Theater & More: Price Savvy Things to do this Holiday Season in LA, SF and LA! By Kevin Thomas

As Dolly Levi said, “Money is like manure. Not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.” With the economy the way it is, we all need to spread out the little monies we have to help our economy the best we can. And there are ways to support the arts without mortgaging your home.

In a recent trip to Los Angeles, I found a lot of great ways to have fun at the theatre. First of all, the Center Theatre Group (www.centertheatregroup.org) has addressed tough times head on by offering hot tix to certain performances for $20. This collection of live theatres always have high-end touring Broadway shows or even some terrific Broadway-bound productions. If you act quickly (as it closes Dec. 21), you can catch “The Little Dog Laughed,” which won a Tony for its lead actress Julie White, who is in the LA production as well. This is a gem of a show about a closeted movie star who gets caught with his hands in the cookie jar (or actually in the arms of a male hustler). But the story really shines with the acid-tongue, fast-talking, riotous White as his agent who is the one who really holds nothing back. White’s performance and the witty dialogue of Douglas Carter Beane are worth the price of admission.

The Center also has an original musical coming up early next year – “Minsky’s,” a fact-based telling of the famed burlesque club. Written by Bob Martin (“The Drowsy Chaperone”), this will likely be a crowd pleaser, but we will certainly keep you posted. It opens January 21, 2009.

And for people who are in San Francisco, you can get camp and trannies for $20! See some of our popular drag queens, including my dear friend Heklina, in “The Golden Girls Christmas Episodes.” These campy reenactments of classic TV can make any grinch give back Christmas. Learn how to get tickets through Heklina’s website, www.trannyshack.com. But it plays Thursday, Friday and Saturdays through Dec. 27 (except Christmas).

And the New Conservatory Theatre Center always has great prices for shows! Closing Dec. 21 is another gem from Douglas Carter Beane – “As Bees in Honey Drowns.” But I can’t wait to get out there to see “Zanna Don’t!,” which plays through January 18. I saw the off-Broadway musical about a topsy-turvy world in which being gay was the norm and straight was the minority. It’s a cute and clever show and not a retelling of “Xanadu” – it just plays with the title. (The musical “Xanadu” just starting touring – so keep your eye for it – and it’s book is by Douglas Carter Beane, I guess he’s our savor for good theatre in this poor economy.) Check out all of the New Conservatory shows at www.nctcsf.org.

And last but not least, regional theatre is getting more cutting edge – and regional is always less expensive. In the Bay Area, I have enjoyed many a show at the Willows Theatre (www.willowstheatre.com). Starting next month is “Evil Dead – the Musical” – can’t wait to see that and I will tell you all about it. And then coming later in the season is “Pageant,” which did very well a few seasons back in San Francisco. Since the Willows is in the East Bay, I hope they maintain the drag queens play the parts of competing beauty queens instead of having women play the roles, God forbid. And the Willows will also present “Hats” (about red hat ladies) and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” – you can get a better season than that!Now that’s enough about theatre!

And to get the most out of San Francisco during the holidays and through the winter, the Hotel Mark Twain’s shopping package, through February, has hundreds of dollars in savings at stores, restaurants and other service providers – from Macys to Nordstrom to Go Car to free wine at First Crush to discounts at Fish & Farm to discounts at the factory outlet. Check out all the participants on the specials page of www.hotelmarktwain.com (http://www.hotelmarktwain.com/specials.htm). Oh, and if you notice, the hotel is also offering FREE valet parking with all deluxe rooms this winter for reservations made directly with the hotel (except New Year’s Eve). Book both of these great offers online or by calling directly at 415/673-2332.

And if your travels take you to New York City and you want a good hotel deal, I truly enjoy the hotels part of the Empire Hotel Group (www.empirehotelgroup.com) or there are often deals at the Hotel Edison (www.edisonhotelnyc.com) or the Skyline Hotel (www.skylinehotelnyc.com) which has an indoor pool!

For those who want to win someone over for the holidays with cookies, Monster Cookies with Red and Green M&M’s would make anyone happy. There are several recipes for these cookies online but this is the one I follow: www.ehow.com. Hints: to make nuttier I use peanut M&Ms and use a metal spoon to stir – a wooden one will break!

And if iTunes doesn’t have the songs you need to make that special gift CD, I’d try www.mp3search.ru – cheaper than other sites and for some artists, they have a lot of rare tracks.

And if you’re looking for something in San Francisco to do downtown that’s fun and festive, Infusion Lounge, which technically opens in January, is having a special New Year’s Eve event. They are promoting themselves as “Nightlife Defined” and in my recent tour of the facility, they are absolutely right. Infusion Lounge features two posh rooms of Asian-inspired decor and a great VIP area. They have great packages for New Year’s Eve-whether you’re going solo as a couple or need a reserved table for a group. Check out the beats and elite at www.infusionlounge.com.

Progressive Pulse Holiday iMix: Listen and Download!
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