Christmas Culture Compendium

The best arty things to do this side of Santa

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It may seem considerably more frequent, but apparently Christmas comes just once a year and with it incalculable numbers of, let's be honest, culture thin nights out. Balance some of that bonhomie by taking in one of Brum's world-beating stage performances, screenings or exhibitions. Here be some absolute crackers.

CHICAGO AT THE NEW ALEX:

If murder, greed, corruption and a goodly measure of musical belters sounds like your sort of evening, join John Partridge (EastEnders, Cats, Miss Saigon) as Billy Flynn, and Coronation Street resident Hayley Tamaddon as nightclub singer Roxie Hart. Dancing their way round the badlands — and more poetically — the glittering clubs of 1920s America, the production is based on real life criminalling, recounted by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, who originally turned the torrid tales into a play, back in 1926. Tickets & dates

PURPLE RAIN AT THE MAC:

Demand for time machines has increased fourfold this year, with spikes associated with elections in June and November. If 1999 is looking like an altogether better bet, warm up for NYE with a cinematic showing of enduring classic, Purple Rain. The Oscar-winning soundtrack will set the tone for the after-party your ticket also secures you entry to. Featuring live music by Trope, the event marks the close of BFI Black Star season and will include tipples inspired by the movie. Get your Prince on, literally, you're encouraged to dress as the man himself. Tickets & dates

COMEDY AT THE BRAMALL:

If you're on Twitter and don't follow comedian Gary Delaney then you're doing social media wildly wrong. Sarah Millican's other half will be bringing fresh lolz to the stunning Elgar Concert Hall in the University of Birmingham's Bramall Building and we'll be the ones cackling embarrassingly loudly at the very front (tickets). But if it's something a little more high culture you're after (you old smoothy) then Birmingham Philharmonic will be filling the same illustrious space with Bernstein, Respighi and other cool composery cats. Tickets & dates

CHRISTMAS SONGS AT ST PAUL'S:

We go cob nuts crazy for carols. And we're not talking Jingle Bells. Britten, Beamish, Bach — and those are just the composers beginning with "B". Find out what the festive fuss is about with Brum's current chorister crop who together form world-class Ex Cathedra. Fa-la-la-ing their way through an exquisite selection of seasonal songage, the choir perform Christmas music by candlelight each December at St Paul's. And when we say "find them", do book. Ex Cathedra's Christmas happenings have a habit of selling out. Tickets

THE NUTCRACKER AT THE HIPPODROME:

The perfect antidote to 12 months of pure madness is the assured brilliance of Birmingham Royal Ballet's Christmassy classic The Nutcracker, part of the city’s festive tradition for 25 years. Expect more costume changes than your average Oscars night and trademark crescendoing Tchaikovsky. Of course, you could go the other way and trade Pyotr Ilyich for panto. This year's oh-no-there-isnt's come courtesy of Dick Whittington and stars Torchwood's John Barrowman. BRB tickets, panto tickets

MONET ET AL AT THE BARBER:

You'll have out-of-towners visiting this festive season and our top tip to wow them for £0 is The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Stupidly important art by Monet (pictured), Renoir, Rodin, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Rossetti, Turner, Gainsborough, Rubens and Botticelli, all housed in one of the city's most immaculate buildings. So, if the awkward silence with the in-laws has descended, head on over. They also have an excellent nude in painting and print exhibition by early Ashcan Schooler George Bellows (until 22 February).

TREASURE ISLAND AT THE REP:

Did we tell you about the time we misheard the theme for a fancy dress party and found ourselves wardrobed like Biggles and surrounded by pirates? It's a great story, but it's not as good as Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale, you know the plot, but what you may not know is that this kid-friendly interpretation comes from the pen of by Bryony Lavery, whose A Christmas Carol played to packed houses in 2013. Expect a jaw-dropping set with performances that will knock you off your feet. Tickets & dates

CLARE TEAL AT TOWN HALL:

Award-hoarding singer and BBC Radio presenter Clare Teal is bringing her mini big band to the Town Hall for an evening of swing, of ballads, of seasonal twistying and of special guests. And if you're wondering how big a mini big band is, think a brass section numbering thirteen. Sounds like an all-out big deal to us. And if you're not too up on your swing and 'ting', you're probably about to discover you're already a fan. Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole or Ella Fitzgerald ringing any bells? Thought they might. Tickets & dates

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