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We've checked it twice: Some shows are naughty and some shows are nice

'Tis that time of year again. Mistletoe. Stockings. Shopping-mall Santas. Reduced spending on Christmas gifts due to the global economic fall-off.

It's also a busy time in the performing arts in this city. Wondering what to do on those icicle-framed (or rainy) evenings with kooky Uncle Merv, favourite niece Nora, or your best gal/guy? Here are some suggestions, ranging from Messiah sing-alongs, burlesque shows, ballet ... and eardrum-shattering rock.

Dec. 4 - A Night of Comedy -- Tonight, Oak Bay High School's Club Mengo and Improv Club collaborates with Spilt Milk Comedy to produce A Night of Comedy, an all-ages improv show with a silent auction. It's at Oak Bay High School's west auditorium, with the show starting at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation (suggested $10). Proceeds go to Mengo Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. (Tickets at Lyle's Place, 770 Yates St., or tel. Taylor Daniel at 250-598-9237.)

Dec. 5 - Mint's Ridiculously Early Xmas Party --It's a holiday, indeed, when you team Edmonton's Hot Panda with Calgary's the Ramblin' Ambassadors, Winnipeg's Novillero, and Vancouver's Vancougar and Bella. That this doubles as the birthday bash for Vancouver label Mint Records makes it even more of an event. (9 p.m., Logan's Pub, 1821 Cook St. Ticket price TBA.)

Dec. 6 -- Canadian Pacific Ballet's A Child's Christmas in Wales -- A reading of Dylan Thomas's beloved Christmas story is combined with live ballet, every Saturday up to Christmas. What's more, it's free. (3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Market Square.)

Dec. 6 - Jon & Roy Holiday Special --This bill sells itself. Take some of the best acts in Victoria, put them in one of the city's best venues the city has to offer, make it reasonably priced, all-ages, and a benefit for the Mustard Seed food bank and you've got a winner. Acts include Jon & Roy, Current Swell, The Haits Old Time Stringband, Adam & Antonia, JP Maurice, Ryan Guildemond, Laura Smith and Stephen Franke. (8 p.m., Alix Goolden Performance Hall, 907 Pandora Ave. Admission $18.)

Dec. 6, 7 - J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Cantatas I, II, and III -- The Sooke Philharmonic Chamber Players and Chorus, with soloists Isaiah Bell, Cari Burdett and Chalium Poppy, perform Saturday and Sunday, along with flautist Alison Crone, who will playing Bach's Suite No. 2 in B minor for flute with strings.

Saturday, Sooke Community Theatre, 6218 Sooke Rd., 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m., St. Mary of the Incarnation, 4125 Metchosin Rd.

Tickets $18, $15 students/seniors, $5 children 16 and under. Call 250-642-5760 or 250-386-5760 .

Dec. 12 - Champions of Hell X-Mas Art Show -- Ghoulish punk and metal isn't limited to Halloween. The fantastic lineup of acts -- The Sweathogz, Archon Legion, Reaver, and Sheglank'd Shoulders -- is second only to amazing local artwork from the Champions of Hell comic book, as well as paintings, photographs and sculptures. Plus, get your picture taken with Satan Claws. (Starts 8 p.m. at Incite Screenprinting and Promotion, 2514 Douglas St. Suggested donation: $6.66.)

Dec. 11 to 13 - A Christmas Carol: In Concert -- A Broadway musical-style adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, with a 100-voice choir and orchestra. Fans of the Victoria Operatic Society may recognize such solid talents as Craig Wilson and Tara Britt. Score is by Alan Menken, who also created music for Disney's The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Proceeds to Victoria Youth Musical Theatre, which stages the show. (7 p.m. at UVic Centre Auditorium. Tickets $15 to $25. Tel. 250 721- 8480.)

