The Cincinnati Playhouse has productions on both stages, as of tonight. Continuing at the Shelterhouse is The Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue. Chicago’s legendary improv comedy club — grads include John Belushi, Tina Fey and many more — provides contemporary talent for two hours of unrestrained, entertainingly snarky sketches on holiday themes. The uninhibited cast follows a kind of script, but every evening’s different as they interact with the audience. That’s part of the fun, but please know this isn’t one for the kids … unless they’re smartass teens (in which case, it might be perfect). Read more about the show here. Through Dec. 31. Playhouse Box Office: 513-421-3888.
Tonight is the opening of the 26th-annual production of A Christmas Carol. It’s a wonderful retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic 1843 tale of a stingy miser who gets turned around by some overnight ghosts on Christmas Eve. One of the best actors in southwest Ohio, Bruce Cromer, plays Ebenezer Scrooge for the 12th time this year. (He was Bob Cratchit for eight years before that!) I go to see this production every year, and I never tire of its joyous message. Lots of Tristate residents make it a holiday tradition. Playhouse Box Office: 513-421-3888.
Know Theatre’s Artistic Director Andrew Hungerford says that Darkest Night at the Gnarly Stump isn’t a holiday show. But he suggests that the Appalachian ghost story is “perfectly suited to the season … an opportunity to find comfort in the dark, a reminder that none of us is alone.” This is a world premiere by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, and it features music by Fringe Festival favorite Paul Strickland, who will be performing onstage (more accurately “in the bar,” since this is being staged in Know’s Underground bar) with fiddler Linsey Rogers. Brant Russell, from the drama faculty at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, is staging the show with a cast of six, several familiar faces to Know audiences and a couple of newbies. Onstage through Dec. 17. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
Performances of the gorgeously staged Phantom of the Opera continue at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. Lots of special effects, especially that chandelier suspended from the auditorium’s ceiling. (Inside scoop: When it descends at the end of Act I, it travels 10 feet per second. Even though it’s a special effect, it will make people duck.) Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.