Something To Cheer About : Events: Whether you're looking for a Christmas spectacular or a homespun family show, you can't miss this holiday season in Orange County.

L o, the holiday season is fast upon us, bringing with it a frenzy of mall-ing, wrapping, baking . . .

Will you make it? Fear not: There are enough yuletide happenings in Orange County to relieve even the worst case of Santa Stress. Whether you're looking for a cast-of-thousands Christmas spectacular or a homespun kids' show, chances are you'll find something to please.

So grab an eggnog and read on . . .

HOLIDAY SHOWS

Warm your spirits by the family hearth in "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Set in a cozy village, this is a musical adaptation of the famous poem in which Dylan Thomas recalls his own childhood Christmases. This year there are two productions to choose from:

The Grove Shakespeare Festival (12852 Main St., Garden Grove) presents its fourth annual production of the work through Dec. 24. Performances are Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (No evening show on Dec. 24, though.) Tickets: $16 to $20. Call (714) 636-7213.

Troupe America, a Minneapolis-based touring company, will present the play Saturday at 8 p.m. at Fullerton's Plummer Auditorium (201 E. Chapman Ave.), under Cal State Fullerton's sponsorship. Tickets: $12.50 to $17.50. Call (714) 773-3371.

"God bless us, every one"--Tiny Tim's Christmas blessing will ring through the county this season as theatre groups large and small present their versions of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

South Coast Repertory (655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa) is offering the play for the 10th straight year. Adapted by Jerry Patch. Today through Dec. 24 on SCR's Mainstage, Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at noon and 4 p.m. Special 2:30 matinees Dec. 19 and 21. Tickets: $20 to $22, with discounts for children under 12. Call (714) 957-4033.

(The Theatre Guild of SCR presents a benefit performance of "A Christmas Carol" Thursday. The $100 ticket price includes a cocktail reception and dinner at the Westin South Coast Plaza.)

The Cypress College Theatre and Dance Department (9200 Valley View, Cypress) presents "A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley," an adaptation by Israel Horovitz, Friday and Saturday and and again Dec. 15 and 16 at 8 p.m., Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. Tickets: $5. Call (714) 821-6320.

The Nebraska Theatre Caravan rolls into the Orange Coast College Robert B. Moore Theatre (2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa) Dec. 16 with its version of "A Christmas Carol," a production that features live chamber music and special effects. Performances are at 2:30 and 8 p.m. Tickets: $6.50 to $12. Call (714) 432-5880.

With a cast ages 9 to 17, the Buena Park Children's Musical Theatre presents one of the few versions of "A Christmas Carol" just for kids. "Scrooge" runs Friday through Dec. 17 at the Buena Park High School Performing Arts Complex (Magnolia Avenue at Academy Drive). Shows are Dec. 8, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 9, 10 and 17 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets: $2 to $3. Call (714) 821-1010.

What happens when a kind-hearted but despondent guy meets up with a second-class angel named Clarence? Find out through Dec. 17 as the Laguna Playhouse stages "It's a Wonderful Life," a musical stage adaptation of Frank Capra's film classic with libretto and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Joe Raposo, at Moulton Theatre (606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach). Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets: $17. Call (714) 494-0743 or (714) 494-8021.

Staged readings of Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" will be presented Friday through Dec. 24 by the Alternative Repertory Theatre (1636 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana). Proceeds benefit the Orangewood Children's Home and Santa Ana's Holiday Hope program. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m. Admission is by donation of a new unwrapped toy, nonperishable food, or as much money as you want to give. Call (714) 836-7929.

"The Glory of Christmas," a holiday extravaganza presented annually by the Crystal Cathedral (12141 Lewis St., Garden Grove) features high-flying angels and enough live animals to fill an ark. Shows are 4:30, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays through Dec. 30. (No performances Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.) Tickets: $12 to $25. Call (714) 544-5679.

The audience gets into the act in "The Yukon Follies," a holiday music, dance and comedy revue at the Disneyland Hotel (1150 W. Cerritos Ave., Anaheim). Tuesdays through Sundays at 9 and 10 p.m. For the aquatically inclined, the hotel also presents the "Dancing Waters Holiday Fantasy" nightly at 8 and 9. Admission to both shows is free. Call (714) 778-6600.

Really, really big Christmas cards, featuring live actors, serve as the backdrop for a program of holiday music in the Yuletide Pageant at the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse (661 Hamilton St.) as Playhouse members, local volunteers and the Costa Mesa Art League team up for this free gift to the community. Shows are Dec. 15 at 7 and 8 p.m., Dec. 16 and 17 at 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Call (714) 650-5269.

