Three ghosts, Scrooge, Christmas Eve. You've heard the story so many times, you're sick of it, right? Well, you'll have plenty of chances to renew your acquaintance with the old tightwad this holiday season, but several fresh takes are on tap for 2006 that are worth noting.
· The most intriguing spin on Scrooge is Know Theatre of Cincinnati's CHRISTMAS YET TO COME. Working with Exhale Dance Tribe, a contemporary dance company, Know Artistic Director Jason Bruffy plans to transform the classic story into a contemporary Rock musical. According to Bruffy, "Our reboot of Charles Dickens' story is hot and seedy, dark and mysterious, and yet somehow wonderful." The world premiere features actors Nick Rose and Chris Guthrie, both veterans of Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, presented from 2001 to 2004. Based on Know's recent success with the musical See What I Wanna See, this production, which Bruffy says is in the style of the film Moulin Rouge, could be the most interesting addition to the 2006 holiday performance schedule.
· Christmas Yet to Come isn't the only new show in town, though. Ensemble Theatre presents the world premiere of UGLY DUCK, another of its popular family-oriented fairytale musicals.
With words by veteran playwright Joseph McDonough and music by David Kisor, these holiday shows are always fun for kids and entertaining for adults. Another good choice — even though you'll know the story — is THIS WONDERFUL LIFE at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, a one-man re-enactment of the holiday film It's a Wonderful Life.
· There will be plenty of Scrooge to go around, of course, with the Playhouse's beautiful production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, a musical version at Covedale Center and Falcon Theater's production of another new work, Mark Brown's THE TRIAL OF EBENEZER SCROOGE, in which the miser takes the ghosts to court for the pain and suffering they've caused him.
· Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is presenting a new work, EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVER TOLD, a compendium of everything from the Grinch to Rudolph, including a poke or two at A Christmas Carol, presented Sunday-Tuesday evenings at Arnold's Bar and Grill (210 E. Eighth St., Downtown). Know Theatre used this venue (and this configuration) for the past several seasons with productions of David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries (not onstage locally this season), and it's likely this production will appeal to the same young audiences seeking holiday entertainment with an edge.
· That urge might also be satisfied by Shadowbox Cabaret's HOLIDAY HOOPLA at Newport on the Levee, with some funny skits including "The Santa Babies," a twisted holiday lounge act. Shadowbox also offers HOLIDAY LUNCHBOX for midday revelry during December.
· Non-holiday shows worth checking out include Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, Ovation Theatre Company's The Miracle Worker, Jersey Productions' Annie and two touring productions at the Aronoff Center, a quick hit of Rent in mid-December followed by two weeks of Chita Rivera: A Dancer's Life.
· Other onstage performances during the holidays play to our bent for nostalgia. Cincinnati Ballet presents its beautiful production of THE NUTCRACKER at Music Hall; another version of the story, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER (which also uses Tchaikovsky's familiar melodies), is offered for a second year by Ballet Theatre Midwest at St. Xavier High School.
· The holidays are also about the familiar melodies woven into our revelry and religious celebrations. If you like singing along, this weekend offers both the May Festival's annual CAROLFEST at Music Hall and the College-Conservatory of Music's FEAST OF CAROLS, combining high school and community choirs with CCM choral ensembles. If you prefer to sit back and listen, the VOCAL ARTS ENSEMBLE offers lovely programs in several intimate church settings. The great-grandchildren of Maria von Trapp appear at Music Hall for HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE POPS. And if you want a classy event for New Year's Eve, the best choice in town is PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ, a combined concert and ball presented by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
The arts are a year-long gift to the Tristate, but at the holidays we have a real bounty of gifts under the cultural tree. Why not open a few? ©