I annually face the holidays with mixed emotions. I love the holiday season, but I also know that it means I’ll be in overdrive, attending numerous theatrical holiday productions. Every theater company in Cincinnati and beyond knows that December is not only the season for good cheer but an opportunity to put a show onstage that will provide essential revenue for the balance of the year.
I’ve joked that Charles Dickens should be named the patron saint of regional theaters, since A Christmas Carol is certainly the most frequently produced holiday show — and the greatest ticket-seller. Because Dickens’ story about the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge is a work in the public domain, most theaters have commissioned their own adaptation, meaning they don’t have to pay royalties every year. The Cincinnati Playhouse’s version by Howard Dallin is an especially good one and has served the Eden Park theater well for 20 seasons.
I saw it for the 20th time last week, and I never grow tired of this marvelous visual spectacle, populated with many of Cincinnati’s best professional actors, including Amy Warner (Mrs. Fezziwig); Dale Hodges (Christmas Past, Mrs. Peake); Greg Procaccino (Jacob Marley, pictured on the left, and Old Joe) and Nick Rose (one of Cincinnati Shakespeare’s co-founders is a newcomer) as well as others who return to Cincinnati year after year for signature roles, especially Andy Prosky as the antic Bob Cratchit and Keith Jochim as Mr. Fezziwig and the ebullient Ghost of Christmas Present. Knitting it all together is Bruce Cromer as Scrooge (pictured), who evolves from an “old screw” to the most joyous man in London. He is great fun to watch, adding more and more texture annually — this is his sixth year playing the role.
A Christmas Carol also uses many youthful actors. I must single out SCPA eighth grader Javier Gresham, whose sunny, confident portrait of George, the young man who helps Scrooge on Christmas morning, is a highlight. He’s a performer to watch.
Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati also uses lots of local actors in its annual fairytale musical adaptation. Cinderella, previously seen in 2000 and 2005, is this year’s offering and has perhaps the strongest cast ETC has ever assembled for its holiday production. Three of the “Marvelous Wonderettes” from last spring’s hit production are back: Brooke Rucidlo plays Cinderella as sweet bookworm, and Mia Gentile (a CCM musical theater senior) and Sara Mackie are her deliriously funny stepsisters. Others in the cast include Broadway veteran Pamela Myers as Brunhilde, Cinderella’s self-centered stepmother, plus local favorites Annie Fitzpatrick and Michael Bath.
Joe McDonough’s script for Cinderella one of his best, and the score by Fitz Patton with lyrics by David Kisor is bright and cheerful. Played out on Brian Mehring’s colorful, adaptable set, this is a fine show for the entire family. (Read Julie York Coppens' review here.)
Elsewhere, you’ll find lots of varied choices: A Wrinkle in Time at Know Theatre of Cincinnati (reviewed here); The Merry Wives of Windsor at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (reviewed here); CSC's production of Every Christmas Story Ever Told at Arnold’s Bar & Grill; The Santaland Diaries and Season's Greetings from New Edgecliff Theatre (reviewed here); A Christmas Story at Covedale Center for the Performing Arts (reviewed here); and a radio play version of the classic movie It's a Wonderful Life by Falcon Theatre (reviewed here).
Catch a holiday show! You’ll help local theater companies' bottom lines and have a good time in the process. That’s a gift.
CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]