Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol Portland Oregon

Happy holidaze: A few shows for you

Susannah Mars at Wilf's, a little Batucada samba, Imago's "ZooZoo" menagerie, M&F "Santaland" nostalgia at the history museum.


Susannah Mars, reveling in the holidays. Photo: Owen Carey

Portland singer/actor Susannah Mars’ holiday show has been a seasonal favorite for a lot of fans for a long time. Mars debuted her cabaret act Mars On Life several years ago as a full-run show at Artists Rep, and has brought it back in various forms since then. This year she brings a new version to the cabaret stage at Wilf’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar, at Union Station on the west side of the Broadway Bridge, for a show with pianist Randy Porter. Called A Holiday Affair with Susannah Mars, it’ll be on Thursday, December 8.

How’s she getting ready? She’s “samba’ing around the house in her latke costume,” she says, “and brushing up on Hugh Martin’s It’s Christmas Time All Over The World.” Sounds like a plan.


Image courtesy Lions of Batucada.

Starting the season with samba

Yes, it snowed in Portland on Sunday – a little bit, at least. And by Thursday it looks like rain. But the mood will be bright and sunny Thursday evening at Southeast Portland’s Favela Brazilian Cafe, where the marching samba troupe Lions of Batucada will be putting on a party featuring the rhythmic improvisations of pagode, the Rio de Janeiro samba style. It promises to be a holiday-worthy houseful of food, and music from Rio’s Mestre Jorge Alabe, Seattle’s Cavaquinho star Naoyuki Sawad, São Paulo and Portland musicians Alexandra Santos & Anderson Reis, Lions of Batucada percussionist Brian L. Davis (just back from a European tour with Pink Martini), and more.

The party’s 6:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at Favela, 5300 S.E. Foster Road. The music’s free (but feel free to hit the tip jar) and the menu will have some specials.


Anteaters arrive at the “ZooZoo” cafe. Photo courtesy Imago Theatre.

Imago’s menagerie comes out to play

ZooZoo, Imago Theatre’s delightful menagerie of acrobatic hippos, anteaters, polar bears, frogs, and other critters, returns on Friday, Dec. 9, for a run through New Year’s Day. Visually spectacular, thematically surprising, and physically as frisky as a colt kicking up its heels, it’s a treat for families or just yourself. To get an insider’s sense of the show, read ZooZoo, straight from the polar bear’s mouth, a 2019 ArtsWatch story by Danielle Vermette, who toured as a performer with the show for several years. “For many an hour I’ve studied the movement of penguins and the particularities of polar bears,” she writes, “and I can tell you some fascinating facts about frogs” – and a whole lot more.


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… and an old-fashioned M&F holiday at the history museum

A bit of the old Meier & Frank Santaland lives on at the Oregon Historical Society. Photo: Rachel Randles

Come December a lot of longtime Portlanders who grew up here or had kids who grew up here grow nostalgic for Santaland, the annual fantasy display at the old Meier & Frank department store downtown. Oregon Historical Society to the rescue: When Macy’s, which had bought out M&F, shuttered its downtown store, some of the old Santaland fixtures landed at the society’s museum on the South Park Blocks, and every December the museum pulls them out again. They’re on display now, through January 2.

“In what has become a holiday tradition at the Oregon Historical Society, we are excited to welcome visitors back to OHS’s version of Santaland,” the museum said in a note to followers. The display features “Rudolph, animatronic elves, holiday decor, and a model of the famous monorail. New items this year include a cutout of Frosty the Snowman and the well-remembered Cinnamon Bear costume.”

Feeling nostalgic? Take your kids – or just your inner child. And before you go, bone up a bit by reading museum exhibit exhibit production manager Franc Gigante’s 2020 tale of how the Santaland exhibition comes together.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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