A Holiday Theater Primer

Area theaters present nice and naughty Christmas classics and then some

click to enlarge "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)" - Photo: Rich Sofranko
Photo: Rich Sofranko
"Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)"

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Suitable For: All audiences

Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and Madcap Puppets are reprising their popular Amahl and the Night Visitors for its fifth year, with a more interactive staging to bring Madcap’s awe-inspiring 10-foot puppets closer to the audience. The Amahl chamber opera — Gian Carlo Menotti’s 1951 opera was the first written for television — tells the story of the Three Wise Men and their search for the Christ child. Eric Riedel, a freshman from Bethel-Tate High School, returns as Amahl, a shepherd who has a miraculous encounter with the Wise Men. The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra performs Menotti’s beautiful score and also partners with Xavier University, Pones Inc., Edgecliff Vocal Ensemble and the Mason High School Choir to bring this heartwarming opera to life. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21-23. $25 adults; $10 students. Xavier University Gallagher Center Theatre, 3800 Victory Parkway, Evanston, 513-723-1182, ccocincinnati.org. — ERICA REID

A Christmas Carol

Suitable For: All audiences

The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has presented this classic Christmas story for 26 years, so long that a note scrawled on a lobby message board says, “My dad was Tiny Tim!” The production has become an iconic holiday tradition for many Tristate families, and it’s worth every glittering moment. The sets are gorgeous, the storytelling is swift and engaging and it’s a showcase of top-notch local actors. In particular, veteran actor Bruce Cromer completely enlivens Ebenezer Scrooge, first as a tight-fisted miser and then as a reformed man who joyously changes his ways after a series of ghostly visitations. This adaptation by Howard Dallin is tremendously faithful to Charles Dickens’ 1843 Christmas novella, and it’s truly a celebration of the holiday as we know it today. Through Dec. 31. Tickets start at $40. Playhouse in the Park, Mainstage, 962 Mount Adams Circle, Mount Adams, 513-421-3888, cincyplay.com— RICK PENDER

Cinderella: After Ever After

Suitable For: All audiences

For two decades, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has presented holiday musical adaptations of fairytales that entertain young and old alike. A year ago audiences especially responded to a revival of Cinderella, so this year ETC offers a sequel, a new show about what comes after the happy ending. Cinderella and Prince Freddy have moved into the palace with her diva stepmom and her astonishingly self-absorbed step sisters, and things aren’t going so well. There’s no fairy godmother to set things straight; instead “Gwendolyn The Well Wisher” uses a bit of misguided magic to bring peace, setting off a hilarious series of unexpected events. Last year’s cast returns with new tunes by Fitz Patton, lyrics by David Kisor and a magical new script by Cincinnati playwright Joseph McDonough. Through Dec. 30. $44 adults; $25 students; $18 children. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-3555, ensemblecincinnati.org. — RP

Elf the Musical JR.

Suitable For: All audiences

It’s likely you’ve chuckled through the 2003 film featuring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf. Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati is presenting a trimmed-down, family-friendly version of the tale of an orphan who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and ends up at the North Pole. He looms over his elf coworkers and he’s incompetent at toy-making. Realizing he’s really human, he heads to New York City to find his real family. It’s a bumpy road with a happy ending. The songs in this lively production are by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (Disney’s Aladdin and The Wedding Singer). A perfect show to introduce kids to live theater. Through Dec. 18. $10-$30. Taft Theatre, 317 E. Fifth St., Downtown, 800-745-3000, tafttheatre.org— RP

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)

Suitable For: Adults and teens

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) returns to the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company stage for its 11th gut-busting year. If you can’t stomach watching Rudolph one more time, allow the Cincy Shakes cast to condense all of the traditional fare (A Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, you name it) down to a very funny 90 minutes. If you haven’t seen Sara Clark’s Jimmy Stewart impression, make this the year you do. This show is a good one to invite the in-laws to — it’s cheeky, but all in good fun. Plus, this is the last Christmas that Miranda McGee’s “Drunk Santa” will stumble across the Race Street theater’s stage before CSC moves to its new home on Elm in 2017. Dec 14-31. $32. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 719 Race St., Downtown, 513-381-2273, cincyshakes.com. — ER

The Nights Before Christmas

Suitable For: All audiences

Cincinnati Landmark Productions has a knack for producing shows at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts that appeal to all ages. For the 2016 holidays, artistic director Tim Perrino, working with composer and music director Steve Goers, has concocted a new musical about the life of Clement C. Moore and his legendary poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore, a respected professor of ancient languages at a theological seminary in New York City, wrote it in the 1820s. It was first published anonymously in 1823; Moore worried that the lighthearted poem might affect his academic reputation. He eventually claimed it, but there’s still some dispute about its authorship. The show encompasses a love story, a literary mystery and an ode to Christmases past. Through Dec. 23. $27 adults; $24 seniors and students. Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glenway Ave., Covedale, 513-241-6550, cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com. — RP

The Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue

Suitable For: Adults and older teens

Chicago comedy club and improv theater The Second City returns to the Playhouse in the Park for the first time in four years, and this time it’s a war on Christmas (and Hanukkah and Thanksgiving… but mostly Christmas). The Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue is a tightly woven sketch, improv and musical mash-up that teases every mundane Christmas tradition, from office gift exchanges to driving Aunt Carol to the airport to ambling around the city in a horse-drawn carriage. Learn what happens when seasonal lattes go wrong and whether Santa’s surveillance is as strong as the NSA’s. C’mon, The Nutcracker and the Festival of Lights will still be here for you next year — catch The Second City before they move on to poke fun at Indianapolis or Pittsburgh. Through Jan. 8Tickets start at $30. Playhouse in the Park, Thompson Shelterhouse Theatre, 962 Mount Adams Circle, Mount Adams, 513-421-3888, cincyplay.com. — ER

The Naughty List 

Suitable For: Adults and fun drunk people 

Like everyone’s favorite uncle, Know Theatre offshoot OTRimprov is back to screw up Christmas. Annual comedy show The Naughty List puts your holiday traditions and tropes through the blender of improvisation, with a healthy splash of peppermint schnapps. Come ready to contribute your suggestions — the laughs are different every night, inspired by on-the-spot responses from the audience. OTRimprov will even recreate your favorite Christmas memories... or close enough. If your kids are still of the listening-for-reindeer age, leave them at home for this one — you never know just how naughty the show will get. You can add on dinner and — highly recommended — drinks for an additional fee (arrive between 5:45 and 7:30 p.m. for dinner; show starts at 7:30 p.m.). Dec 12-27. $20; dinner and drinks not included in ticket price. Arnold’s Bar & Grill, 210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-421-6234, knowtheatre.com— ER

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