gingerbread Extravaganza, 25 exquisite gingerbread houses created by chefs from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. On display in the theater rotunda, the edible edifices will be raffled off before the holidays. Showtime is 7 p.m. through Tuesday, December 23, with additional matinee performances at 2 p.m. Saturday, December 20, and Sunday, December 21. A 1 p.m. matinee on Christmas Eve concludes the schedule. Tickets, $35 to $46, can be purchased through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com, or from the box office at the Herberger Theater, 602-252-8497. The theater is located at 222 East Monroe.

Friday, December 19
One of the biggest films of the year is about to get even bigger. Whether you're seeing it for the first or the fifth time, there's no better way to experience The Matrix Revolutions, the suspenseful conclusion of the popular sci-fi trilogy, than at the high-tech IMAX Theatre, where you can watch Neo defend Zion on a screen several stories high. Showtimes are at 2:15 and 7 p.m. beginning Friday, December 19, at the IMAX Theatre at Arizona Mills mall, located at the intersection of Priest and Baseline in Tempe. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $11 for children. Visit www.imax.com/tempe or call 480-897-1453 for details.

Saturday, December 20
Theatre Eclectic and Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics team up for a creative new production that combines traditional dinner theater with a unique take on holiday favorite A Christmas Carol. With a cast of 50 actors, A Dickens of a Feast takes audience members into Ebenezer Scrooge's youth, to a lively Yuletide party hosted by jolly old Fezziwig. Guests are treated not only to a glimpse of Christmas past, complete with Victorian music and dance, but they enjoy a four-course meal as well. Performances begin at 6:30 p.m. through Saturday, December 20, and the production concludes with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, December 21, at the Kelton Performing Arts Center, 2820 West Kelton Lane, located just south of Bell on 29th Avenue. Tickets are $32 for adults, $28 for seniors and students, and $22 for kids under 12. To make reservations, call 602-978-2211.

Sunday, December 21
Join the Valley's most devoted circle of jazz aficionados, Jazz in AZ, at La Posada on Sunday, December 21, when the group hosts a remarkable bunch of musicians for its monthly concert: the local trio made up of singer/guitarist Ted Alan, tenor sax player Jerry Donato, and Warren Jones on bass, plus two special guests, percussion expert Pete Magadini and the multitalented Sherman Mitchell on trombone, baritone sax and flute. The performance runs from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Terrace Lounge at the Doubletree La Posada, located at 4949 East Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley. The concert is part of a series of free performances for Jazz in AZ members. General admission is $10 for non-members; the fee is waived for those who become Jazz in AZ members at the party. For more information, visit www.jazzinaz.org.

Monday, December 22
The Light of the World inspires the Arizona Celebration of Lights, an illuminated two-mile wonderland presented for the sixth year by Community Church of Joy. Boasting more than five million lights made into glittering scenes -- which include a Bethlehem Nativity, toy soldiers, elves and frolicking animals -- the display ranks as the state's largest. And to enhance the eye candy, visitors driving through the exhibit can tune in to a special radio station, 101.9, for festive music and narration. Be dazzled from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, through January 3. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. through Tuesday, December 23, Santa Claus makes special appearances for photos with the kids. Admission is $12 per carload. To support two local charities, the Christmas Angel Program and the Westside Food Bank, bring either a non-perishable food item or a new child's toy or item of clothing and receive a $2 discount. The church campus is located on the northwest corner of 75th Avenue and Loop 101. To find out more, visit www.joyonline.org or call 623-362-3238.

Tuesday, December 23
The holidays mean travel for millions of people. But while most of us plan on the usual whirlwind of family, friends and food at our various destinations, artist Ryan McNamara looks forward to collaborating with his friend Mary Kay Zeeb for a performance art piece. Now a New Yorker, the "Phormer Phoenician" used to run the Barlow & Straker gallery. Along with Zeeb, he recently contributed to the "You STILL Draw Like a Girl" exhibition at Sixth Street Studios. Sussudio, McNamara explains, is "an opportunity to make public the ongoing performance that is our friendship." The duo's creative holiday reunion begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 23, at Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt. Admission is $3 and doors open at 6:30 p.m. For details call 602-462-5516.

Wednesday, December 24
Every year, a group of Valley hikers seeks a natural high on the morning of December 24. Heading to the crest of North Mountain, about 800 feet in elevation, the group welcomes in the dawn with toasted marshmallows and other treats, a custom that began in 1987, when a couple shared their cookies and cocoa with two other hikers waiting for the sun to come up. This year's Christmas Eve Sunrise Gathering starts at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, December 24, and promises campfire warmth, courtesy of the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. Participants can park at the Maricopa Ramada in North Mountain Park, at Peoria Avenue on Seventh Street, or in a nearby lot accessible from the southbound lanes. The hike takes 15 to 30 minutes. To find out more, call 623-975-1765.

 
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