Top of the season: A Christmas Carol--the Dickens classic replete with spooky ghosts, flashbacks and flash-forwards, an indefatigably cheery invalid and the original Scrooge of all Scrooges--has to be counted among the most essential of Christmas musts. So that you may fulfill your family holiday duty, Scrooge and the gang have once again been pulled into service by the Denver Center Theatre Company at the Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, through December 27. Admission ranges from $32 to $35; call 893-4100 for showtimes and reservations.
By the way, those marching to a different drummer boy have an alternative in Not a Christmas Carol: Scrounging for Christmas, a family-oriented small-stage entertainment currently at The Shop, 416 E. 20th Ave., at 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The weekend run wraps up December 21, with additional holiday shows tacked on Monday and Tuesday, December 22 and 23; to reserve tickets, $5 to $8, call 831-6095.
Diamond brio: A certified baseball fan who's written exhaustive historical tomes on such figures as Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt now turns her prose over to a pet project: Doris Kearns Goodwin's latest history is Wait Till Next Year, a personal memoir about her life in the 1950s spent under the influences of Catholicism, McCarthyism and, especially, baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Kearns brings her belly-whopping, go-downtown enthusiasm for the game, first made public in the Ken Burns Baseball series on PBS, to life tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave.; for information call 322-7727.
Pop goes the culture: If you're old enough to remember the Denver Rockets basketball team, Jane Fonda's Denver visit, hippie vans, rotary-dial phones, communes, geodesic domes and Rocky Horror, you're old enough to appreciate every hokey, nostalgic inch of The Times They Are a-Changin': Colorado in the 60s and 70s, opening today at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway. And even if you're not, the latest in the museum's ongoing series of annual decade-by-decade exhibitions promises to provide pure entertainment. The show features a boatload of catalogued memorabilia (much of it donated by residents) including everything from G.I. Joe dolls to one of John Denver's fancy shirts. Don't expect the highbrow approach in this exhibit--it paints the era's historical context with regional color in a strictly unpretentious manner. But do expect to have a good time perusing the artifacts of popular culture. The show continues through next August; call 866-3682.
The lap of luxury: Kids who rely on sign language to communicate will be able to make themselves perfectly clear on the subject of Christmas wishes when a special Signing Santa appears from 3 to 5 p.m. today and next Saturday at Buckingham Square Mall, Mississippi and Havana in Aurora. A garden-variety Santa will also do duty at the mall daily, through Christmas Day.
Gorgeous Georgetown: Snow-covered peaks and pine forests, gingerbread homes and an old-fashioned Victorian main street full of cute shops all provide a smashing backdrop for Christmas in Georgetown, a yearly event that combines holiday shopping with plain old good cheer. Maybe it's because the air is thinner, but Christmas shopping seems jollier in these high-altitude climes an hour's drive from Denver--as good a reason as any to spend the day, from 10 a.m. to dusk, browsing the handmade crafts, goodies and other items for sale in an outdoor market at Strousse Park, 6th and Rose in downtown Georgetown. The market continues through tomorrow; admission is free.
You might then choose to make an evening of it--the Hamill House, a restored historic painted lady at 305 Argentine St. in Georgetown, is hosting a Victorian Christmas celebration, with nips and nibbles, a candlelit tree, holiday carols and a visit from St. Nick himself. This holiday heaven doesn't come cheap--admission is $50. Call (303) 674-2625 for reservations.
Swingin' with the stars: The Swallow Hill Music Association finishes out the year in style by bringing Denver favorites Tim and Mollie O'Brien and the country/bluegrass-pickin' O'Boys to the Houston Fine Arts Center, 7111 Montview Blvd., for a musical holiday bash. The talented brother/sister duo, never afraid to try something new, performs a ragtag catalogue of old and new songs culled from the unlikely likes of the Carter family, Lucinda Williams, Terence Trent D'Arby and others in fine-tuned, made-for-each-other sibling voices, well-backed by O'Boys Scott Nygaard and Mark Schatz on guitar and bass. The newly formed Swallow Hill Swing Band, a fine group of Swallow Hill stalwarts featuring twin fiddles, a pedal-steel guitar, a horn section and the inimitable vocal harmonies of Liz Masterson and Sean Blackburn, will also appear, letting loose on a repertoire of Western swing and jazzy rhythm and blues; for tickets, $15 ($13 Swallow Hill members), call 1-800-444-SEAT.