DANCE

The Joffrey Ballet dances "The Nutcracker" Dec. 13 through 17 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center (600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa). Set in the U.S. in the 1850s, this adaptation by Robert Joffrey features Tchaikovsky's familiar score and choreography by Lev Ivanov of the Imperial Russian Ballet. Dec. 13 through 15 at 8 p.m., Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $11 to $42. Call (714) 556-2787.

Other "Nutcrackers" include:

The Forum Dance Ensemble at the Forum Theatre (4175 Fairmont Blvd., Yorba Linda). Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets: $7. Call (714) 779-8591.

The Coast Ballet Theatre at McKinney Theatre at Saddleback College (28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo). Dec. 14 through 16 at 8 p.m., Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets: $7 to $9. Call (714) 582-4656.

The Ballet Repertory Theatre at the Golden West College Main Stage Theatre (15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach). Performances are Dec. 15 at 7 p.m., Dec. 16, 17, 22 and 23 at 2:30 and 7 p.m. Tickets: $6 to $8. Call (714) 895-8378.

MUSIC

Chase away the "bah, humbugs" with Handel's "Messiah." If you would like to warble along, the Pacific Chorale, directed by John Alexander, hosts its "Messiah" sing-along Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets: $10. Call (714) 556-2787. If you would rather just sit back and enjoy the ride, the Pacific Symphony, conducted by Vakhtang Jordania, will join the chorale for a more formal presentation at the Center Dec. 23 at 3:30 p.m. Tickets: $9 to $24. Call (714) 556-2787.

"The Kids Next Door," a song-and-dance troupe from the Orange County High School of the Arts, present everything from calypso to country to comedy during a holiday revue tonight at 7:30 at Los Alamitos High School's Margaret Webb Performing Arts Center (3591 Cerritos Ave.) to benefit the Los Alamitos Police Department's toys for needy children program. Admission is one new unwrapped toy. Call (213) 596-4304.

Rockin' in a winter wonderland: Local bands, acclaimed and otherwise, will perform in the sixth annual "Noise for Toys" benefit for the Canyon Acres Home for Abused Children Dec. 15 and 16 at the Doll Hut (107 S. Adams St., Anaheim). Bands include Cheezboy, Nevada Time, the Suicide Kings, Hope Trip, the Clints, the Decadent Debutante All-Star Band and the Fullerton All-Stars. Admission is $5 or a new unwrapped toy. 21 and over only. Call (714) 533-1286.

On Dec. 17, the Coach House (33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano) hosts the fifth annual "Orange County Music for the Needy" day-into-night concert featuring more than a dozen Southern California bands. Proceeds from the event will provide five local needy families with a complete Christmas celebration. The lineup includes the National Peoples Gang, Dick Dale, James Harmon and Friends, Egg Plant, the Joe Wood Project (with members of T.S.O.L.) and the Wild Cards. Admission is $7 or the equivalent value in canned foods or unwrapped new toys. Call (714) 496-8930 or (714) 496-8927.

On a milder note, the Pacific Symphony celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah with "Holiday at the Pops" Dec. 22 and 23 at the Performing Arts Center. The program includes Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker," Samuel Adler's "The Feast of Light" and Mennotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." Newton Wayland conducts. Performances are at 8 p.m. both nights. Tickets: $12 to $39. Call (714) 556-2787.

Also on Dec. 23, the Pacific Symphony will recall the Christmas of yesteryear with "Classics of Christmas Past," a collection of seasonal hits from days gone by. At the Center, 10:30 a.m. and noon. Tickets: $5 to $7. Call (714) 556-2787.

The Golden West College Symphonic Band stirs up the "Many Moods of Christmas" with holiday music, jingling sleigh bells and falling "snow" Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the college's Main Stage Theatre (15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach). Tickets: $4 to $5. Limited seating. Call: (714) 895-8378.

The choir and orchestra of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church (600 St. Andrews Road, Newport Beach) present Rutter's "Gloria" and other holiday favorites Sunday at 4 and 7 p.m. Tickets: $2-$4. Call (714) 631-3821.

St. Bonaventure's Catholic Church (16400 Springdale St., Huntington Beach) hosts its fifth annual Christmas Concert Sunday. The program features the children's, contemporary and senior choirs in a selection of carols and international holiday tunes. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. Call (714) 846-3359.

FOR THE KIDS

"Holidaze," presented by the Orange County Children's Theatre, features a cast of 50 youngsters in a program of holiday music, dance and skits. Performances will be held in the Huntington Beach High School auditorium (1905 Main St.) Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets: $3 to $7. Call (714) 964-8700.

