Stage Door: Second City delivers holiday laughs; Billy dances; the girls dress up; and a perfect murder falls apart

Shows onstage this weekend include "Second City's Holidazed & Confused Revue," "Billy Elliot," "Love, Loss and What I Wore" and "Dial M for Murder."

If you think A Christmas Carol is the singular holiday entertainment offered by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, you need to dig a little deeper. Since the Mount Adams theater has two stages, there’s always an alternative for folks who’ve had enough Dickens and Scrooge. This year’s offering kicked off last evening (and continues through New Year’s Eve): Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue. Chicago’s most famous entertainment export has been here twice (2010 and 2012), and now these very funny folks are back with a blast of laughter to blow away the emotionally charged chaos of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and whatever else is intended to make you jolly. A half-dozen performers will keep the jokes coming, and you might get a chance to see a few who will follow in the steps of Second City breakout alums like John Belushi, Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert. Tickets: 513-421-3888.

The musical Billy Elliot is no small undertaking for any theater, let alone a group of community theater volunteers. But when that group is Cincinnati Music Theatre, you increase the odds exponentially that the production is going to be worth seeing. This show, based on a 2000 film, is about a kid in a northern England coal-mining town who’s more interested in ballet than boxing, much to the dismay of his macho dad and brother. But Billy sticks to his aspirations and brings together a fractured, suffering community. It’s a great story, and CMT’s production has “the warmth and the heart” required, according to CityBeat reviewer Erica Reid. The final performance at the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater is Saturday evening. Tickets:

I caught the Carnegie’s production of Love, Loss and What I Wore in Covington last weekend. It’s a humorous and touching piece of theater that uses five very adaptable actresses to portray 28 diverse and interwoven characters. They reminisce about the ups and downs of romance with special attention to the clothes they wore. It starts with teen crushes and prom dresses and carries on through weddings, divorces and more — with all the accouterments required, including one hilarious monologue about the ins and outs of purses. A great show for girlfriends to catch with one another. Through Nov. 20. Tickets: 859-957-1940.

If your taste runs to thrillers, you should drop in for Falcon Theatre’s staging of Dial M for Murder (through Nov.19 at its intimate theater on Monmouth Street in Newport). It’s the stage play that Alfred Hitchcock turned into a masterful mind-bender in 1954. A scheming husband has a plan to have his affluent but unfaithful wife snuffed so he can collect her fortune. But his perfect crime doesn’t quite turn out as planned. It’s a good, edge-of-your-seat piece of theater with a very capable cast. Through Nov. 19. Tickets: 513-479-6783.

At Xavier University, theater program director Stephen Skiles continues to crank out interesting work for his student actors. This weekend and next you can see his production of Jim Leonard Jr.’s The Diviners, about the unlikely friendship between a disenchanted preacher and a mentally challenged young man. It’s set in a small town in Indiana during the Great Depression. The characters are seeking a sense of community, and they find it in some unexpected ways. Performed in the Gallagher Student Center Theatre through Nov. 19. Tickets: 513-745-3939.

I don’t often include opera performances in my recommendations, but last summer’s Cincinnati Opera world premiere of Fellow Travelers was as theatrical as it was musical. The sad story of a gay relationship in the U.S. government during the repressive 1950s earned rave reviews from no less than The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. WVXU (FM 91.7) airs a recording of the production (which happened at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater in June and July) on Sunday evening at 8 p.m. It’s definitely worth tuning in to hear; it’s sung in English to a gorgeously lush score by Gregory Spears. Read Anne Arenstein's July 6 review here

This weekend is your last chance to see August Wilson’s Jitney at the Cincinnati Playhouse (the final performance is Saturday evening) and the classic comedy The Foreigner at the Covedale Center (a Sunday matinee brings down the curtain).

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

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