Need a break from all the credit card-maxing, house-lighting, bad party-attending and general seasonal stressing? Why not try something outside of the gift box this year? Here, five festive, somewhat freaky holiday haps in town that are anything but cookie-cutter Christmas confections.
5. Charles Phoenix's Retro Holiday Show
The holidays are really all about nostalgic accoutrements and rituals. And nobody knows nostalgia -- especially in L.A. -- better than Charles Phoenix, a Cali institution known for his enlightening Disneyland tour guides and kitschy slideshow presentations (see image above). Charles Phoenix's Retro Holiday Show is always a hoot. Phoenix "roasts and toasts" mid-century family life and style during the holidays via old photos and oddball commentary that meshes the wit of Awkward Family Photos with a genuine zest for the season that maybe only St. Nick himself could match. Dec. 18, 7:00 p.m. at REDCAT Theater, 631 West 2nd St. Downtown. www.charlesphoenix.com
4. Babes in Toyland
As dance promoter (Fingered), indie rocker (We Are The World) and choreographer, Ryan Heffington has come to be known as a true -- if somewhat twisted -- dance visionary in Los Angeles. He also packs in the city's sassiest dance/exercise buffs at his studio, The Sweat Spot, weekly. They often put on recitals of sorts, but never have they done a Christmas show... until now. Babes in Toyland will feature all of the studio's instructors in performances that are sure to get your sugar plums off. Dance vignettes and with special guest performance by Selene Luna, plus and paper installation by Jer Ber Jones. Though many here have both classical and modern training, don't expect a Nutcracker ballet. Do expect something ground-breaking and very, very nutty. Dec. 8-11, 8 p.m. 3327 Sunset Blvd. Silver Lake. www.thesweatspotla.com
3. Bob Baker Marionettes
The venerable puppet shows at Bob Baker Marionettes always get a little magical Christmas fairy dust sprinkled about this time of year, and it's a great opportunity to support the fledgling landmark and get in the spirit. Vintage puppets of Santa and Mrs. Claus, angels, fairies, wizards, dolls and more dance about the historic old spot in themed segments for their holiday spectacular. We'll just say it: this one is fun for tykes and tokers alike (some of the puppets are really trippy; see photo). Now thru Jan. 18. 1345 W. 1st St. Downtown. www.bobbakermarionettes.com
2. The Breakfast Show Christmas Special
Speaking of weird stuff that's totally kid appropriate, don't miss The Breakfast Show Christmas Special, the zany cereal-infused comedy show for kids and their parents featuring funnyman Adam Shenkman and his cast of comic crunchsters. Sing-alongs, dress up and of course lots of eating ensues. Two show run at The Hollywood Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave. Dec. 18, 11am & 3pm! www.thebreakfastshow.tumblr.com
1. Shows at the Cavern Theatre
Nobody does Christmas shows like the Cavern Theatre. Sorry to put coal in your stocking, but, unfortunately, its most hilarious show, the raunchy and rockin Jackie Beat's The Nutcracker, just completed its run there this weekend. (If you're out of town visiting family in Seattle, Chicago, San Fran, or Wisconsin, you might still be able to catch her this month. See her schedule here- www.missjackiebeat.com/news). Cavern still has two flamboyantly festive shows you don't to miss. A Jimmy James Christmas (Dec. 8-9) features the androgynous vocal impressionist doing a "Divas Rule" take on Cool Yule classics from Cher, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli and more. The Fruitcake Follies recreates the holiday TV specials of the 70s with musical numbers, dancing, comedy and costumes. Former Disney theme-park performer James Gray has created a festive and fun variety hour that is also apparently family friendly (unlike Beat's was), but there's some queeny bodaciousness in the form of local drag star Momma, always a gift to see on stage. F.F. shows: Dec. 10-11, 17-18 , 19-20. 1920 Hyperion Ave. (Below Casita Del Campo restaurant). www.cavernclubtheater.com
Victory Variety Hour's This Is Not A Christmas Show event may not be, but the burlesque extravaganza will be ornamentally outrageous. Director Penny Starr Jr dons a Santa hat (and red bondage tape -- see photo at right) in the ad, so we're guessing they will be unwrapping some subversive anti-Christmas surprises as well as themselves (stockings will be stripped, natch). With special guest star Margaret Cho, and VVH's half-naked vixens, this one's sure to make Santa's naughty list regardless. Sat., Dec. 10 At Skinny's Lounge, 4923 Lankershim Blvd North Hollywood. www.itsachick.com
Everyone's favorite cross-dressing glam band, Tranzkuntinental, offer Tranz-K's XXX-mas Show this Friday, along with bands Run Run Run and Super Black Market. Ho-ho-holiday drag finery will be on display and songs will range from trannied-out pop hits to sacrilegious Christmas carols. Fri., Dec. 9 at House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., W. Hywd. Tranzk on Twiiter
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Christmas 4 Bukowski features poems and stories by the booze-loving poet lariat and a live musical score of new and classic yule-tide tunes by Jessica Lynn Verdi. Hot toddies not included. Fridays , 8:30 p.m., through Dec. 16. At Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd. N, Hlywd. www.zombiejoes.homestead.com
Groundlings Christmas From the dysfunctional family get-togethers to shameless re-gifting to rampant commercialization, no time of year offers funnier fodder than Christmas. And nobody does it better than The Groundlings. Fridays, 8 p.m. 7307 Melrose Ave. www.groundlings.com
Santa Claus Is Coming Out Jeffrey Solomon's one-man mock-u-mentary explores what really makes St. Nick tick.. and it aint Mrs. Claus. Dec. 12-14, 8 p.m. At the Celebration Theatre, 7051 B Santa Monica Blvd. www.celebrationtheatre.com