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Indubitably, there must be Doc and Pops. Plus a "Messiah" or three. And what would the holidays be like without a crotchety Scrooge? All predictable and many wonderful, like fine, filling comfort food.

But where's the spice to liven up the entertainment scene?

A little searching turns up twists on the tried-and-true, while the traditionalist can still be warmed by the old chestnuts this holiday season.

Let's start with the offbeat.

There's "A Tuna Christmas," Studio Arena Theatre's take on Tuna, Texas. Actors Richard Wesp and Robert Rutland play several characters, including chain-smoking DiDi Snavely and Vera Carp, the Christmas lawn decorating champ. It runs through Jan. 3 at the Pfeifer Theatre. Call 856-5650.

And Scrooge on the scriptures?

The musical comedy/drama "The Gospel According to Scrooge" interprets the nativity story. Presented by Evangel Assembly of God, 1800 Maple Road, Williamsville, there are performances between Dec. 11 and 20. It's free, with child care for the youngest. Call 688-4941.

Finally, the darkly humorous "SantaLand Diaries" is a one-man show by Dan Sheffield of David Sedaris' experiences as an elf at Macy's department store, exploring the inherent commercialism of the holidays. Performances, on Saturdays and Sundays between Saturday and Dec. 19, will be at Buffalo United Artists in its new space at 884 Main St. Call 886-9239.

Today, today, today

Start the season in a sacred setting.

Jaselka, a colorful Polish pageant by the Chopin Singing Society, with actors, soloists and a chamber orchestra at 2 p.m. in St. Casimir's Roman Catholic Church, 160 Cable St. Free-will offering.

The Cathedral Harmonia Choir, accompanied by the Cathedral Chime Choir and the Worshiping Brass Ensemble, present Christmas Evensong at 3 p.m. at Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, 6298 Broadway, Lancaster. Donations, with reception following.

The St. Paul's Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, along with the New York State Baroque Orchestra, presents its 35th annual "Messiah" at 4 p.m. Donation ($8) requested at the door; nursery care available. The cathedral is at Church and Pearl streets.

Choirs, handbells, chimes and carols highlight a Celebration of Advent at Deerhurst Presbyterian Church, 257 Deerhurst Park Blvd., Town of Tonawanda, at 4 p.m. Child care provided.

It wouldn't be Christmas without . . .

Doc's Holiday Pops with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Doc Severinsen -- whose sounds should melt the chill from any heart -- conducts five concerts between Dec. 10 and 13. The hottest ticket in town, so don't delay in ordering.

Then the BPO goes to the "Messiah," that splendid blend of joy, passion and faith. The orchestra teams up with the BPO Chorus and soloists. Attend a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. Dec. 19, with the performance at 8. On Dec. 20, the lecture starts at 2 p.m., performance at 2:30. Call 885-5000 for BPO tickets.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's version of "The Nutcracker" is billed as one of only four in the country to be performed with George Balanchine's choreography. New choreography, against the Balanchine backdrop, highlights four performances at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts from Friday to Dec. 6. The production features local children as toy soldiers, angels and candy canes. Tickets at 852-5000.

Childhood favorites

Meet "Beauty and the Beast" in the splendor of the 18th century French court at the Franklin Street Theater with Theatre of Youth through Jan. 3.

With Brian Riggs as the Beast, Amybeth Whissel the generous Beauty, Arlene Clement as the storyteller and Bill Schmidt as the merchant, it's recommended for anyone over age 8.

Performances at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with additional performances Christmas week. Tickets ($10) at 856-4410.

And it's time to walk down that yellow brick road again.

"The Wizard of Oz" opens with a gala on Friday with a reception following at the Lancaster Opera House. For the first time, one of the original Munchkins, Margaret Pelligrini, will appear in the production. In addition, several other of the movie Munchkins will make appearances from Friday to Dec. 13 (it runs through the Dec. 20). Produced by TNT Productions; tickets are available at 683-1776.

And "Winnie the Pooh" will arrive in its musical version at the UB Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Dec. 12. Larger-than-life characters will perform 10 new songs, including "The Great Pooh-dini" and "35 Things to Do." Tickets at the box office and through Ticketmaster and Movies Plus; call 852-5000.

At least 100 cast members, ages 4 to 75, will be on stage at the Niagara Community Education Center, 561 Portage Road, Niagara Falls, for the Greater Niagara Ballet Company's "Nutcracker." Joining them will be guest artists Irek Mulchaski and Reuben Wright, who have danced professionally. Performances are from Friday to Dec. 6; call 282-2613.

