Christmas cheer has begun snowing on the stages of Grand Strand theaters.
The five major show houses each pour on their own tinsel on celebrate the season, whether with a silver anniversary, ice skating, 1960s throwbacks, traditional fare or a last hurrah locally for a herd.
Choose any of them to keep humbug at bay.
The Carolina Opry
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This Christmas season brings a silver-studded present that The Carolina Opry will spend a whole year unwrapping. Marking its 25th anniversary since debuting in 1985 with a Christmas show, the Opry has built a homecoming for its artists and audiences.
Pianist Rocky Fretz played, by his count, more than 4,000 shows in the Opry's first 17 years, and he's back for his fourth Christmas show run since pursuing solo recording projects in 2003.
Fretz looks forward to a "giant" adaptation of "Angels We Have Heard on High," as well as "The First Noel" with a crescendo and opening the second act as part of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra piece.
Opry officials also welcome back another popular rotating cast member this season: Moses Braxton, bringing his deep, stirring voice from Chicago.
With this Christmas gig, he's ready to again sing "Mary's Boy Child" and "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
Calvin Gilmore, owner of The Carolina Opry, looked back 25 years and ahead, planning to keep the theater's style pretty much the same, "but a little different and a little better, if that's possible."
Asked what's new for the Opry's Christmas, Gilmore fired back, "Everything and nothing."
He said people want to hear the yuletide classics they grew up loving, and some new things get sprinkled in.
Gilmore said an Opry staple remains "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem."
"It's basically the same as the first year we did it," he said.
'Christmas on Ice'
The Palace Theatre will do double duty for Christmas. There's a 60-by-40-foot rink for "Christmas on Ice" in the main theater, and opening Wednesday, "Nuncrackers - The 'Nunsense' Christmas Musical" in the King's Suite Showroom, home of the 2010 Broadway series.
Sabrina Israel, the Palace's marketing spokeswoman, said the cast is made up of 10 professional skaters, 12 dancers and five singers, and they team up for about 30 songs, many in medleys.
Watching a full rehearsal last month in a warehouse in Conway, S.C., Richard Swenning, the on-ice director from Ice Maxx Productions in Charleston, said because of the tight confines compared with a standard hockey rink, only experienced professionals take part in these kinds of shows customized for theaters and cruise ships. They "master it fast," too, he said.
To line up a jump in this show, Swenning said, "it's one crossover and boom, they got to go."
The skaters come not only from across the United States and Canada, but also Russia.
Skyler Rodgers of California's Bay Area has performed around the world with "Disney on Ice" and "Holiday on Ice." During a break from practice, he and Danielle Logano, a figure skating director at Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, watched the dancers work on their parts.
Rodgers finds Christmas music "easily relatable" for skating, "with fun-filled numbers for the whole family."
'Dino's TV Christmas Show'
Cindra Marshall, who with her husband of 32 years, Hank, owns and produces "Dino's TV Variety Show," said this tribute-artist production named after Dean Martin "takes you back to easier times," with a focus on family and audience interaction.
"During the 1960s, many stars would have their own TV holiday specials," Marshall said, "and they'd invite their celebrity friends to stop in for a song or skit. That's what we re-create in our Christmas show."
Voicing her fondness for annual Christmas TV shows by such stars as Andy Williams and Judy Garland, Marshall said "Dino's" captures the coziness of an era when families would gather around the one television in the household.
Marshall said one year of "Dino's" - the fifth - brought a move to the 2001 Entertainment Complex's Starlight Room, just north of Myrtle Beach. That added extra sparkle, as well as ambience and warmth, for this Christmas.
About 16 songs make up the Christmas show, which undergoes frequent changes night by night and in the tribute artists portrayed. Every woman also plays dual or multiple roles.
"One lady might be a Gold Digger and a celebrity," Marshall said, referring to, for example, Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe or Phyllis Diller. "That's the fun part. We're like an acting comedy troupe."
A skit might entail Granny Clampett from "The Beverly Hillbillies," crossing the road to see Dean Martin, setting up her variation of the Elmo & Patsy ditty, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."
"Everything in our shows - from the hairstyles to the jokes and songs - everything is true to that era," Marshall said.
She said that even if youths today have not been exposed to the personalities saluted in Dino's, the expansion of cable and satellite TV gives an easy outlet to escape back five decades.
"They can see a lot of these huge stars on TV Land," Marshall said.
Christmas will usher in the final corral of Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction equestrian extravaganza after 18 years in Myrtle Beach.
"The Christmas show has become a family tradition," said Pete Owens, company spokesman for Dollywood, based in Tennessee. "It's really an opportunity for families to celebrate the long run of the show."
Owens also called this last lap for Dixie's dinner attraction - which will continue year-round at the company's sites in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and Branson, Mo. - "a neat way" before turning the page to an $11million renovation of the theater into Pirate's Voyage Fun, Feast & Adventure. (Plans call for reopening in that incarnation in June.)
He said company officials have researched the pirate theme heavily, and expect Pirate's Voyage to provide "a positive addition to the entertainment mix" across the Strand.
Thinking about these final two months, Owens said the show will bring some new surprises to add to people's yuletide memories.
Asked for particular song performances and a signature number that remain must-sees for audiences, Owens said the live nativity with its live animals and holy family, and a routine in which toys come to life.
Patrons who stroll by the stables will see the wreaths lining the fence, along the west side of the building. Many of the 32 horses, which include four Belgian drafts, and a Friesian upon whom the show host rides, will be relocated to the remaining pair of Dixie Stampede shows, Owens said. In some cases, riders might have a chance to buy their mounts and continue their respective partnership in the saddle.
"It's been Christmastime a long time," said Bob Wood, president of the Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach.
Wood said the production, now in its 18th year, undergoes alterations annually, such as in swapping songs and placement, but arrangements don't vary that much.
"With Christmas music, there's only so much you can change," he said.
Look for some parts in Alabama's celebration to take a memorable and different path, though.
"You take a song like 'Jingle Bells' and arrange it differently to where it's a new experience," Wood said. "We do that with several songs."
His favorite Alabama standard, "Mary Did You Know," never ceases giving him chills.
"Denise Tichenor Collins does an incredible job on that," said Woods, noting her return to the show after two Christmases away. "It's just one of the songs I got to hear every year."
One aspect of the show that never repeats itself year after year, Wood said with a laugh, is Grant Turner's "Ricky Mokel" skits.
"The comedy changes quite a bit," Wood said.