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Wrapping up seasonal performances with holiday bow

Performers gather on stage for the Talent Machine¿Äôs ¿ÄúRockin' Holiday 2014,¿Äù on stage Sunday at St. John¿Äôs College¿Äôs Key Auditorium. Photo by Bud Johnson for The Baltimore Sun
Performers gather on stage for the Talent Machine¿Äôs ¿ÄúRockin' Holiday 2014,¿Äù on stage Sunday at St. John¿Äôs College¿Äôs Key Auditorium. Photo by Bud Johnson for The Baltimore Sun (Photo by Bud Johnson / Baltimore Sun)

For weeks we've seen holiday celebrations of drama, dance and song on stages at the Chesapeake Arts Center, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Anne Arundel Community College's Kauffman Theater, St. John's College and area churches.

The final Sunday before Christmas offers three more festive performances: Handel's "Messiah," Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" and the Talent Machine Company's "A Rockin' Holiday 2014."

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The Annapolis Chorale, directed by J. Ernest Green, will perform the "Messiah" at 3 p.m. Sunday in the St. Anne's Church in Annapolis.

Also Sunday, Ballet Theatre of Maryland will present two final performances of "The Nutcracker," choreographed by artistic director Dianna Cuatto, with a Sugar Plum party one hour before to each performance. The performance are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at Maryland Hall.

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Audiences will find consummate performances of these two beloved works. Chorale fans return each year to enjoy the "Messiah" at St. Anne's, where the acoustics and the historic surroundings make for a musical and visual treat. The wondrous sound of the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra is accented by superb soloists, this season including baritone Shouvik Mondle performing "Thus Sayeth the Lord." Mondle will be joined by mezzo-soprano, tenor and soprano guest soloists.

Sunday's "Messiah" performance will include Part 1 of the work, plus the "Hallelujah" chorus and a carol singalong, making the event ideal for the entire family. Green's conducting of the Annapolis Chorale practically guarantees a fulfilling Christmas season. Tickets are expected to be available at the door.

As the Annapolis Chorale has delivered excellence in the "Messiah" over the years, so has Ballet Theatre's "Nutcracker" attained near-perfection under Cuatto, now in her 12th season as the company's artistic director.

Cuatto tweaks her choreography to attain greater heights of interpretation each year, and continues to recruit stellar dancers — including this season's exciting principal male performers.

In the newly renovated Maryland Hall, the ballet enjoys the visual improvements through more technically advanced lighting, and the recorded music is improved by the acoustic upgrades. Audiences will also enjoy the spectacular scenery — created by the company's multitalented dancers — as well as the show's striking costumes.

The dancing is spectacular. The lead role of Clara has been danced by three ballerinas — Nicole Kelsch, Lynne Bellinger and Elizabeth Fittro in her debut with Ballet Theatre. The Nutcracker Prince has been portrayed by both Alexander Collen, a favorite in the troupe's performance of "Swan Lake" at the Modell Lyric, and by exciting new Ballet Theatre dancer Peter Elverson.

A major reason not to miss Sunday's performances: They are the last for principal dancer Meagan Helman, who will appear as the Dew Drop Fairy. She is moving to Florida and bidding farewell to the troupe.

Seats remain for both the 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. performances and can be purchased at the Maryland Hall box office before each show.

The other holiday performance having its swan song Sunday is Talent Machine's "A Rockin' Holiday 2014."

Last Friday's opening performance of the show featured a cast of 63 performers ranging from 4-year-old Finnian Carroll, who has "been waiting his whole life to be in a Talent Machine Holiday Show," to 18-year-old veterans who are nearing their retirement from the troupe. Delivering high-energy, polished performances, these young stars will inspire lagging holiday spirits to soar.

Catch the final performance of "Rockin' Holiday 2014" on Sunday at St. John's College Key Auditorium at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the box office before performances.

This trio of shows caps a season of excellent local performances that included Pasadena Theatre Company's "It's a Wonderful Life," offered to a near-capacity audience at North County High School in an encore performance for the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum. Earlier, the show had six delightful performances at Anne Arundel Community College's Humanities Hall.

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At Chesapeake Arts Center, enthusiastic fans were treated to the comedic "Twelve Days of Christmas, the Christmas Special" presented by Hack and Slash. A number of choruses brightened the season with concerts at Anne Arundel Community College and at area churches.

And Annapolis Opera offered its "Mostly Mozart" concert last Sunday at Calvary United Methodist Church, which was trimmed for Christmas as a background for a spectacular program created by Annapolis Opera artistic director Ronald J. Gretz, featuring superb singing by four outstanding artists within Calvary Church's pure acoustics.

Soprano Rachel Hall, tenor Jonas Hacker, mezzo-soprano Jazimina MacNeil and baritone Kevin Wetzel delivered a variety of Mozart arias, performing so well that many the audience can hardly wait until March — that's when Annapolis Opera's fully staged "Cosi fan tutte" will arrive on the Maryland Hall stage.

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