TheaterHal Landon Jr., starring as Scrooge, is...


Hal Landon Jr., starring as Scrooge, is a theatrical institution in Orange County. He has been doing it for 17 years in Jerry Patch's stage adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic story "A Christmas Carol" on the South Coast Repertory Mainstage in Costa Mesa. Landon offers a striking portrait of the notorious miser as someone whose ultimate redemption makes him giddier than a child with a new toy. The production, fairly lavish in its special effects, focuses as well on the power of the supernatural to persuade.

* Who: Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

* Where: South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at Bristol and go north to Town Center Drive; right on Town Center to theater.

* When: 7:30 p.m. tonight and Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, noon and 4 p.m.Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Monday and noon and 4 p.m. Tuesday. Ends Tuesday.

* Wherewithal: $19-$34.

* Where to call: (714) 957-4033.



Gordon Gano wasn't asking for all that much back in 1983 when he introduced himself and his band, Violent Femmes, to the world on the first track of the Wisconsin band's first album. "Let me go on, like a blister in the sun," the whiny-voiced little fellow sang. All these years later, the "Violent Femmes" LP is an alt-rock classic, and Gano, Brian Ritchie and newer addition Guy Hoffman go on and on. And when they're really on, the Femmes are as much fun as you're apt to find under a klieg-ight sun.

* What: Violent Femmes.

* When: 7 and 10 p.m. tonight.

* Where: Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

* Whereabouts: Take Interstate 5 to Camino Capistrano and go left. The Coach House is in the Esplanade Plaza, on the right.

* Wherewithal: $20-$22.

* Where to call: (714) 496-8930.



One exchange early in the show of the team of Alex Valdez, a blind, sharp-dressing Latino from Santa Ana, and Jim O'Brien, an Irish Catholic from Chicago, neatly sums up the flavor of their act. Explaining what brought them together, Valdez sets the scene by describing each performer's heritage. O'Brien quietly finishes the piece: "Obviously alcohol was involved." That sets the stage for a night of shooting down stereotypes. They do it with music (the nifty "White Trash Blues"), sound effects (O'Brien does a mean Harley) and anecdotes (you should hear about Valdez's driving habits).

* Who: O'Brien & Valdez.

* When: 8:30 tonight and Sunday, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

* Where: The Improv, 945 E. Birch St., Brea.

* Whereabouts: Exit the Orange (57) Freeway at Imperial Highway and go west. Turn right onto State College Boulevard and left onto Birch Street. The Improv is in the Brea Marketplace, across from the Brea Mall.

* Wherewithal: $10-$12.

* Where to call: (714) 529-7878.



Hung salon-style (stacked up on the wall) when possible, the hundreds of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures and videos in "Centered on the Center" are meant to be a free-for-all for artists and viewers alike.

No juror weeded out clunkers from this Huntington Beach Art Center show, now in its second year. Instead, all artists over 18 from Orange and Los Angeles counties were invited to show their stuff, secure in the knowledge that the center would display as many pieces as could be squeezed in the galleries.

So come down and play critic, look for your friends' pieces or simply marvel at the hodgepodge of styles and the amazing number of people who are convinced that they have talent.

* What: "Centered on the Center."

* When: Through Feb. 2. (Center is closed Dec. 24-Jan. 1.) Noon-6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; to 8 p.m. Thursday, to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, to 4 p.m. Sunday.

* Where: Huntington Beach Art Center, 538 Main St.

* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at Beach Boulevard; go south. Turn right onto Main Street.

* Wherewithal: $3; $2 for students and seniors.

* Where to call: (714) 374-1650.

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