Stage Door: Ho, Ho, Holiday Shows

Yes, it’s the season. If you couldn’t tell by the decorations and the department stores, all you need to do is wander into many of Cincinnati theaters.

Dec 2, 2016 at 9:22 am

Yes, it’s the season. If you couldn’t tell by the decorations and the department stores, all you need to do is wander into many of Cincinnati's theaters. The always dependable and heartfelt staging of A Christmas Carol is under way at the Playhouse. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to make the pilgrimage to the hilltop in Eden Park. It’s a love production, beautifully staged and very faithful to Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella about the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. On the Playhouse’s Shelterhouse stage is The Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue, an evening of blackout skits rooted in improv (a few scenes actually rely on audience suggestions or interaction). The talent from the Chicago troupe is first-rate, and the buzz is clearly on in terms of people enjoying the show: It’s been extended a week beyond its original closing date. You now have until Jan. 7 to catch a performance. Playhouse Box Office: 513-421-3888

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has opened its annual holiday musical, this time around a world premiere sequel to last season’s popular Cinderella. In Cinderella: After Ever After we’re regaled with what happens when reality sets in as an engagement party is planned for the heroine and her Prince. They’d like something simple, but everyone else has opinions and desires for more (or less, in the case of the stingy king). A misdirected magical spell turns things upside-down and inside-out, leading to a lot of new humorous twists. Brooke Steele is sweetly charming as Cinderella, and Patrick Phillips is winning as her earnest, eager but rather klutzy prince. Four actors generate a ton of the show’s entertainment: Deb Girdler as the pushy, status-climbing stepmother; Michael Bath as Prince Freddie’s penny-pinching dad; and Torie Wiggins and Sarah Mackie as the competitive, empty-headed stepsisters. They are all watchable. Together they constitute a hurricane of humor. Through Dec. 30. ETC Box Office: 513-421-3888.

Another original piece of holiday entertainment opened last night at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts: The Nights Before Christmas, a new holiday musical created by Tim Perrino and Steve Goers. Perrino, the artistic director of Cincinnati Landmark Productions (CLP), assisted by music director Goers, is staging the story about the life of Clement C. Moore and the poem he wrote, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (better know as “The Night Before Christmas”). Moore was a sober scholar of classical literature, so there’s been speculation about whether or not he actually wrote the lighthearted poem about a jolly elf in a red suit. Props to CLP for creating another new holiday show. It’s onstage until Dec. 23. … At CLP’s other venue is one more weekend of a production that’s decidedly not in the holiday spirit: Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage portrays two sets of parents who meet to discuss a playground fight between their sons. The attempt at peace making quickly deteriorates into a brawl with raw emotions and more being flung in all directions. It’s a no-holds-barred drama fueled by pure, acerbic bile. Through Sunday. CLP Box Office: 513-241-6550

CityBeat’s Erica Reid gave a Critic’s Pick to Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. In her review, she praises comic actor Miranda McGee’s performance as Beatrice in one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies: The show “presents us not only the best of her humor but also the depth of her heart.” Working opposite veteran Jeremy Dubin as the haughty Benedick, Reid says, “Together they are word-perfect and snappy, with an Abbott and Costello-like banter and a surprising amount of chemistry.” This production has a shorter run than most of Cincy Shakes’ shows (wrapping up on Dec. 10), since it’s followed shortly by Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some), opening on Dec. 14. By the way, McGee plays “Drunk Santa” in that one. Cincy Shakes Box Office: 513-381-2273, x1.

If you want something that’s simply high-spirited and entertaining, check out Thoroughly Modern Millie at Northern Kentucky University. It’s the story of a small-town girl who travels to New York City to marry for money instead of love. The Tony Award winner is delivered complete with frisky flappers and dashing dudes, as well as thunderous tap dancing. Onstage until Dec. 11. NKU Box Office: 859-572-5464.

Finally, if you’re looking for Annie Kalahurka in The 12 Dates of Christmas, I’m sorry to report that the production promised at Clifton Performance Theatre has been canceled due to some unforeseen complications. The promise is offered that it will be here for the holidays in 2017.

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