Christmas favorites It's a time for tradition, and one of our favorites is the Pennsylvania Ballet's annual production of The Nutcracker (choreography by George Balanchine, music by Tchaikovsky). The dance goes on at noon and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets, and continues with performances on a varied schedule to Dec. 31. Tickets are $20 to $140. Call 215-893-1999.

Humbug to happy The exemplary story of the eventually enlightened miser Scrooge is told by the venerable Hedgerow Theatre in an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol at 2 and 7:30 p.m. at the company's theater, 64 Rose Valley Rd., Media, and continuing with shows at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Tickets are $10 to $29. Call 610-565-4211.

Happy birthday To celebrate the composer's 241st birthday, the Liebesfreud String Quartet plays an all-Beethoven program at 5 p.m. at the Trinity Center for Urban Life, 2212 Spruce St. Admission is by donation; benefits the Community OutReach Partnership for the homeless. Call 215-732-2515.

Tale of joy Marking their 20th anniversary, the Eleone Dance Theatre presents a restaged version of Leon Evan's Carols in Color, a retelling of the Gospel of St. Matthew. The show goes on at 3 and 7 p.m. at Penn Charter's Kurtz Center, 3000 W. School House Lane. Tickets are $30; $27 for seniors and students. Call 1-800-838-3006.

Hallelujah! Conductor Jane Glover leads the Philadelphia Orchestra in Handel's "Messiah," with soloists Susanna Phillips, soprano; Phyllis Pancella, mezzo-soprano; John McVeigh, tenor; Stephen Powell, baritone; and guests the Philadelphia Singers Chorale, at 7:30 p.m. at the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall, 300 S. Broad St. Tickets are $10 to $124. Call 215-893-1999.


Star of wonder The exhibition Follow the Star, featuring 36 crèches from 17 countries, including Germany, Poland, Italy, Laos, Nepal, Egypt, and Ethiopia, is at Glencairn Museum, 1001 Cathedral Rd., Bryn Athyn, to Jan. 14. Admission is $8; $6 for seniors and students. Call 267-502-2990.


Fab, too See why the Four Seasons might deserve to be spoken about alongside a foursome from Liverpool in the musical Jersey Boys, a biographical show using the group's hits to trace its Hall of Fame career. The Tony Award-winner makes a welcome return with a show at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut St., and continues on a Tuesday-through-

Sunday schedule to Jan. 14 (no shows Saturday, Christmas Day, or New Year's Day). Tickets are $52.50 to $141.50. Call 800-447-7400.


Everybody laugh now Arab American comic Ahmed Ahmed, best known for his work with the Axis of Evil comedy tour, is the perfect antidote to our fraught geopolitics. He performs at Helium Comedy Club at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 to $25. Call 215-496-9001. . . . Improv athletes ComedySportz create the musical A Very Special Ladies and Gentlemen Christmas Special out of whole cloth (plus a few jokes and songs) each night at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St., at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 10 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $12. Call 877-985-2844. . . . For their holiday show, the inimitable Dumpsta Players mix Miss Universe, a trio of inexplicably famous sisters given to marrying (and divorcing) basketball players, and dangerous decorations in Scandal at the Katrashians Christmas Pageant. The improv comedy goes on at 11 p.m. at Bob & Barbara's, 1509 South St. Tickets are $1.99. Call 215-545-4511.


Holiday pops Conductor Peter Nero leads the Philly Pops in a seasonal concert featuring Broadway singer Ashley Brown, organist Peter Conte, the Philadelphia Boys Choir, and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir at 8 p.m. at the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall, 300 S. Broad St. Tickets are $26 to $105. Call 215-893-1999.

Friday & Saturday

Roots rock The fine Americana duo

Afferent Cue

performs a holiday show at

the Tin Angel

, 20 S. Second St., at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $10. Call 215-928-0770.

Count your blessings Six degrees: Our current pop-culture obsession is The Big Bang Theory, lately rejuvenated by the character of Amy Farrah Fowler, played by the fabulous Mayim Bialik, who is in a video of her faves the Maccabeats performing an a cappella version of the dynamite Hanukkah song "Miracle" by the formerly bearded, formerly Hasidic (but still observant) reggae rocker Matisyahu, who may be billed as Matthew Miller by the time he rocks his still-inspirational beats at the Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South St., at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $35. Call 215-922-1011.