Theaters Offer Holiday Spirit and More

Catching one of the numerous holiday shows on area stages is a tried and true aspect of celebrating the season.

click to enlarge Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings
Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings

Catching one of the numerous holiday shows on area stages is a tried and true aspect of celebrating the season. You can’t go wrong with the Cincinnati Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol, now in its 24th year, through Dec. 28. The glittering production features one of the area’s finest professionals, Bruce Cromer, as Scrooge. (Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.)

If you want to take the kids to see a show they’ll enjoy, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has an 18-year tradition of presenting familiar fairy tales as musicals by playwright Joe McDonough and composer David Kisor. This year it’s Sleeping Beauty, back for its third revival, in performances through Jan. 4, 2015. It’s a sweet, funny production that children and adults can enjoy. (ETC box office: 513-421-3555.)

From Dec. 17 to Dec. 28, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company offers its eighth annual presentation of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some), a mash-up of just what the title says. It starts with Scrooge, but quickly veers off to poke fun at many “BHCs” — Beloved Holiday Classics — from movies and TV. Hosted by a very drunk Santa, this one is more suitable for grown-ups than kids. (Cincy Shakes box office: 513-381-2273, ext. 1.)

For something completely new, head to Northern Kentucky University for Soldier’s Christmas, a play by local playwright Phil Paradis that commemorates an extraordinary event during World War I. On Christmas Eve 1914, British and German soldiers on a battlefield in Europe laid down their weapons and celebrated the holiday with each other, exchanging gifts and singing carols. Paradis’ play is a fictionalized account of the so-called “Christmas Truce.”

A production of Cincinnati’s New Edgecliff Theatre and the Actors & Playwrights Collaborative, the show is presented at NKU’s Corbett Theatre starting Friday, through Dec. 21. (Tickets: 888-428-7311)

For laughs and holiday cheer, I recommend the Covedale Center on Cincinnati’s West Side for Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings. Staged at the Cincinnati Playhouse 10 years ago, this amusing tale of four guys doing Doo-Wop holiday tunes hasn’t been produced locally since then, as far as I know. In their backstory, the late-’50s singing group of Francis, Jinx, Smudge and Sparky died when a bus full of Catholic schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show crashed into the Plaids’ car as they drove to an audition.

In the sequel, they’re on a mission with heavenly guidance from Rosemary Clooney, who tells them harmony is needed to cheer a discordant world. (The show includes a hilariously distilled version of the Sullivan show, a lot of laughs for anyone over 50.) It’s on the Covedale stage through Dec. 21. (Covedale box office: 513-241-6550.)

If you prefer the real Rosemary Clooney — or at least a very reasonable facsimile — she’s the focus of the Cincinnati Playhouse’s Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical. Susan Haefner gives a warm, convincing performance of the girl singer who grew up in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky before becoming a big name in showbiz. The production has struck a resonant chord with audiences, leading the Playhouse to extend it through Jan. 11, 2015. The only nod to the holidays is “White Christmas,” but there are many other classic songs to enjoy.

Falcon Theater presents The Eight Reindeer Monologues in Newport through Saturday. This one is definitely adult fare, full of innuendo about inappropriate goings-on between Santa and his reindeer revealed following a lot of hush-hush rumors. After that naughtiness, Falcon switches gears to offer something nice: Striking 12, a Rock musical based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story about “The Little Match Girl” set on New Year’s Eve. It’s onstage at 636 Monmouth Street from Dec. 18-27. (Falcon box office: 513-479-6783.)

On Sunday at 7 p.m., there’s a one-night offering of Miracle on 34th Street in the form of a Golden Age of Radio production at Northside Tavern (4163 Hamilton Ave.). It’s a fundraiser for New Edgecliff Theatre ($35 per person; 888-428-7311) that includes a dessert buffet.

For an intriguing outing with a mysteriously happy ending, you might want to try The Bureau of Missing Persons at Know Theatre. It’s about overcoming grief, but there are moments of humor and magic as Angela tries to dig herself out of deep despondency after the disappearance and likely death of a kid in her fourth grade class. There’s a sweetness to this show that’s as much part of the season as any you’ll experience. (Know box office: 513-300-5669.)

Whichever December production you consider and attend, be sure to give yourself and others the memorable gift of theatergoing. It’s good all year-round.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]