By ericg December 1, 2011

SHREK, DEC. 14 AND 15 AT THE VAN WEZELDec. 1 The Ringling Museum grounds are alive with music, shopping, luminaries and more for the annual Holiday Splendor event, to benefit Toys for Tots. 6-9 p.m. 359-5700 ext. 5705.

Dec. 2, 3, 4 The first of departing conductor Leif Bjaland’s farewell concerts with the Sarasota Orchestra takes place at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and features Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4. 953-3434.

Dec. 2-18 [title of show], an intriguingly named little musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical, makes its Florida community theater premiere on Venice Theatre’s cabaret stage. 488-1115.

Dec. 4, 6 The Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota pays tribute to Franz Liszt with performances featuring pianists Dmitri Vorobiev and Xiao-Feng Wu and mezzo soprano Catherine Martin at 7:30 p.m. at the Historic Asolo Theater. 360-7399.

Dec. 7-Feb. 12 Playwright Joe DiPietro (Memphis) tackles the subject of a second chance at love for an elderly widower in The Last Romance, running at Florida Studio Theatre. 366-9000.

Dec. 9-10 The Sarasota Ballet roams “From the Park to the Prairies” with performances of Agnes De Mille’s Rodeo and Ashton’s Les Patineurs at the Sarasota Opera House. 359-0099 ext. 101.

JAKE JOHANNSEN, DEC. 9-10Dec. 9-10 Chances are you’ve seen comic Jake Johannsen on HBO or The Late Show with David Letterman (he’s appeared there some 40 times). Now you can laugh at him in person at Venice Theatre. 488-1115.

Dec. 14, 15 Take a trip to that magical world of Shrek the ogre, Fiona the princess and Donkey the—well, donkey—in this musical version of the hit movie franchise, making its Sarasota debut at Van Wezel. 953-3368.

Dec. 16-27 For 10 nights (not including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is transformed for the holidays by brilliant lights, festive displays, seven-foot-wide butterflies, towering birds of paradise, real-life fairies, live music and more. Lights in Bloom is a special fund-raising event for the gardens, and a holiday tradition, too. 366-5731.

Dec. 20 The Sarasota Orchestra and Sarasota Young Voices join choral ensemble Gloria Musicae for The Sounds of Music Christmas concert, at 7:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church downtown. 360-7399.

Dec. 22 Art lovers have been waiting to see what acclaimed artist James Turrell’s new Skyspace, at the Ringling Museum, will be like;  find out with an unveiling and a “Greet the Light” solstice celebration from 8 p.m. to midnight in the museum’s Courtyard. Dancing, cash bar and more; check out

Dec. 24-Jan. 7 Those talented Perlman kids are back, by which we mean the Perlman Music Program/Suncoast’s students, who, with their faculty, will provide more than 20 free events, including rehearsals, master classes and recitals. Most are on the USF Sarasota Manatee campus; free tickets may be picked up at the college’s rotunda, Dec. 1-10. 955-4942.

Dec. 27 through Feb. 5 Neil Sedaka fans should get a kick out of Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, the comic story of two friends from Brooklyn in search of fun and romance, onstage at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre; it features 18 of the songwriter’s hit tunes, including Sweet Sixteen, Solitaire and, of course, the title number. 366-5454.

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