‘Strand Wonderland’ a family affair worthy of the name

It looks as if an army of elves has been doing an “Extreme Makeover:
Theater Edition” on the elegant mirrored-and-gilt lobby of certain former movie palace in Uphams Corner. The temporary peppermint red and white color scheme and twinkling trees are all part of the lavish preparations for the free annual “Strand Wonderland” family afternoon, scheduled for this Saturday, Dec. 19, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Earlier this week, hundreds of schoolchildren flocked to the showplace at 543 Columbia Road for the 17th annual performance of “The Nutcracker” by Boston Dance Company, with a large ensemble of young local ballerinas. Since then staffers from the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events have been feverishly festooning the former Harriet McCormack Center for the Arts.

They are welcoming Dot neighbors to the Strand to celebrate the holiday season with hot chocolate, candy canes, arts & crafts, classic holiday films, and a sing-along led by costumed carolers. There will be pictures with everyone’s favorite visitor from the North Pole, and Mayor Menino himself will flip the switch on the Uphams Corner Christmas Tree.

The list of the afternoon’s entertainers is so impressive that you’ll find yourself checking it twice to make sure it’s real. Many of the performers come from right here in Dorchester.

The Ashmont-based Boston City Singers, the ensemble profiled on the front page of last week’s Reporter, will send a group of Dot youngsters, who according to BCS Artistic Director Jane Money, “will be singing two pieces with singer / songwriter Mike Verge, including one of Mike’s own compositions, ‘Let It Be Christmas.’ “

Other seasonal favorites will be performed by students from John Paul II Catholic Academy (Neponset Campus), under the direction of Mary Swanton.

In a strictly instrumental vein, the Roland Hayes School of Music Senior Jazz Combo will entertain with jazz standards and a few holiday selections. Kadeem Roberts (guitar) lives in Roxbury, but the other three members of the quartet hail from Dorchester: Marcus Samuel (piano), Anthony Brandao (bass guitar), and Franz Redway (drums).
Expect a more traditional sound from the Bay Back Bell-Ringers, Boston’s leading community-based handbell ensemble. During their 15-20 minute performance, this nimble-wristed quartet will chime their way through everything from foreign language classics like “O Tannenbaum” and “In Dulci Jubilo” to familiar carols like “Deck the Halls” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to gospel-flavored selections like “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Mary, Did You Know?”
Balancing out all these musical offerings will be the performance of a short play, “Visions of Sugar Plums,” by the City Stage Company.
Definitely sounds like a plan to “frolic and play, the Eskimo way,” checking out the Mayor’s Wonderland.