GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : ‘Amahl’ Returns : The reworking of Menotti’s operetta is a popular local Christmas tradition.


OK, so maybe the Santa Claus in Santa Barbara’s Paseo Nuevo shopping center is a “Santa by the Sea” and sits upon a coral throne. And so what if the Santa in the town’s Christmas parade earlier this month rode around in a red Rolls-Royce convertible instead of his usual sleigh? Just like the rest of the country, Santa Barbara does follow Christmas traditions--but it sometimes follows the beat of a different Drummer Boy.

One favorite local Christmas tradition, Repertory-West and Friends Dance Company’s annual presentation of “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” will be performed Monday at 8 p.m. and Tuesday at 3 and 8 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre.

The story of a lame boy and his widowed mother who offer the three Magi a place to stay for the night was originally written as an operetta for television by Gian Carlo Menotti, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his work. Members of Repertory-West approached Menotti about the operetta in 1983 and transformed it into a work of modern dance, song and theater.

Screen and stage actor John Ireland, a Santa Barbara resident, will read Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” before the presentation. Tickets are $12.75. 963-0761.


La Casa de la Raza will hold its 20th annual Posada Christmas celebration Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Posada, meaning “inn,” is a traditional Latin American Christmas procession representing Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging. Participants at La Casa de la Raza are randomly divided into two groups. Everyone is given a candle and a song sheet, the lights are turned off and then the group outside of the building sings to the group inside asking for lodging, and the indoor group replies. The free event draws about 400 people yearly, 965-8581.

Headless Household, a group that plays original jazz, rock, polka, surf music, funk, and anything else they might think of, might even perform some Christmas tunes--Santa Barbara style--in its upcoming concert.

“Silver Bells Tolling,” which guitarist Joe Woodard describes as a cross between “Silver Bells” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” is an example of the group’s alternative approach to caroling.

Tickets for the show Monday at 8 p.m. at the Center Stage Theatre in the Paseo Nuevo shopping center are $8.50. 963-0408.

For holiday music in a more traditional vein, Messiah Sing-Along, which will benefit the Council of Christmas Cheer, will be held at the First Presbyterian Church at State and Constance streets Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The program will be taped and later broadcast on KDB-FM (93.7). Tickets are $5. 966-4131.

While people in other parts of the country are decorating trees and skating on lakes and ponds, Santa Barbarans will be decorating their boats and heading for the Pacific.

This year’s Parade of Lights will include about 50 festive boats plus a Coast Guard cutter carrying Santa. Spectators can view the parade Sunday at 6 p.m. all along Cabrillo Boulevard and at the Harbor Breakwater and Stearns Wharf. 969-5217.


The heavens will be putting on their own parade of lights Thursday and Friday as up to 50 “shooting stars” per hour streak across the sky in one of the brightest meteor displays of the year.

The observation pad at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a good place to view the meteor shower. Telescopes will be put out and staff members will be on hand to give talks and answer questions. Admission is $1 per person.

Also at the Museum of Natural History, the Celtic Ensemble Queen Mab will perform its modern renditions of traditional Irish ballads and dance tunes. Plus, tales for the Winter Solstice will be added to the show Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. That’s $6.

Victoria Street Theatre is ending 1990 with “The Year’s Best Fest,” featuring the best foreign films of the year. The fest began last week with Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams.” Maurizio Nichetti’s “The Icicle Thief” runs through tomorrow. And “Cinema Paradiso” directed by Giuseppe Tornatore will be shown Saturday through Monday. “Jesus of Montreal,” directed by Denys Arcand, runs Tuesday through Dec. 20. Tickets are $4. 965-1886.