It’s the time of year when people ask me which holiday production they should see. I usually throw that back to them, asking what they’re looking for.
If it’s traditional holiday entertainment, there’s nothing better than the Cincinnati Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol, a production I’ve seen annually for 18 years. Every year it’s beautifully produced with a cast of local professional actors plus some great kids, making it feel like a warm family telling a familiar story.
If it’s kids you’re thinking about, you can’t go wrong with the fairytale musicals that Ensemble Theatre presents. These shows, created by playwright Joe McDonough and composer David Kisor, are fun for the younger set, usually with a subtle message about selfesteem and caring, but they’re also entertaining for adults. This year’s iteration, Sleeping Beauty, is reviewed in this issue (page 34).
If you tend to be cynical about the holidays, you’ll enjoy David Sedaris’s Santaland Diaries at New Edgecliff Theatre or Every Christmas Story Ever Told, produced by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in the courtyard at Arnold’s Bar & Grill
Several theaters offer family-friendly shows that aren’t holiday themed. Cincinnati Shakespeare has assembled a funny 1930s Hollywood-themed version of The Taming of the Shrew, and Covington’s Carnegie Center is offering the musical Oliver. Jersey Productions is presenting Once Upon a Mattress, a clever musical comedy inspired by the fairytale of the princess and the pea. Also available is a show getting its local premiere, Sideways Stories from Wayside School at Know Theatre. (See my review on (page 34) If you’d prefer to stay home with a good book about theater (or want to give one to someone), look for the just-published annual volume of Best Plays Theater Yearbook, this one covering 2007-08. It offers essays about several shows we’ve already seen locally (The Seafarer at ETC and Eurydice at Know Theatre) and an insightful piece about Adding Machine, a new musical that Know will present in February. The volume also includes an overview of the Broadway and off-Broadway seasons, plus an extensive compendium of facts, figures and historical data about theater in New York and around the country.
If you want a fascinating read about the context of Shakespeare’s life and plays, I really like Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. Rather than examining the plays, this fluidly written book from 2004 examines the sociological and historical context of Elizabethan England in ways that provide new insights into the playwright and his plays.
Finally, the best holiday gift you can offer, in my opinion, is tickets to one of our fine local theaters. Better yet, get four and take your friends or some children. It will be a memorable experience for everyone, it’ll help the local arts and you’ll have a great time.
CONTACT RICK PENDER: firstname.lastname@example.org