PLAYBILL: The 12 Plays of Christmas
OK, so now we’re in the mood for some sweet holiday entertainment fruitcake.
Twelve sleeps till Christmas, which is the number of days in the 12 Days of Same – and the proper amount of time left to catch some of the best Christmas theatre in town. If you play your cards right, you could see something every night until Christmas Eve (only a few of them twice). Because after the three ghosts have left, and your heart grows three sizes that day, it’s over! Back to the grind.
Oh, dear, it looks like someone needs a little ‘nog to lighten the mood. Just pour it right into the top of Playbot’s head!
The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant … Ever!
Here we have a Christmas play within a Christmas play, set in Newfoundland, where the people are so delightful and down to Earth. And whether you think theatre like this perpetuates stereotypes about Newfoundlanders or not, it’s hard not to get caught up in the story – presented by Whizgiggling Productions for the eighth year in a row Dec. 15-23 at the Varscona Theatre.
The action revolves around the hapless Mrs O’Brien, who is tasked to produce the town’s annual Christmas pageant when the original producer is injured after she hits a moose with her car. So Mrs. O’Brien starts to assemble the show: The story of Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men, and so on, with the usual Christmas carols. But to her shock and horror, some rough kids from the poor side of town come to audition – and all heck breaks loose.
You can see where this is going. No spoilers, but everyone learns something about the true spirit of Christmas in the end.
Fiddler on the Roof
Dear God, you made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor. But it’s no great honor, either. So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?
This is not a Christmas play specifically, but great big musicals have become a holiday tradition for Festival Place and the Festival Players within. This year, Dec. 15-30, with all the bells and whistles and 30 singers and a 15-piece orchestra, they present the classic Fiddler on the Roof (with songs like If I Were a Rich Man, opening lyric quoted above). The story is said to be about “fathers and daughters, husbands and wives and life, love and acceptance.” No mention of sons, but they’re in there somewhere.
This Christmas play by Jay Torrence has a grim backstory: The imagined aftermath of the tragic fire that destroyed Chicago’s Iroquois Theatre in 1903. The play opens as six clowns emerge from the charred ruins to stage the Christmas pantomime they never got to finish, or maybe they’re clown ghosts and have to do this every year – always hoping to reach that magical “happy ending.”
Burning Bluebeard, by the Edmonton Actors Theatre, plays Dec. 12-23 at the Roxy on Gateway.
Scrooge & Friends
We appear to have a surplus superfluous Scrooge! Let’s make him IMPROVISE! The Citadel Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol (see below) has cast two Scrooges, so Rapid Fire Theatre is borrowing one of them – Glenn Nelson – for an improvised take on the Charles Dickens Christmas classic. It plays one night only, Saturday, Dec. 16 at 10 pm in the Citadal Theatre’s Zeidler Hall. Conveniently in the same building if you’re looking for a little comic chaser to “real Scrooge.”
A Christmas Carol
There have been many variations of this famous Christmas story about Scrooge and the three (four) ghosts – feature films, cartoons, comedy shows (see above) – and like Star Trek is now, A Christmas Carol long ago conferred permission for all sorts of so-called “fan fiction.”
Which almost makes a straight take on the story more appealing. The Citadel is not fixing what isn’t broke for the 18th year in a row. With Tom Wood’s dependable adaptation set in Victorian times, and Scrooges played alternatively by Julien Arnold and Glenn Nelson, A Christmas Carol plays until Dec. 23.
The aftermath of the Halifax Explosion that happened 100 years ago is the premise of Walterdale Theatre’s production of Trina Davies’ play Shatter, until Dec. 16. The playwright has zeroed in on four characters (and a gang of ghosts) to tell the story, to show in detail how the lives of survivors were turned upside down. In a press release, director Josh Languedoc says, “I just want audiences to feel the emotional weight of this tragedy by seeing themselves as these characters.”
Back to the ‘80s, Part 2
With more than 200 costume changes, squads of talented singers, a crackerjack band and dozens of hits of the past – from Prince, to David Bowie, to The Rolling Stones, to Madonna – this show is officially the most jam-packed 1980s musical revue in history. If only the real ‘80s could’ve flown by this quickly or with such entertaining impact.
Back to the ‘80s Part 2: The Adventure Continues runs until Jan. 28.