December Dianetics

The holiday tableaux at St. Stephen's Theater is not your father's Christmas pageant . . . unless your father is John Travolta. "A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant" is the brainstorm of Kyle Jarrow, who originally produced it in New York. A cast of nine children celebrates the controversial church in pageant style and song, portraying church founder L. Ron Hubbard and some of the celebrated members like actors Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Travolta. The show features a Space Age kiddie rock score recorded by Franzschubert co-founder Andrew Lipke.

St. Stephen's Theater, 10th and Ludlow streets, 7 tonight, 3 p.m. tomorrow, through Dec. 30, $15,

From spoof to nuts

ContempraDance Theatre's delightful send-up of the classic Nutcracker ballet, "Philly Nutt Crak-Up" combines hip-hop, jazz, ballet and modern dance with tons of Philadelphia references to produce a hilarious holiday comedy. A wine-and-cheese reception follows tonight's performance; tickets for the show and party are $50.

Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St., 2:30 and 8 p.m. today, 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. tomorrow, $22-$28, 215-925-9914.

Philadanco premieres

For the traditionalists, there's "The Nutcracker," but for the rest of us there's Philadanco's unconventional take on the holidays, "Xmas Philes." Edgy dance interpretations of holiday classics, choreographed by Daniel Ezralow, range from the sentimental "White Christmas" to a hip-hop "Twas the Night." Also on the program are two world premieres: Elisa Monte's ballet "Light Lies Beyond" and Milton Myers' "Violin Concerto."

Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce streets, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. today, 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, $34-$46, 215-893-1999,

Nativity on the move

Based on Langston Hughes' "Black Nativity," the holiday dance celebration "Carols in Color" makes its annual stop in Philadelphia. Eleone Dance Theatre retells the Gospel according to St. Matthew with contemporary music and dance and a dramatic narration.

John E. Allen Jr. Theater, 1346 N. Broad St., 8 tonight, 7 p.m. tomorrow, 8 p.m. Monday, $25, students and children $21, 215-569-9700,

Give it a whirl

Experience Sufism, a peaceful tradition founded by Jelaluddi Rumi more than 800 years ago, by experiencing the mystical ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes. The evening begins with readings of Rumi texts by celebrated author Coleman Barks, set to music by cellist David Darling and percussionist Glen Velez. Turkish musicians and the Whirling Dervishes complete this entrancing evening.

Annenberg Center, Zellerbach Theater, 3680 Walnut St., 8 tonight, $30-$55, 215-898-3900.

A Celtic Christmas

Irish music, performed by some of the Emerald Isle's most celebrated singers and dancers, comes to the Commodore Barry Club for one show only. Traditional instruments - the bodhran, harp and uilleann pipes - provide haunting tunes, and vocalist Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh of the band Danu sings and plays the flute. A slide show and narrative give historical context to the evening's music.

Commodore Barry Club, 6815 Emlen St., 8 tonight, $20-$23, 215-843-8051.


Pulpit politics

The role of religion in government and the influence of religious conservatives in politics is the timely subject of the National Constitution Center's lecture series. "Faith, Politics and the Constitution" features Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and author of "Failing America's Faithful," and Peter A. Lillback, who wrote "George Washington's Sacred Fire."

National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St., 6:30 p.m. Monday, free, 215-409-6700.