Dec. 12 - Winter Harp -- Victorians go ga-ga over this Christmas event, so book those tickets early. Winter Harp consists of musicians in medieval attire, playing drums, tambourines, violins, rare 12th century instruments... and of course, harps. And yes, Virginia, it's almost certainly your only chance this year to hear the exotic nyckelharpa. (7:30 p.m., Alix Goolden Performance Hall. Tickets, $30 at Munro's Books, Ivy's Book Shop.)

Dec. 13 - Laurence Jalbert -- La Societe Francophone de Victoria presents the Quebec singer-songwriter. (8 p.m., Alix Goolden Performance Hall. Tickets $25, tel. 250 388-7350)

Dec. 13 - Bandit Benefit concert -- Eric Raschig and The Turnpike Bandits, reprise their free Christmas chili supper and concert. Although intended to help out the poor, everyone is welcome; Raschig expects more than 800 this season. As well as hot grub, the Bandits offer gritty country-rock in the tradition of such outlaw heroes as Steve Earle, Hank Williams. The Clover Point Drifters also perform. (1:30 - 4:30 p.m at Victoria Cool Aid Society, 755 Pandora Ave.)

Dec. 13 - Cheesecake Burlesque Revue -- If free chili isn't your style, how about groovin' to the peekaboo dance-stylings of Lolly Lushbottom and Mz. B. Haven? The Cheesecake Burlesque Revue hearkens back to the tease 'n' tickle days of burlesque, which is mostly about innocent, sexy fun. (Showtime 8:30 p.m. at Lucky Bar, 517 Yates St. Admission is $12 advance, $15 at door.)

Dec. 14 - Belly Funk, Tribal and Dance Fusion Evolution -- Nothing says Christmas quite like Asmira the belly-dancer and her tribe of midriff-shakers. Asmira promises to unveil her new dance, Cobra, featuring dancers garbed in "liquid lamé" and chiffon bell-bottoms. (7:30 p.m., Metro Studio, 1411 Quadra St. Tickets are $14, at Lyle's Place.)

Dec. 14 - George Canyon -- Square jaw, enormous black hat. What more does a country singer need? Those who love to wear cowboy boots at Christmas may be interested in this popular Nova Scotia singer. (7:30 p.m., Alex Goolden Performance Hall. Tickets $39.50, tel. 250 386-6121. )

Dec. 14 - A Christmas Concert -- Sounds from around the world, from classical Christmas music to Jewish songs, will be performed to benefit the Queenswood Bursary Program. Merv and Merla Watson (both singers and musicians) bringing daughter Elana, a professional musician, to explore a variety of musical genres together, from jazz to Middle Eastern. (Dinner 6 p.m., concert at 7 in Queenswood Chapel, 2494 Arbutus Rd. Dinner and concert $25, concert only $15.)

Dec. 15- Victoria Children's Choir concert -- The cathedral will ring with the sounds of Christmas when these young choristers belt out carols and seasonal chestnuts. They'll also sing a traditional Diwali song, with five Indian musicians on tabla, keyboard and bamboo flute, and be joined by members of the St. Christopher Singers for Haydn's Mass for St. Nicholas. (7 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral. $15 at door or Ivy's, Cadboro Bay Books, Larsen Music, Long & McQuade. Tel. 250 721-0856)

Dec. 16 -Dirty Little Rotten Christmas Party --The time\less, countrypolitan music of Hank & Lily hooks up with Vincat, Atomique Vaudeville and The Tea House Girls, in addition to burlesque by Bettina May. Pictures with, ahem, Bad Santa, are also on tap. (9 p.m., Lucky Bar, 817 Yates St. Admission $10.)

Dec. 16 - Allison Crowe's Tidings Concert -- This Nanaimo-raised singer-songwriter has performed regular Christmas concerts for years. Expect Crowe's heartfelt ballads, covers such as Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and Joni Mitchell's The River, mixed with seasonal favourites. Opening act is Billie Woods. Proceeds assist Artemis Place and HepCBC.

(8 p.m. at Alix Goolden Performance Hall, tickets $20, $15 in advance. Lyle's Place, The Patch, Ivy's Bookshop).

