First off, let’s just get this out of the way — Portland has more people, more money and more opportunities for professional performing arts productions than does humble Clark County.
But that said, our community has a lot of wonderful options for folks looking for enjoyable entertainment during the holiday season.
If you’re looking to check out orchestra music, choirs, the theater or even a few books, both communities have ample events to select from.
And there’s no need to pick one side of the river over the other — even when it comes to seeing a holiday classic like “The Nutcracker” ballet.
“In Vancouver there are a couple quality ballet companies that do ‘The Nutcracker’ (such as Northwest Classical Ballet), but they don’t have the resources for an orchestra, so the music is in the can,” said Don Appert, chairman of the music department at Clark College. “In Portland you get the full package.”
Performing arts in the Pacific Northwest are like a holiday buffet — you can pile on your favorite dishes or just taste a bit of everything to suit your liking.
Annie Warf, owner and director of Riverside Performing Arts, said she prefers the smorgasbord approach.
“I think there are a lot more options for community performances, community theater over here, and it’s very popular,” Warf said. “Performances here are less professional, but more intimate. I see a lot of families that I teach and work with and I like that sense of community.”
Big shows certainly have their merits, though. Warf plans to check out the Lakewood Theater Company’s production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” in Lake Oswego, Ore. this season. It’s especially nice to take aspiring performers from Vancouver to check out the Portland scene, she said.
“But Portland productions can also seem cold and big,” Warf said.
Possibly our biggest strength on this side of the river is in choirs, said April Duvic, vocal music program director at Clark College. The school has four of them, and there are at least three or four other large active choirs in the community, she said.
“To say something is better or as good is a difficult qualifier,” Duvic said. “I think we have fine talent in Clark County. In Portland you have, of course,
more choirs to choose from, and you get more music majors from colleges there because of the population size. But here I think it really builds that sense of community. It’s accessible and energizing.”
The other benefit to sticking around Vancouver for your entertainment? The productions cost less to attend — and in some cases, like the Clark College choirs and orchestra, they’re even free.
So if you’re looking for some suggestions on both sides of the river, The Columbian Life Desk has compiled a small list of parallel events to pick from. Get out there — and have an entertaining holiday season.
Vancouver USA Singers: The Majesty of Christmas
Description: An evening of holiday music with a choir of 100 singers, a brass group and wind instruments. Music includes “Magnificat” by Vaughan Williams, “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl and “Christmas Cantata” by Daniel Pinkham.
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Dec. 11.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, 4300 Main St., Vancouver.
Cost: $15, $10 for students and seniors.
Portland Gay Men’s Chorus: Joy to the (Modern) World
Description: The Gay Men’s Chorus’ 32nd season kicks off with a “high-tech, eco-friendly and interactive celebration” of carols and anthems for the holiday season.
Showtimes: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday.
Location: Newmark Theater, Portland Center for the Performing Arts, 1111 S.W. Broadway Ave., Portland.
Cost: $16 to $42.
Clark College Orchestra: Buried Treasures Concert Series
Description: The Buried Treasures 2011-2012 concert series by the Clark College Orchestra kicks off with music by Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Franck and Tchaikovsky. The Wednesday concert features guest conductor German Caceres, music director of the El Salvador State Symphony.
Showtime: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Location: Royal Durst Theatre, Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, 3101 Main St., Vancouver.
Cost: Free. Voluntary donations to the Orchestra General Fund accepted at the door.
Oregon Symphony: Gospel Christmas
Description: The Oregon Symphony and Northwest Community Gospel Choir will perform gospel music that celebrates the music of the season. Conducted by Charles Floyd.
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Dec. 11.
Location: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, Portland.
Cost: $25 to $90.
Northwest Classical Ballet: “The Nutcracker”
Description: The story of a magical Christmas Eve in the Tannenbaum household gets a fun twist in this adaptation choreographed by Maricar Drilon. Children of all ages will perform with pre-professional and professional company dancers.
Showtimes: 2 p.m. Sunday.
Location: Prairie High School Auditorium, 11500 N.E. 117th Ave., Vancouver.
Oregon Ballet Theatre: “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker”
Description: This classic version of “The Nutcracker” was created by George Balanchine, founder of the New York City Ballet and graduate of the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, Russia. Oregon Ballet Theater is the only company on the West Coast licensed to perform this version. Vancouver resident Veyonce Ratcliff will dance in select performances.
Showtimes: 2 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 17, 20-23; 6:30 p.m. Dec. 11; 1 and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 18; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19-21 and Dec. 23; and noon Dec. 24.
Location: Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St., Portland.
Cost: Ticket prices start at $21.
Cover to Cover Books: Holiday Book Fair
Description: Ten local writers and poets, including best-selling young adult and urban fantasy author Lili Saintcrow, will discuss, sign and sell books at the holiday book fair.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Location: Cover to Cover Books, 6300 St. James Road, Suite 104B, Vancouver.
Oregon Historical Society: Holiday Cheer
Description: More than 50 Oregon authors will sign and sell books, including children’s author Bart King, best-selling Earth’s Children series author Jean Auel and former Gov. Barbara Roberts.
Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Location: Oregon Historical Society, 1200 S.W. Park Ave., Portland.
Cost: $5, free for OHS members and youth age 17 and under. Includes free gift wrapping.
Christian Youth Theater: “Disney’s My Son Pinocchio”
Description: Original songs by Stephen Schwartz add to the classic tale of an aging toymaker and his puppet, Pinocchio, in this family-friendly musical.
Showtimes: 7 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 11.
Location: Washburn Performing Arts Center, Washougal High School, 1201 39th St., Washougal.
Cost: $12 in advance for adults, $9 for youth, seniors and groups. All tickets are $2 more at the door.
Northwest Children’s Theater and School: “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka”
Description: A stage adaptation of the Roald Dahl book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” about a candy man and his quest to find an heir.
Showtimes: 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 18 and Tuesdays through Saturdays from Dec. 20 to Dec. 31; 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 17 and Wednesdays through Fridays from Dec. 21 to Dec. 30.
Location: NW Neighborhood Cultural Center, 1819 N.W. Everett St., Portland.
Cost: $18-$22 for adults, $13-$18 for youth.
Slocum House Theater: “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”
Description: The Frank Capra holiday film is re-imagined as a 1940s radio show in this production. The story is about a family man who has a crisis of faith, but is helped back to his senses by an angel trying to earn his wings.
Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 18
Location: Slocum House Theater, 605 Esther St., Vancouver.
Cost: $13 general admission, $11 for seniors 60 and over and children 12 and under.
Lakewood Theater Company: “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”
Description: This musical production filled with Irving Berlin songs tells the story of veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis and their song-and-dance career and romantic escapades after World War II.
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 18. Also 7 p.m. Dec. 11 and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees on Dec. 4, 11, 18.
Location: Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 State St., Lake Oswego, Ore.
Cost: $32 adults, $29 seniors.