Before you become overwhelmed by holiday chores, take a look at what the Northern Virginia arts community is offering to lighten your spirits. Many theater and musical groups are bringing their fall seasons to an end with their best works.

The Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia has been performing Seymour Barab's "The Toy Shop" all week for area schoolchildren. They will conclude with an evening performance for the general public on Saturday. John Edward Niles, the Opera Theatre's artistic director and conductor, believes that the show holds a special fascination for young theatergoers.

"It has all the elements kids look for -- action, magic, the villain with the handlebar mustache and dolls that come to life," Niles said. He recommends the Opera Theatre production for children between the ages of 7 and 12. Saturday night's performance will be accompanied by an orchestra. For further details call 558-2161.

Ruth Checknoff, cultural director of the Northern Virginia Jewish Community Center, wanted to present a comedy during a festive time of the year. Checknoff decided on Neil Simon's fable "Fools" because she believes it follows the tradition of Sholem Aleichem's Tales of Chelm.

Aleichem wrote at the turn of the century of a mythical town in Eastern Europe where the citizens had been cursed with an inability to learn. These stories, originally written in Yiddish, would tell of a wife who sent her husband out for a goat to provide them with milk and he would return with a male beast. Simon's tale, although set in early 20th century, carries an updated lesson in common sense. Performances will be Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon and evening. For further details call 323-0880.

The Reston Chorale, an 85-member group, will give a free holiday performance including presentations of Haydn's "Gloria," Bach's "For Unto Us a Child Is Born," and the Waring arrangement of " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas." The group also will sing a number of traditional carols.

The month of December would seem incomplete without a chance to see Scrooge. The Junior Manassas Choral Society obliges with a presentation of the one-act musical "Scrooge." Performances will be at the Stonewall Middle School on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. For details call (703) 361-3185.