Have yourself a prehistoric little Christmas: The Museum of Natural History and Science (2627 Vista del Oro, Newport Beach) invites kids 3 to 10 to its fourth annual Dinosaur Christmas Party Saturday. From 10 a.m. to noon, kids will be treated to a short demonstration by a paleontologist, bash a dino pinata and create dinosaur ornaments. Tickets: $2 to $3. Call (714) 640-7120.

The Laguna Playhouse is offering "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," a yuletide tale based on the story by Barbara Robinson. See what happens when the Herdman brats bully their way into the town pageant (for the eats) only to be tripped up by the true meaning of Christmas. Performances are at Thurston Middle School (1600 Park Ave., Laguna Beach) Dec. 15 at 7:30; Dec. 16 and 17 at 2 and 7:30; Dec. 19 and 20 at 7:30; Dec. 21 and 22 at 2 and 7:30, and Dec. 23 at 2. Tickets: $3 to $5. Call (714) 494-0743.

Silly old bear. Everyone's favorite teddy stars in "A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tale" at the Anaheim Cultural Arts Center (931 N. Harbor Blvd.) Saturdays and Sundays at 5 p.m. through Jan. 28 (no shows between Dec. 17 and Jan. 5). Staged by the American Children's Theatre. Tickets: $5. Call (714) 544-7124.

PARADES

The 27th annual Huntington Harbour Cruise of Lights Tour Dec. 13 through 22 is a 45-minute boat ride past the harbor's glittering homes and yachts. Cruises depart hourly from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. from Peter's Landing. Shuttle bus service is provided from Huntington Harbour Mall (16897 Algonquin St.) beginning at 4:30 p.m. Tickets: $4 to $7, reservations required. Call (714) 840-7542.

Santa goes nautical at the Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade, Dec. 17 through 23. Casting off at 6:30 p.m., this flotilla of gaily decorated boats begins its nightly cruise at Collins Isle near Balboa Island and travels counterclockwise around the harbor until about 9 p.m. For the best viewing, consider . . .

The Newport Harbor Jaycees' special parking/grandstand package, which includes shuttle service from Newport Dunes to reserved seating at the harbor's Sea Scout base. Package tickets: $4 to $6. Call (714) 836-4110 (ask for Christina) or TicketMaster at (714) 740-2000.

The Laguna Art Museum's "Parade of Lights Holiday Party" Dec. 20. Held at a private home on Linda Isle, this fund-raiser includes a first-class view of the boat parade, buffet dinner and valet parking. Tickets: $50, reservations required. Call (714) 494-8971.

A harbor cruise or private charter. Contact the Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce for information, (714) 644-8211.

ADVENTURES IN SHOPPING

The first annual Fiesta Marketplace Christmas Celebration features weekends full of Mexican arts, crafts and entertainment in downtown Santa Ana (4th Street between Bush and French streets) Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m through Dec. 23.

Performances include UCI's Spanish Dance Ensemble (Sunday at 2 p.m.); Estudiantes de Nayarit, a children's choral group from the Mexican state of Nayarit (Dec. 16 at 4:30 p.m.); Spanish and English Christmas songs by Opera Pacific (Dec. 17 at 2 p.m.), and a performance of "Cuento de Navidad" by Teatro Jun Rulfo (Dec. 23 at 4 p.m.). On Dec. 16, a traditional Las Posadas procession, re-enacting Mary and Joseph's flight into Egypt with the Baby Jesus, will include hundreds of Santa Ana school children. A Spanish-speaking Santa will be in residence Dec. 23, starting at 2 p.m. Admission is free. Call (714) 550-0910.

Add a little Latin spice to your gift giving at the Bowers Museum Shops' Annual Holiday Sale (2036 N. Main St., Santa Ana). Through Saturday, the shop offers discounts on items from Mexico and South America including ethnic masks, art dolls, tin ornaments and retablos (Peruvian Nativity scenes). Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thursday, when it will be open till 9 p.m. Call (714) 972-1491.

Hitch up the team and head to Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town Christmas Crafts Festival, an old-fashioned country fair featuring gift-ables by over 60 artisans. Through Dec. 24, Mom and Dad can watch crafts demonstrations and catch up on their shopping while the kids visit Santa and create their own Christmas goodies in Santa's Workshop. A genuine carousel carver and painter will demonstrate their skills in the Crafts Barn. Admission to Ghost Town is $1 for adults; children under 12 get in free. Opens at 10 a.m. daily. Call (714) 220-5200 or (714) 827-1776.

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