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Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Latkepalooza and 15 other ways to spend your weekend in Philly, Dec. 16-18

KIDS "A Year With Frog and Toad" Based on the beloved children's stories by Arnold Lobel, this musical by Robert and Willie Reale follows two woodland friends, one cheerful and the other grumpy, through the four seasons as they learn life lessons along with birds, squirrels, lizards, moles, and one determined letter-carrying snail. This is great for ages 3 to 10.

That reminds us that Christmas is fast approaching and you've got to get all your gifts in order. Here are 9 local places to buy something unique for those special snowflakes in your life.

If some downhome wisdom is more your style, meet Patsy, South Philadelphia's greatest philosopher.


» READ MORE: "A Year With Frog and Toad"

Based on the beloved children's stories by Arnold Lobel, this musical by Robert and Willie Reale follows two woodland friends, one cheerful and the other grumpy, through the four seasons as they learn life lessons along with birds, squirrels, lizards, moles, and one determined letter-carrying snail. This is great for ages 3 to 10. - Michael Harrington

Through Jan. 29, Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. Second St. $18 to $36, 215-922-1122.


» READ MORE: "Black Nativity: An African Musical"

Mixing gospel, African music, and traditional carols, Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj's production parallels the Christmas story with the current devastation in Darfur. - M.H.

7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, New Freedom Theatre, 1346 N. Broad St. $35; $20 seniors and students. 888-802-8998.

» READ MORE: "An American Christmas Songbook"

Singers Demetria Joyce Bailey, Philip Chaffin, Lauren Cupples, Cristina Farruggia, Robert Farruggia, Laura Giknis, Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton, and Dwayne Washington perform traditional carols and new arrangements of popular holiday songs in a show that has become an annual tradition. - M.H.

2 p.m. Saturday, Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol. $32, 215-785-0100.

» READ MORE: Handel's "Messiah"

French conductor Nathalie Stutzmann leads the Philadelphia Orchestra in the most wonderful oratorio, with soprano Ying Fang, mezzo-soprano Angela Brower, tenor Lawrence Wiliford, and baritone Stephen Powell as soloists, along with the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir. - M.H.

2 p.m. Sunday, Kimmel Center Verizon Hall, Broad and Spruce Streets. $40 to $125, 215-893-1999.

» READ MORE: Caroling at the Carillon

We can't think of a better place than Valley Forge to celebrate the season and think back on the blessings we've had as a nation. Sing-along accompanied by virtuoso Doug Gefvert playing the 58-bell carillon at the Washington Memorial Chapel. (It's outside the carillon tower, so dress accordingly.) - M.H.

7 p.m. Sunday, Washington Memorial Chapel, Route 23, Valley Forge. Free, 610-265-5211.

» READ MORE: Ugly Sweater Run

First head to Fairmount Park wearing your ugliest holiday attire. Run your 3.2 miles, and then it's off to Smith's Restaurant & Bar in Center City, where you can celebrate your hard work with a drink and a ride on the mechanical reindeer. - Molly Eichel

8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, 4231 Avenue of the Republic. $35.

» READ MORE: Philly Pops Christmas

Michael Krajewski again leads the spectacular holiday show, with the hot band mixing in the Philly POPS Festival Chorus, Philadelphia Boys Choir, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir, and pianist/vocalist Tony DeSare. It's a guaranteed jumpstart to put you in the spirit. - Tom Di Nardo

3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets. $38-$140, 215-893-1999.


Drag queens get into the holiday spirit with a Jingle Bell Rock edition of GayBINGO. Bring a toy to donate to a child affected by AIDS/HIV. - M.E.

6 p.m. Saturday, Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St. $25.

» READ MORE: "Nutcracker 1776"

The Nutcracker might not be your thing, but it is a holiday tradition here in the Philadelphia area, thanks to the Pennsylvania Ballet. Put a twist on the usual with the Rock School for Dance Education's Nutcracker 1776, which takes on the Tchaikovsky classic with a Revolutionary War theme. Clocking in at 70 minutes, this historical, Philadelphia-focused Nutcracker is suitable for the whole family. - Nick Vadala

1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St. $34-$54, 215-893-1999.

» READ MORE: Blue Cross RiverRink's Movie Night

Add some cinema to your skating. Every night through Dec. 25, the lodge at Blue Cross RiverRink's Winterfest will screen a holiday movie for free. This weekend's lineup is excellent: A Madea Christmas (Friday), Love Actually (Saturday), and underrated rom-com The Holiday (Sunday). - M.E.

