Published in KPBS On Air Magazine December 2001
Just in case you think the holidays are strictly for Sugar Plums and Hallelujahs, think again. San Diego stages are filled with musical and theatrical fare to satiate the kids … and overstuff the adults.
Of course, we have our perennials:
The San Diego Repertory Theatre presents its 26th production of A Christmas Carol (through December 23), inventively adapted by D.W. Jacobs from the Dickens classic. For the second time, we’re treated to the enormously successful Scrooge and Marley Circus, brilliantly designed by Giulio Cesare Perrone and imaginatively directed by Joan Schirle. Old Ebenezer, the miserly ringmaster, is played by Donald Forrest, a master acrobat from the Pickle Family Circus. He’s surrounded by a malleable menagerie of singers, dancers, tumblers, jugglers, aerialists, unicyclists and ribbon twirlers. Food for thought and fun for the whole family.
The Globe Theatres reintroduces us to that lovable green meanie in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (through December 31). The sellout musical, which makes the tri-color book spring gloriously to life, is eye-candy for kids. But just in case this third time isn’t a charm for the grownups, the Globe is offering something a lot more lusciously acid-laced for Big Kids: an adaptation of David Sedaris’ hilarious holiday misadventures, The Santaland Diaries (through December 31). The uproarious one-man show (not yet cast at press-time) recounts the beloved NPR commentator’s adventures as a Macy’s Christmas elf who’s a bit too nasty and too gay for the kiddies, the parents and the season.
Celebrating its 30th birthday in style, Lamb’s Players Theatre once again offers An American Christmas at the Hotel Del Coronado (through December 29). The three-hour event includes two-dozen talented Lamb’s regulars, weaving story, song, music and dance into a five-course meal, sumptuously set in the Del’s Grand Ballroom. This year, a shorter version of the event (with three-course luncheon) appears at Aunt Agatha’s Christmas Tea (December 20-24). As always, Lamb’s presents a full-scale production at its home-base in Coronado. This year’s reprise is one of writer/director Kerry Meads’ first holiday efforts, Angel’s Arms, last seen here in 1994. A writer comes to an abandoned inn on the English coastline. And, well, you know…. it was a dark and stormy night…..
Speaking of angels in Coronado, there’s Angels Among Us at the Coronado Playhouse. Writer/director/composer Leigh Scarritt’s heart-warming musical concerns grief, love and the importance of family — at holiday-time and any time (through December 19).
Another locally-penned holiday musical is Emilia’s Sugarplum Nightmare, by Gail West and George Weinberg-Harter. The Magi (here, two men and a woman, including the playwrights) appear to a young, skeptical girl (13 year-old Kamrie Littlefield) to explain the real reason for seasonal gift-giving. Walter Murray recreates a jovial Santa, Sandy Hotchkiss Gullans directs. At Lamplighters Theatre (12/11-16) and the McDonald Mori Performing Arts Center (MMPAC, 12/18-22).
Every December, Christian Community Theatre pulls out all the stops for its Traditions of Christmas – A Musical Spectacular at Copley Symphony Hall (December 20-23), a colorful presentation featuring a cast of (seemingly) thousands — including live animals — with glorious music, elaborate costumes, and more.
The Welk Resort Theatre has its own tradition: the 7th annual Welk Musical Christmas (through January 3), a Yuletide medley of song and dance.
The City Heights Performance Annex presents a free Kwanzaa Celebration for kids (December 15), an informative musical about the African American holiday’s history and practice.
This year, Teatro Mascara Magica and director Bill Virchis offer us two Mexican pastorelas, the age-old re-enactment of the shepherds’ meander to the Manger. In the long form (La Pastorela de la Luz at the Lyceum Theatre, December 7-23), and the shorter, 20-minute Spanish version (free in Old Town, December 14-15), it’s a supremely silly, rhymed recounting of resistance to temptation, as much about jubilation as salvation.
A new seasonal addition, a San Diego premiere up at North Coast Repertory Theatre, is Holiday Memories (through December 30). Russell Vandenbroucke has adapted two Truman Capote stories (“The Thanksgiving Visitor” and “A Christmas Memory”) which comprise a nostalgic reflection of the eccentric writer’s childhood in the Deep South, during a not-so-distant time of sweetness and innocence.
For the second year, the Westgate Hotel is hosting a month-long, mixed-arts downtown event called the Nutcracker Winter Festival, produced and directed by Rob Appel. The first week of festivities (Dec. 1-8) features an all-Equity cast in a musical adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, The Importance of Being Earnest, produced by Vantage Theatre. The Nutcracker Winter Festival Feast, with a ‘Queen Isabella’ Spanish theme, features appearances by St. Olaf Players and In Accord Holiday Singers; it takes place on December 22, between performances of — you guessed it — The Nutcracker Suite, a production of the California Ballet Company, accompanied by members of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. Teddy Bear Teas for kidlets continue throughout the month, with stories and presents and teddy bears galore. Proceeds from all events benefit the California Ballet’s educational outreach programs.
That’s enough holiday confections for anyone. You’ll need New Year’s Eve to wash it all down.
©2001 Patté Productions Inc.