Bells on your toes: This is one time when you can run just for the fun of it: The annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis is open to anyone willing to hightail it for 5 kilometers--while donning jingle bells on their shoes. Talk about a joyful noise. Elf suits, reindeer antlers and costumed pets are all welcome, and awards will be given for the most convincing Christmas camouflage. It all takes place today at 10 a.m. (costume contest at 9) at the southeast end of Washington Park. Register in advance at Runners Roost, Sporting Woman and Mongoose Runners Den stores, or beginning at 8 on race day at South High School, 1700 E. Louisiana Ave.; entry fees range from $15 to $25. Call 756-8622 or access www.runners roost.com for details and registration.
Feminine mystique: The evidence is in--girls can be heroes, too. And children's literature has always supported that fact, though the tough heroines of kids' books may have been given short shrift over the years, overshadowed as they were by Tom Sawyer and the Hardy Boys. Brave Little Girls, a traveling exhibition from the National Museum of Women in the Arts opening today at the Central Library's seventh-floor Vida Ellison Gallery, turns the tables, highlighting 58 books that celebrate the feats, adventures, intelligence and accomplishments of literature's most inspiring--and risk-taking--little women. In addition, a variety of weekend lectures, film screenings, performances and workshops are scheduled from January to March in conjunction with the exhibit, which continues through March 31; for additional information, call 640-6377.
Championship pout: Brigitte Bardot's famously kittenish scowl may be the least important aspect of Jean-Luc Godard's cinema classic Contempt, but it wouldn't be the same film without it. Jack Palance, Fritz Lang and Godard himself all star in the many-leveled examination of deteriorating relationships and art-versus-commercialism film-industry schisms; a refurbished print is now on screen at the Esquire Theatre, 590 Downing St., for a limited engagement. For showtimes call 733-5757.
Maus rap: Comic artist Art Spiegelman proved he was more than a comic with the publication of Maus: A Survivor's Tale and Maus: And Here My Troubles Began, a startling Pulitzer Prize-winning serial memoir in comic-strip form based on his father's concentration-camp experiences. Since then, Spiegelman's illustrations, split between darkly humorous and innocently charming, have gone on to grace New Yorker covers and, recently, a children's picture book, I'm a Dog! Now his artwork has been collected for Maus and Beyond, a traveling exhibition on view in the Singer Gallery of the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, 350 S. Dahlia, through February 1. Spiegelman will give a slide show, The Making of Maus, and discuss the books during a live appearance tonight at 7:30 at the center; admission is $10 ($5 for students and seniors).
Also on tap at the JCC is the Leah Cohen Book Fair and Hanukkah Headquarters, a Jewish-themed market of literature and holiday items open daily except Saturdays through December 30. Concerts, children's programs, lectures and workshops will be offered during the fair's run; standouts include Cooking for Hanukkah with Cookie Rosenbaum on December 18 and a munchin' Lots of Latkes Luncheon on December 25. Reservations are required for many of the programs; call 399-2660.
Mandolin wind: It's common knowledge that mandolinist Ricky Skaggs is a true keeper of the bluegrass flame--so why don't we hear more bluegrass from the phenomenal Skaggs on disc? Past contractual obligations kept him on a straight-and-narrow, mainstream country recording track, but now Skaggs is getting back to roots, recording bluegrass and gospel on Rounder Records under the brand-new Skaggs Family logo. Skaggs's nimble breakdowns and sweet vocals are back where they belong, backed by a spitfire of a string band, Kentucky Thunder, and they'll sound mighty fine tonight at another E-Town radio recording concert. Jeb Loy Nichols, a Renaissance man who paints and writes both short stories and songs, will also appear, mixing American music styles into a folksy blend at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder. Tickets to the 7 p.m. session are $9 in advance ($11 day of show); call 786-7030.
Observe and protect: There are mean comics and dumb comics and political comics. And then there are the comics who come across like the zany boy next door. We don't know anyone who wouldn't mind having lanky, personable Evan Davis for a neighbor, even if he is a bit hyper. It's all in the way he makes you laugh--at yourselves and one another, without pointing any fingers. Refresh yourself: Davis opens a five-night run tonight at the Comedy Works, 1226 15th St. For information call 592-1714.