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CL's picks of the week 

Barenaked Ladies, The Nutcracker, Kingsbury Manx, others

Wednesday, December 13

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve has done it every year since 1947: collect unwrapped new toys for needy children. This year a national campaign is targeting as collection centers 17 large office buildings in 15 cities. Join the tradition and bring a toy to 101 Independence Center. But you've got to do it before Dec. 17 or Santa just might leave coal in your stocking. ­­­-- Karen Shugart

Thursday, December 14

No, this year's N.C. Dance Theatre production of The Nutcracker isn't the same-old ballet that has become a precious holiday tradition. For better or worse, NCDT artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux is giving the familiar Tchaikovsky score a complete choreographic makeover. A greatly enlarged corps de ballet -- including 100 children -- participate in this new extravaganza at Belk Theater, including a more glammed Super Plum Fairy, a younger Clara, and a humongous Mother Ginger. New set designs also begin to replace the designs for the old Sal Aiello concept in an ambitious 3-year plan. Tickets are priced at $10-$56 for the six-performance run, Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. through Dec. 17. Call 704-372-1000. -- Perry Tannenbaum

Friday, December 15

Make way for the Kingsbury Manx. This Chapel Hill quartet is known for its hallmark of ethereal psych-pop and are still riding high from the triumph of its fifth release, The Fast Rise and Fall of the South. Step into the Manx' evolution, and finally ken that they're not from Manchester this Friday night at the Evening Muse, with Schooner, at 10:30 p.m. Tix $5, available by phone at 800-594-TIXX (8499) -- Kandia Crazy Horse

Did anyone else feel that foul, bitterly cold wind that's blown in from the North? Well, a little bit of Northern exposure never killed anybody, but we will have to deal with its offerings for our three major sports teams: Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, and Charlotte Checkers. Tonight the Checks take on NJ's Trenton Titans in the Charlotte Bobcats Arena; www.gocheckers.com. Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics bring the beans to the Arena tomorrow night for a face-off with the Bobcats; www.bobcatsbasketball.com. And last, but certainly never least, that famous rivalry returns ... Pittsburgh is in the house and I'm sure the Cats will beat those Steelers from Bank of America Stadium all the way back to the Quaker State; www.panthers.com. GAME UP! -- Branna Calloway

During a year of hiatus preceding last year's holiday run of Amahl and the Night Visitors, Opera Carolina retooled its Christmas fable. The new casting, design, and instrumentation were enough to nudge the new version of Gian Carlo Menotti's pocket opera over the top in the all-important touching-my-heartstrings criterion. The new, improved Amahl returns Friday and Saturday at McGlohon Theatre in Spirit Square. Andrew Griner, Jr., who recently charmed audiences and critics in On Golden Pond, plays the title role, likely with the same effect. Friday evening at 7 p.m., Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Tickets are nicely priced for family powwows at $10-$16. Gaggles of six or more get a 10 percent discount -- and a seventh ticket free. Call 704-372-1000. -- Tannenbaum

Was it the stuck-up makeup saleswoman who hated the children who flocked to the store? Perhaps it was the security guard who couldn't handle seeing the color red for long periods of time. Find out who killed the department store Santa by attending the murder mystery dinner theater performance "I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus" at the Belk Action Center. Dinner begins at 7:15 p.m. and the investigating starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person. Call 704-650-2799 or e-mail info@abouttowntours.com for more info. -- Kimberly Lawson

Saturday, December 16

Carolina Voices Mainstage Choir becomes the Singing Christmas Tree. This family holiday tradition for the past 50 years brings us all Home for the Holidays. It's a celebration of the traditions and music that define Charlotte's diverse community from The Twelve Days of Christmas and Twas the Night Before Christmas to Appalachian folk songs and Gospel music. Get into the Christmas spirit as the Carolina Voices choir and orchestra are joined by the Grey Seal Puppets, the Eddie Mabry Dancers, and maybe even a visit from Santa! Event location is Ovens Auditorium, tonight (3 & 8 p.m.) and tomorrow night (3 p.m.). Call 704-374-1564. -- Calloway

Sunday, December 17

The Barenaked Ladies may have a funny name, but the band's no joke when it comes to the music business. Hailing from Canada, BNL self-produced and marketed its first release, The Yellow Tape, garnering the troupe a gold-plated plaque. And these days, the group represents a new generation of musicians who're committed to releasing music on multiple platforms. Want proof? Check out BNL's latest project Barenaked Ladies Are Me, which is available as a traditional CD, as a download featuring exclusive music and as a USB flash memory stick featuring even more exclusive music. Cool, eh? Want more BNL? Catch them when they come to the Grady Cole Center tonight as part of 107.9, The Link's Holiday Bash joined by Leigh Nash (remember "Kiss Me," she sung that as part of Sixpence None the Richer). -- Carlton Hargro

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