And the American Academy of Ballet presents a narrated version of "Nutcracker" with several professional guest artists, Xalat Dance & Drum and the Rochez Academy of Irish Dance. It will presented at Maryvale High School between Friday and Dec. 6. Call 626-5457.

And still another.

The Buffalo City Ballet, in conjunction with Buffalo Inner City Ballet, presents "Nutcracker" Dec. 11 to 13 at Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College. For ticket information, call 878-3005.

In "A Christmas Carol" Neil Radice returns as Charles Dickens to lead the Alleyway Carolers. The Dickens masterpiece will be at the Forbes Theatre between Dec. 11 and 19.

Opening night is a benefit performance and holiday party ($35). Tickets for other performances, call 852-2600.

A children's concert put on by the Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet and the Williamsville North Wind Ensemble and Orchestra begins with an array of holiday music and ends with "Three Wishes," a Christmas fable interpreted through a one-act ballet with dancers, acrobats and magic. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19 at Williamsville North High School. Tickets at the door, or call 835-3585.

Sounds of the season

"Christmas Memories," with music, stories and poetry, will be reprised by the Irish Classical Theatre Company (Josephine Hogan and Constance McEwen with guitarist and singer Joe Head) at the Franklin Street Theatre. Performances at noon on Wednesdays through Dec. 16. Purchase a box lunch or bring your own. Running time is 50 minutes, followed by a talk-back. Performances are also scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 6 and 13. Tickets at 853-4282.

Bassoonist Martha Malkiewicz will be spotlighted when the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra plays light classics at "A Christmas Festival" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Canisius College Cultural Center. Tickets at 888-2277.

And the BPO goes even farther afield for "A Classical Christmas" at 8 p.m. Saturday in Olean High School. Tickets at 373-1776.

The Boston Pops jumps off the TV screen for a Holiday Tour. Led by Keith Lockhart, they perform at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena on Dec. 21. Tickets at Ticketmaster, 232-1900.

The warm-hearted musical revue "Christmas From A to Z" is by In Concert Productions with Mary Kate O'Connell and friends. This holiday alphabet, with its treasured songs and traditions, plays at the Tralfamadore Cafe in Theatre Place on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays through Dec. 15. For tickets, call 851-8725.

Michael Civisca will sing and the Bobby Jones Trio will play at "Happy Holidays and All that Jazz" at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at Mount St. Mary Academy, 3756 Delaware Ave. In Concert, the MSM Notables and a North Pole visitor are also part of the show. Tickets at 877-1358.

Songs from "Let There Be Peace on Earth," Vince Gill's platinum album, will be featured at Gill's "A Christmas to Remember Tour" at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at Niagara Falls Convention & Civic Center. The stage setting includes a seasonal backdrop with poinsettias and 20-foot-high Christmas trees. Tickets are available at 852-5000.

For the seventh year, the Festival Chorus and Orchestra present "The Glory of Christmas" with 170 singers and musicians under Douglas D. Wendt, with the Jubilation Ringers. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Riviera Theater in North Tonawanda. Ticket information is at 692-2413.

On stage

Though there's no secret left about "The Gift of the Magi," it remains a perennial favorite for the sweetness and innocence of the story. Buffalonians can see it in two versions.

The Actors Workshop presents the play between Friday and Dec. 19 with matinees as well as dinner/theater packages at the Cafe in the Square restaurant. For reservations, call 882-5914.

Also, it can be seen at matinee, twilight and evening performances at Artpark-at-the-Church through Dec. 20. Call 888-4000.

"A Christmas Carol" will be presented in the Greek Theatre in the Niagara Falls Convention & Civic Center on weekends between Dec. 11 and 19. A food drive is being held in conjunction with the production. Call 284-6358.

Leopold Mozart's "Toy Symphony," Handel's "Pastoral" from the "Messiah" and a carol sing-along highlight the Christmas Concert of the Orchard Park Symphony, as part of its golden anniversary series, at the Orchard Park Middle School at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are available at the door.

Always up to something new, Neal Radice of Alleyway Theatre presents the world premiere of his creation "The Road to Bethlehem." The story is a faithful adaptation of the Christmas story with the familiar cast of biblical characters, angels and wise men. Performances are between Friday and Dec. 20. Tickets at 852-2600.

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