STAGE DOOR: A Guide to Weekend Theater Choices

A beautifully staged 'Christmas Carol' at the Playhouse; a touring 'Christmas Story' at the Aronoff, and more

click to enlarge "The old man wins an award" scene from "A Christmas Story" - PHOTO: Gary Emord Netzley
PHOTO: Gary Emord Netzley
"The old man wins an award" scene from "A Christmas Story"

If it’s a holiday show you’re looking for, you have numerous choices, including a one-week engagement of A Christmas Story: The Musical, based on the now-classic 1983 movie about Ralphie yearning for a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun. The movie’s charm is in its simple, understated narrative. Alas, there’s nothing understated about this adaptation, since every iconic moment — the tasteless leg-lamp won by “The Old Man,” the tongue frozen to a flagpole, the Santa slide — is ramped up into a high-flung production number. These moments are amusing, but they knock the poignant, nostalgic charm of the movie right off the stage. That being said, if you love the film’s comic story, you can have a good time watching this one, thanks to some very spunky kids (I saw Tristan Klaphake as Ralphie, a role he’s sharing with Edward Turner) and a nice turn by Sara Zoe Budnik as Ralphie’s indulgent, protective mom. It’s onstage through Sunday. Tickets: cincinnati.broadway.com/shows/tickets

 Holiday shows on other stages qualify as tried-and-true. The Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol is a faithful stage rending of Charles Dickens’ classic story about Ebenezer Scrooge. Local stage veteran Bruce Cromer pours himself into this role, offering a convincing arc from curmudgeon to nice guy. This is a beautifully staged, whiz-bang of a production that’s fun for the whole family to watch. Tickets: cincyplay.com … At the Covedale Center you’ll find an authentic, earnest production of Annie, the music about the spunky comic-book orphan who yearns to find her parents. Her upbeat attitude affects everyone around her. Lots of great tunes in this one — “It’s the Hard-Knock Life,” “Tomorrow” — will keep you humming, and it’s set during December 1933, so there’s plenty of holiday cheer to spread around. Tickets: cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com … Ensemble Theatre has debuted a new musical by Joe McDonough and David Kisor, The Dancing Princesses. They’ve been generating shows at ETC for 20 years, and this is another one that’s a lot of fun without specifically referencing the holidays. It’s about five young women who are ruining shoes by mysteriously sneaking away to dance the night away. Kisor’s score is especially engaging this time around, with tunes that enable about a dozen entertaining dance styles. This one’s a good choice for families with younger children. Tickets: ensemblecincinnati.com

Looking to next week, keep in mind The Naughty List, presented by OTR Improv at Arnold’s Bar & Grill in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings through Dec. 27. Hang out in the heated courtyard and laugh heartily at Christmas-themed creativity by the group’s wacky improv performers. It’s a perfect holiday outing for a bunch of friends or co-workers. Come early and have dinner, then stick around for the show at 7 p.m. Tickets: knowtheatre.com

True Theater produces quarterly storytelling evenings where people share something that really happened to them. Now in its eighth season and presented at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine, its next evening — Jan. 22, 2018 — needs five people to share stories around the theme of trueSONG. Do you have a story about a song that’s played a role in your life? Shoot an email about it to [email protected] or visit truetheatre.com/contact-1/. Do it soon — story-gathering is already underway.

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

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