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See & Do 

DEC. 18 - WEDNESDAY
Four adolescent students, at the dawn of their sexual awakening, immerse themselves in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet -- at a regimented Catholic boys' school. That was the daring concept when Joseph Calaro brought R & J to New York in 1998 and created an off-Broadway sensation. Now Chickspeare brings the same audacious adaptation to Charlotte -- with an all-female cast. Since the company was hatched out of a feminist frustration about being barred from the Bard's juiciest roles, results will be intriguing. Directed by Joanna Gerdy, the show will be presented at Off-Tryon Theatre through December 21. Special pay-what-you-can night is 12/18. Call for tickets ($10-$12) at 704-344-4546. (Tannenbaum)

The UNC-Charlotte 49ers prepare to play Southern Illinois tonight at 7:30pm in Halton Arena. With a 4-3 record thus far (game vs. Miami pending at press time), our "niners" enter this game almost even-steven, but the Southern Illinois Salukis have a flawless record (4-0 at press time) and may be tough to beat. Tickets range from $10-$20. For more information, updated stats, and ticket purchase, visit online at www.charlotte49ers.com. (McKinney)

Hail to the Oratorios! Oratorio Singers of Charlotte cap their 50th anniversary year performing the most beloved oratorio of them all, Handel's Messiah. Our awesome Oratorios are the largest choral outfit in the Carolinas, and their personable director, David Tang, will conduct the whole shebang -- including the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. It's been a truly auspicious year for Tang, too: He's now moonlighting as Artistic Director of Philadelphia's Choral Arts Society. This performance is offered one night only, 7:30pm at First United Methodist Church. Count yourself among God's Elect if you manage to snag one of the $20 general admission tickets. Call 704-972-2000. (Tannenbaum)

DEC. 19 - THURSDAY
It's a yearly Yuletide argument that rages worldwide. But it's the children of Charlotte, after seeing North Carolina Dance Theatre's glorious production, who can truthfully proclaim, "My Nutcracker is better than yours!" That's our perfectly unbiased opinion. Salvatore Aiello's choreography, Bjorn Wiinblad's design, and Mia Cunningham's eternally delectable Clara (alternating with Rebecca Carmazzi) are an unbeatable combo -- especially when more than 100 local children pile on and the Charlotte Symphony delivers Tchaikovsky's beloved music. The show runs evenings at 7:30pm and matinees at 2pm through December 22 at Belk Theater. Call 704-372-1000 for complete schedule and tickets ($17-$55). Special $10 tickets are available one hour prior to performance with valid student ID. (Tannenbaum)

DEC. 21 - SATURDAY
Just in time for the holidays -- and just ahead of the release of their newest CD -- Carolina Brass bring their virtuosity and versatility to Saint Patrick's Episcopal Mission in Mooresville. The Greensboro-based sextet's aptly titled Winter Solstice Concert will feature a generous helping of holiday music in tune with the setting. Choice morsels from Antonio Vivaldi, Leonard Bernstein and even W.C. Handy will also be tossed into the festive holiday mix. Head up I-77 to Exit 33 to catch the harmony, beginning at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids under 12. Call 704-663-5659. (Tannenbaum)

DEC. 22 - SUNDAY
The ever suffering, ever sucking Carolina Panthers trudge bravely forward as they face off against the equally lowly Chicago Bears today at 1pm at our humble stadium. Perhaps this close to Christmas they'll be granted a win -- and if not, at least we know who's been naughty and who's been nice! For tickets to this game or future games, call 704-522-6500 or visit online at www.panthers.com. (McKinney)

DEC. 24 - TUESDAY
The Light Factory's delightful double exhibit Byron Baldwin: The First Thirty Years and Simmons Jones: The New York Years continues through January 18. With incredible images of simple human interaction, the Baldwin exhibit provides stark contrast to the images of "sin and corruption" from Jones' New York series -- and evens out into an all-around incredible show. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30am-5:30pm, Friday from 10am-8pm, and Sunday from 1-6pm. For more information, call 704-333-9755. (McKinney)

DeC. 25 - WEDNESDAY
It's Christmas Day, the King Daddy of all western holidays. December 25 was chosen by early church leaders as the symbolic date representing the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (which they had to do since no one knew exactly when he was born). The date meshed with traditional winter solstice celebrations of renewal, marking the time every year when days begin to grow longer. This was a stroke of genius on the church leaders' part, as it helped mainstream their religion into the predominant pagan culture of the time, while getting across their message of Jesus giving renewed life to humankind. Through the centuries, Christmas has been celebrated -- and not celebrated, sometimes vehemently -- in a huge variety of ways, all of which has somehow led to our current habits of buying and giving all the mind-boggling glut of products our consumerist culture can spit out. Yes, we're cynical about the economy-pumping function of Christmas, but not about the spirit of the day. We wish readers a great holiday. And we hope you get that fiber-optics, waving American flag hat you've been wanting. (Grooms)

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