[image-1]THEATRE | A Dickens of a time

We all love The Nutcracker, A Christmas Story, and yes, A Christmas Carol, but it’s always fun to shake up the holiday season with some fresh offerings. The Footlight Players present Inspecting Carol, a comedic twist on Dickens’ classic tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge et al. Written by Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan, the show was originally produced by the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1992. This everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong comedy follows a regional theater company’s production of A Christmas Carol. The Soapbox Theatre Company, as they’re called, is struggling for cash, and their only hope is to convince a government inspector that they deserve funding. Of course, things don’t go as planned, resulting in “horrifying and hilarious results.” You’ll be laughing, but you’ll also appreciate the commentary on issues surrounding government funding of the arts and the pressures affecting programming at regional theaters … sound familiar? If you bring some canned food to the performance, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win season tickets to the remainder of Footlight’s 77th season and the entire 78th. Food will be donated to the Lowcountry Food Bank. —Erica Jackson Fri., Dec. 5, 8 p.m., Sat., Dec. 6, 8 p.m., Sun., Dec. 7, 3 p.m., Thu., Dec. 11, 8 p.m., Fri., Dec. 12, 8 p.m., Sat., Dec. 13, 8 p.m., Thu., Dec. 18, 8 p.m., Fri., Dec. 19, 8 p.m., Sat., Dec. 20, 8 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 21, 3 p.m. $25/adults, $22/seniors, $15/students, (843) 722-7521, www.footlightplayers.net. Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. (843) 722-4487

[image-2]MUSIC | Rucker goes country

Who could have predicted that Hootie & The Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker’s new solo country album Learn to Live would become such a smash success? The Hootie guy … as a bona fide country star? As one of S.C.’s most popular vocal artists, Rucker practically reinvented himself as a crooning solo artist with enough twang and heart behind him to land a choice spot at the most recent CMAs. Born and raised in Charleston, Rucker, 42, studied and performed music before and during his years at the University of South Carolina, where he met Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim Sonefeld, soon to become Hootie & the Blowfish. Throughout its career, the band has sold over 25 million records and earned two Grammys. Rucker previously dabbled in musical projects far away from the strummy alternative pop of Hootie. In 2002, he released a mildly successful R&B/soul album titled Back to Then. In 2005, he showed up on the small screen in a rhinestone cowboy suit for an unusual Burger King commercial. Earlier this year, he performed a program of Frank Sinatra tunes with the full support of a big band at the Charleston Music Hall. Free of gimmick and pretense, Learn to Live landed solidly in May, quickly racing up Billboard’s country and albums charts and country singles with the single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” On first listen, many of the 12 tunes on the new album resemble typical “Hootie music” but with the addition of mandolin, fiddle, and pedal steel. Repeated spins, however, reveal bright spots, both in Rucker’s vocal performance (his fast oscillating vibrato and deep baritone are front-and-center) and in the rich production quality and instrumentation behind his singing — thanks to a great rhythm section and producer Frank Rogers (a S.C. native known for his work with Brad Paisley, Darryl Worley, and Josh Turner). The Performing Arts Center has billed Friday’s event as a “special homecoming show … Rucker’s only Charleston show this year.” It’ll certainly be a highlight for local fans — new and old. —T. Ballard Lesemann Fri., Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m. $45, $35, www.dariusrucker.com