12/4-12/6: Holiday Smorgasboard, Already

HIP HOP HOLIDAY:  A Christmas Carol is a holiday classic -- but you've never seen it lke this.  HartBeat Ensemble is putting a twist on the classic, bringing Victorian England straight into Hartford.  Ebeneeza: A Hartford Holiday Carol is playing Friday and Saturday at the Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts (and this is not your grandmother's Scrooge story).  Tickets are free!  7:30pm.

CHRISTMAS ROCKS:  We've already seen TSO come through the Nutmeg State, now Connecticutioners are ready for the next big thing in holiday concerts.  And Brian Setzer is coming to fill that need.  Setzer and his orchestra are bringing their Christmas Rocks! Extravaganza to the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Friday night.  This is the seventh straight year for the former Stray Cats front man and his 18-piece big band to bring their holiday show on the road.  Put some swing into your Christmas step with twists on classic carols like "Jingle Bells," and original tunes like "Boogie Woogie Santa."  Tickets are $35-$55.  8pm.

CELEBRATING TRADITION:  Raise your glasses this weekend as the 36th annual Festival of Trees & Traditions kicks off at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.  The fun begins Friday night with a Toast to Traditions Cocktail Party at the museum.  It's your first chance to view your favorite trees and purchase those must-have decorations, all while sipping cocktails with old and new friends.  That begins a week of fanciful, fabulous and romantic trees (and don't forget the wreaths) decorated by 200 creative artists from throughout the community.  There are kids activities every day.  The cocktail party is Friday from 6-8pm and costs $85.  The Festival runs through Dec. 13 (except Dec. 7) from 10am-5pm.  Tickets are $13.

SIPPIN' WITH SANTA:  Or maybe chugging.  Either way, Saturday night is your chance to dress up like Ol' Saint Nick, and drink your way through downtown Hartford.  It's the Santa Pub Crawl.  For just $5, you can join Santas just like you as you enjoy the libations offered by the capitol city and raise money for the CT Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Santa Suits aren't required (but what's the fun in that?).  7pm

EASY NUT TO CRACK:  It's time for another holiday classic.  The Nutmeg Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker," debuts this weekend at the Warner Theatre in Torrington.  Starting Saturday night, travel with Clara to enchanted lands in Tchaikovsky's timeless ballet.  The show is complete with all your favorites including toy soldiers, princesses, sugarplums and warring mice.  Click here for more info and performance schedules.

CHRISTMAS IN FROGTOWN:  The Muppets are making a major comeback these days (click here if you don't know what we're talking about).  But it's an old school Jim Henson production that's taking center stage.  Henson's "Emmet Otter" is playing at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam starting Saturday night.  The show tells the story of Christmas time in Frogtown Hollow.  Emmet Otter and his Ma can only dream of buying each other gifts (the recession, you know?).  But when a Christmas Eve talent contest is announced, both enter (in secret of course) in hopes of bringing home the top prize (and the prize money).  The holiday musical is fun for kids of all ages.  Click here for performance and ticket info.

IT CAN'T ALL BE CHRISTMAS:  Before he was Nicole's dad, he was one of the biggest names in music.  Lionel Richie is in Connecticut this weekend.  Richie will have people dancing on the ceiling Saturday night at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods.  Of course, Lionel does have a Christmas album to his credit, so you never know what songs you might here.  Tickets are $75-$100.  8pm.

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