Dec. 19 - A Christmas Carol -- Readers from CBC Radio team up to read the Charles Dickens favourite. The event -- last year raising more than $180,000 -- benefits local shelters, food banks and more. This year's readers include Arthur Black, Lisa Cordasco and Gregor Craigie. (7 p.m. at Alix Goolden Performance Hall; tickets $15 at Our Place Society, 919 Pandora Ave., or Christian Book & Music Centre.)

Dec. 19 - Ken Lavigne Christmas Concert -- Lavigne, one of the most talented tenors to come out of Victoria in recent years, is raising funds for a Carnegie Hall concert in the new year, so a ticket for this Christmas concert supports that worthy effort. Lavigne is also performing for a more exclusive event -- another fundraiser -- at the Bard & Banker pub this Saturday night, with tickets going for $400 a pop. (Christmas concert starts 7:30 at Christ Church Cathedral. Tickets are $20 advance and $25 door, available at Long and McQuade. Tel. 250 384-3622)

Dec. 19 and 21 - Handel's Messiah -- This concert puts everyone in the seasonal mood and sells out every year. The oratorio will be highlighted by a magnificent cast of soloists, and the program also features the Victoria Choral Society and Victoria Symphony, conducted by maestro Guiseppe Pietraroia. (8 p.m. Dec. 19, 2:30 p.m. Dec 21 in Farquhar Auditorium, UVic. Tickets $15 to $40.)

Dec. 20 -- Civic Orchestra of Victoria's Annual Sing-along Messiah -- The only thing better than listening to Handel's greatest hit is singing along. Soloists this year are soprano Stephanie Landucci, mezzo Michelle McKenzie, tenor Isaiah Bell and bass Paul Boughen. Some song-sheets available, bring your own if you have 'em. (2 p.m. at Alix Goolden Performance Hall. Admission is $12, $14.)

Dec. 20 -- Christmas with Holly Cole -- Jazz-pop singer Holly Cole often gives delightful Christmas concerts in this city. The highlight is typically Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby, which the singer transforms into a torchy tour-de-force. She teams up with the Victoria Symphony, conducted by Giuseppe Pietraroia. (8 p.m. at the Royal Theatre. Tickets from $35 to $75. Tel. 250 386-6121.)

Dec. 21 - Balkan Babes' Third Annual Solstice Concert -- The Babes celebrate Winter Solstice with songs from the Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia and other cool Eastern European locales. This diverse group of singers includes farmers, bookkeepers, café-owners, artists and writers. In April they won the 2008 CBC Radio 2 Award for Best Pan-Cultural Traditions Choir. (7:30 p.m. at Orange Hall, 1620 Fernwood Rd. Tickets $10 door, $12 advance. Tel. Long & McQuade at 250 384-3622)

Dec. 26 -Boxing Day -- The Stir Fry Way -- It's a local tradition and a reunion rolled into one, featuring popular DJs, rappers and Stir Fry collaborators, including: Verse, Murge, Kia Kadiri, Rebecca Schoichet, Demoe One, Just B, Salamander, and Phio. (8 p.m., Element, 919 Douglas St.; admission $8).

Dec. 15-17 -- Naden Band Christmas Concert. The Naden Band and the Salvation Army join forces for their 30th annual toy drive and concerts. Remember, part of the admission is an unwrapped toy. (7:30 p.m. nightly, Royal Theatre. For information, call 250-386-6121).

Dec. 27 to 30 - Cinderella (Royal Theatre) -- Ballet Victoria has reinvented the classic fairy tale about glass slippers and unhelpful stepsisters. Artistic director Paul Destrooper has set the piece at the start of the last century and modelled it on the black and white silent films. (Performances 7:30 p.m. Sat, Sun., Mon; matinees 2 p.m. Sun., Mon., Tues. Tickets from $18 to $55.50. Tel. 250 386-6121).

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