8 p.m. through Dec. 25, Blue Cross RiverRink, 101 S. Columbus Blvd. Free.

» READ MORE: Latkepalooza

Holidays aren't just for Christmas lovers. The Gershman Y puts on its annual celebrations of all things potato pancakey, with treats courtesy of Circles Thai, Estia, Frankford Hall, Jones, Kanella, Mission Taqueria, Sabrina's Cafe, and Tria Taproom, as well as Hanukkah doughnuts from Federal Donuts. -M.E.

2-4 p.m. Sunday, Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St. $20 (adults), $15 (kids 2-12), 215-545-4400.


» READ MORE: Tom Wopat and Linda Purl

A super "as-seen-on-TV" team-up. Though best-known for his starring role in the 1980s hit The Dukes of Hazzard, Wopat has made a second career as an engaging interpreter of the Great American Songbook. Also a TV veteran, Purl turned to jazz after leaving Matlock in the mid-1980s. - M.H.

8 p.m. Saturday, RRazz Room at the Prince. $40-$60, 215-422-4580.


» READ MORE: Matthew Morrison

Best known for his role on Fox's Glee, Matthew Morrison is an accomplished musical-theater performer who was most recently seen on Broadway as Peter Pan scribe J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland.

The evening of musical theater and discussion will be hosted by Seth Rudetsky, who will ask Morrison questions about his life and career before accompanying him on piano.

Continuing the Kimmel Center's Broadway Up Close series next year will be Vanessa Williams (Jan. 21) and two-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera (June 3).  - M.E.

8 p.m. Saturday, Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St. $49-$165


» READ MORE: Tony Miceli and Alex Kauffman

The superb vibraphonist Miceli joins with the fine pianist Kauffman, a rising star, for a late-night concert that will make the perfect end to a whirlwind day of work and shopping. - M.H.

11:30 p.m. Friday, Chris' Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom St. $10, 215-568-3131.

» READ MORE: Allen Tate

In the band San Fermin, Allen Tate sings the works of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, his sonorous baritone a foil to Charlene Kaye's powerhouse soprano. Sleepwalker, Tate's solo debut, expands on his San Fermin work: Several bandmates help out, and Ludwig-Leone produced. It's a moody and stirring album, although his songs are more linear and less orchestrated than Ludwig-Leone's. Tate's voice, deep, smooth, introspective, is the draw. - Steve Klinge

8 p.m. Friday, Upstairs at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. $12, 215-222-1400.

» READ MORE: Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The superstars of Christmas bring their prog-rock, arena sound to South Philadelphia. There's a reason these guys have sold millions of tickets, and it's not because they put on a staid show of holiday classics. - M.E.

3:30 & 8 p.m. Saturday, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St. $33.50-$74.50, 215-336-3600.

» READ MORE: Jost Project

Singer and harmonica player Paul Jost is following a fruitful path by breaking down and rebuilding classic-rock standards in intelligent, inventive jazz-combo configurations. He has done it with Bruce Springsteen - a Born to Run Reimagined album is in the works. But in this two-show Jost Project gig, the vocalist's quartet, featuring vibes player Tony Miceli, plus guest saxman Chris Farr, will pull from his two Dot Time Records releases, 2013's Can't Find My Way Home and the forthcoming Whatever Happened to Peace and Love. So expect to hear familiar songs by Donovan, Traffic, the Beatles, ZZ Top, and Simon & Garfunkel played in new ways. - Dan DeLuca

8 and 10 p.m. Friday, Chris' Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom St. $15, 215-568-3131,


Philadelphia expatriate electronic-music guitarist/keyboardist/programmer Tim Conley - the man behind MAST and its 2014 still-stunning debut album, Omni - doesn't get back to town much, now that he's a name on the Los Angeles experimental-jazz scene. So, to have MAST here with pals from Philly's Fresh Cut Orchestra (who appear on his newest album, Love and War, also featuring members of Bowie's Blackstar backing ensemble) is as rare a treat as his music is shape-shifting and moody. Philly's Grimace Federation and DJs Lushlife and Lil Dave are also on the bill, promising a fabulously messy night of music. - A.D. Amorosi

9 p.m. Tuesday, Silk City Diner, 435 Spring Garden St. $8/$10, 215-592-8838.