Stage Door: Last-Minute Holiday Theater

Catch some fun and festive performances before the holidays arrive.

Dec 16, 2016 at 10:33 am

"The Naughty List" by OTRimprov - Photo: Cal Harris
Photo: Cal Harris
"The Naughty List" by OTRimprov
If all your Christmas shopping is finished and the gifts are wrapped, perhaps you’re seeking some onstage entertainment for this weekend before Santa shows up. Your choices are pretty much “of the season,” and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, most of the shows on Cincinnati stages this month are worth seeing — even if you’ve caught one like A Christmas Carol at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park sometime in the past. This is the 26th year it’s been onstage, in case you need some testimony to its appeal and staying power. For many Cincinnatians, it’s an annual tradition.

The Playhouse always offers an “alternative” production on its Shelterhouse stage for anyone who’s more into entertainment than tradition. This year it’s The Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue, a collection of skits and improv material rooted in holiday shows from Chicago and performed by a half-dozen current talents from that legendary improv troupe. It’s sold enough tickets already that the Playhouse has extended its run through Jan. 7, so you can rest assured that it’s received a vote of confidence from local theatergoers. Playhouse Box Office: 513-421-3888.

Improv is the order of the day at Arnold’s Bar & Grill (210 E. Eighth St., Downtown) where OTRimprov is back for another season of The Naughty List. This show is completely improvised, using games and audience suggestions that are brought to crazy life by members of the leading local team of comics who are schooled in making things up on the fly. That means that every performance is different. It doesn’t hurt that you can get a head start on the frivolity with drinks from the bar at Arnold’s. (In fact, if you arrive between 6 and 7 p.m., you can have dinner — and drinks — in Arnold’s Courtyard before the performance kicks off at 7:30 p.m.). Other stuff happens at Arnold’s on the weekend; this offering happens on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week (as well as on Dec. 26 and 27). Tickets via Know Theatre: 513-300-5669. Dinner and drinks not included; make a reservation with Arnold’s (513-421-6234) to round out the evening.

I’ve had numerous acquaintances tell me how much they’ve enjoyed Cinderella: After Ever After at Ensemble Theatre. I had a good time myself, and on several different days I’ve watched kids unload from buses on Vine Street to see the show — and come out 90 minutes or so later with big smiles. But don’t think this sequel to last year’s musical adaptation of the fairytale is just for kids: Grown-ups are enjoying the music and Joe McDonough’s witty script, in addition to the talented cast who performs with commitment and vitality. They’re having a good time, and so are audiences. Definitely worth checking out through Dec. 30. Tickets: 513-421-3555.

Also having a good time are audiences at Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) back for the 11th consecutive year at Cincinnati Shakespeare. This one is not for the kids, unless they’re cynical teens into poking fun at traditional holiday tales. The cast of four (Billy Chace, Justin McCombs, Sara Clark and Miranda McGee) have done this together for several years, and it’s clear they enjoy spoofing all the stories we hear this time of year. It’s onstage through Dec. 31, but call right away if you’re interested: Many performances are already sold out. Box Office: 513-381-227.

This weekend is your last chance to see Know Theatre’s world premiere of Darkest Night at the Gnarly Stump. Closing night is Saturday’s 8 p.m. performance. It’s an original ghost story with some great Bluegrass-flavored tunes by popular Fringe artist Paul Strickland. Not a holiday-themed work, but the themes of connection and community feel right for the season. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

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