Once upon a time, Charles Dickens wrote a little gem called A Christmas Carol. Maybe you've heard of it. Remakes and variations of this touted Christmas classic spanning all mediums have been done up and dumbed down. Actors ranging from Shakespearean graduates to Muppets (not quite a mop, not quite a puppet) have lent their craft to Dickens' timeless characters. We all know the story, we all get the message, we all want to blow our brains out if we have to hear that gimped-up kid bless us one more freaking time. Now that we've traversed the full gamut of Christmas emotions, let's take a different perspective. Dallas' Pocket Sandwich Theatre, located at 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane, has once again saved us all from the pretentiousness with its 23rd consecutive holiday celebration: Ebenezer Scrooge. Playing through December 23, the Pocket offers the story in a cozy, intimate surrounding. Pushing away the black-and-white television screen and cheesy, Disney-esque British accents; bringing the most important aspect back to the foreground: We love this story because it makes us feel good. Visit www.dallas.net/~pst/ or call 214-821-1860. --Jonathan Freeman
Santa's Rockin' Elves
The Polyphonic Spree loves the sun. They also love the daytime. Which, I guess, is pretty much the same as the sun. But whatever. No day ranks higher on the Spree's list than Christmas day. That's why, since 2000, they've thrown a totally kick-ass, fun-for-all-ages, c'mon-people-now-smile-on-your-brother-everybody-get-together-try-to-love-one-another-right-now holiday shindig. No matter which side of the debate you fall on ("overrated hippy-dippy shtick" or "the only band that matters, mother trucker"), you'd have to agree that the Polyphonic Spree's annual Holiday Extravaganzas are all that and a bag of organically grown, good-for-the-environment potato chips. They're like the last 15 minutes of A Christmas Carol on a loop, with a grab bag of holiday cheer--from jackass penguins to ventriloquists to reindeer to walking, talking snowmen to (of course) Santa--doing its best to beat the Scrooge out of the audience. That's not even counting the band itself, which performs a special set of Christmas carols--sure to include their recent cover of John Lennon's "Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)"--and another, slightly more grown-up set that will no doubt re-establish their love affair with the sun. This year's par-tay is December 18 at the Nokia Theatre and includes the Syncopated Ladies, the Celebration Ringers, Fort Worth Zoo Wild Wonders, Norman and Sharon Seaton and much more. Call 972-854-5111. --Zac Crain
A New Memory
The Christmas plays that critics like us tend to think of as nostalgic and saccharine are in full swing just now, Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory among them. But there's a curious fact about Christmas plays: The sweeter they seem to be, the darker they are. A Christmas Memory, Capote's autobiographical story about growing up with a group of eccentric cousins in the Deep South and the Christmas traditions they all shared, has its moments detailing poverty, loneliness, even death--all of it tinged with an enchanting charm, however. Performances are from December 19 to December 29 at Theatre Three in the Quadrangle (2800 Routh St.). Call 214-871-3300. --Claiborne Smith
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Imagine sitting down at the Hard Rock Café, 2601 McKinney Ave., with your family for a bite to eat. Not the best food, but the rock memorabilia and kids menu will suffice. All of a sudden, "Sowing the Seeds of Love" starts blaring, but not from the jukebox: Tears for Fears is playing a concert 15 feet away from your order of cheese sticks. No bullshit--this will actually occur Thursday night during Mix 102.9's Holiday at the Hard Rock. How weird. Check www.mix1029.com for ticket information. --Sam Machkovech
Nutcracker, nutcracker, nutcracker. Seriously, if I hear it one more time, I will crack some nuts. Every troupe performs it, bankrolling the rest of their seasons because ballet fans, like most of the Catholics I know, fill the seats at Christmas time only. (Too bad there's no ballet equivalent of Easter.) The big-headed Nutcracker soldiers and smarmy Mouse King creep me out. And if I see another photo of a glowing ballet student playing Clara, clutching a Nutcracker doll to her Ace-bandaged chest, I'm gonna puke. But that's the cynical adult in me talking. The child inside--who once performed "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" in a community production--knows the "joy and wonder" that all press releases hawking The Nutcracker promise. She remembers when Clara was the luckiest girl in the world, watching Nutcracker soldiers march, seeing Chinese and Russian dances and hiding from a giant prancing mouse in a crown. Even grumpy grown-ups must admit that the Texas Ballet Theater's production of The Nutcracker is a little extra joyful and wonderful. This version, choreographed by the company's artistic director Ben Stevenson, features more than 30 professional dancers and the Dallas Opera Orchestra, plus costumes by Campbell Baird that are so fine they earned their own fashion show during the ballet's Fort Worth run earlier this month. The Nutcracker will be performed at 8 p.m. December 21, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. December 22 (a Children's Nutcracker Party follows the matinee; $25), 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. December 23 and 1 p.m. December 24. Shows take place at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $16 to $69. Call the ballet at 1-877-212-4280 or visit www.texasballettheater.org. --Shannon Sutlief