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Gift ideas for theatergoers on your list

Linda Winer
Newsday (MCT)

It's beginning to look a lot like ... oh, come on. Admit it. The election is over. The inauguration isn't until next year. The push-pull of contradictory emotions - financial panic versus giddy promise - is a definite setup for the guilty need to party.

So, yes, it feels awfully early to think about holiday plans in Manhattan. On the other hand, there is way too much uncorked energy and free-floating anxiety around here with too few safe places to put it.

Besides, previews have already begun for "White Christmas," the new Broadway musical that has taken the place of Grinches and Dickens this year. Rockettes in Santa hats have been kicking at Radio City for more than a week. Macy's will be blowing up the Thanksgiving parade balloons Nov. 26, the same night that New York City Ballet starts packing in the well-dressed children for "The Nutcracker."

And, hey, Liza Minnelli will be doing four weeks at the Palace Theatre in December. Though this is not officially a holiday show, Liza and her mom are a kind of religion to their fans.

Before I itemize the cultural possibilities, however, let me share two gift ideas that seem more creative than rifling through that pile of catalogs or shopping on the Internet.

First, there is a great program with a funny name, Givenik.com. Created by Jordan Roth, the smart young vice president at Jujamcyn Theaters, this is a way for theatergoers to buy discounted tickets for friends (or themselves) and donate 5 percent of the ticket price directly to the not-for-profit organization of their choice. Promotional buttons say "Come to Broadway" and "Save the World." You know, a twofer.

Discounts vary with dates and shows, but this is not just for theaters owned by Jujamcyn. You also can use the service to buy full-price tickets and premium seats, which means you're giving 5 percent of even more. And, though Givenik seems perfect for the holidays, it continues year-round. You choose your own nonprofit or charity from dozens of national and local organizations in such categories as health, education, animals and public policy. And if you don't like Givenik's list, there are instructions on how to add to it.

The other budget-meltdown gift idea comes from TKTS, the discount ticket booth that just reopened its main hub in its shiny-red new digs at Broadway and 47th Street. Say you want to buy someone a night at the theater but don't have hundreds of discretionary dollars and/or aren't sure which show would be most appreciated.

TKTS offers gift certificates of $25, $50 and $100, which can be redeemed on Broadway or at the booths in Downtown Brooklyn and the South Street Seaport. Thus, your friends can pick their own day and choose from the dozens of Broadway, Off-Broadway, music and dance events available at the time. Best of all, you don't have to stand in line yourself. (Gift certificates can be bought - with all major credit cards - by calling 212-912-9770, ext. 374, or online at tkts.com. They're also available at the booths, but only with cash or traveler's checks.)

Here are some big holiday offers and a few merely big-hearted ones, all in chronological order.

"Irving Berlin's White Christmas" - This musical, based on the 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, has played six other cities in the past four years. Directed here by Walter Bobbie ("Chicago"), the story of two show-biz buddies in Vermont is in previews to open next Sunday and run through Jan. 4. (Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway, 212-307-4100.)

"Wintuk" - This Cirque du Soleil family show, about a boy's quest to find snow, runs through Jan. 4. (WaMu Theater, Madison Square Garden, 212-307-1000.)

"Slava's Snowshow" - Speaking of snow, there is plenty of artificial fluffy stuff in this Broadway transfer of the long-running Off-Broadway hit by Russian-born clown Slava Polunin. Begins previews Dec. 2, opens Dec. 7 and runs through Jan. 4. (Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 W. 44th St., 212-239-6200.)

"Liza's at the Palace... !" - Minnelli brings her exclamation point back to Broadway Dec. 3-28 with a new showcase, part old favorites, part tribute to her late godmother, Kay Thompson, who created the Plaza's Eloise. (Palace Theatre, Broadway and 47th Street, 212-307-4100.)

"Beasley's Christmas Party" - The Keen Company, a much-admired Off-Broadway troupe, stages this turn-of-the-20th-century story by Booth Tarkington about a curious journalist and his unusual neighbors. (Dec. 2-Jan. 3, Clurman Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St., 212-279-4200.)

"The Truth About Santa" - Don't bring the kids to this satire with music by Greg Kotis (the Tony-winning composer of "Urinetown"), which promises to spill the beans about Santa's dysfunctional family. (Dec. 3-20 at the Kraine Theater, 85 E. Fourth St., 212-868-4444.)

"Holiday House Party With Dan Zanes and Friends" - Teeny people apparently worship this crossover singer and banjo wizard, who offers a Lunar New York singalong with disco Hanukkah songs and Mexican rhythms. (Dec. 19-Jan. 4, New Victory Theater, 229 W. 42nd St., 646-223-3010.)

Finally, I choose to include news about Mandy Patinkin, who will perform three of his wonderful solo concerts - "Dress Casual," "Celebrating Sondheim" and his Yiddish tribute, "Mamaloshen" - in repertory Dec. 8-21 at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., 212-967-7555. That sounds like a gift, whatever the season.

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