It’s early December and time for you to decide which hip holiday show you want to take in. Of course, you just missed last weekend’s tour stop of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, a musical adaptation of the famous Dr. Seuss tale about the green meanie Christmas hater, a latter-day Ebenezer Scrooge. And if you’re looking around for David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries, presented locally for the better part of a decade, you’re out of luck: No one’s doing it. So how to keep up a commitment to offbeat theater in December? There are plenty of choices.
One that’s right here, right now, is The Lady and the Tramp Vaudeville Show, presented by Know Theatre (Wednesday-Friday at 8 p.m. and one final show on Friday at 11 p.m.). It features Lola van Ella and Sammy Tramp, a duo from St. Louis that has produced works like Beggar’s Carnivale and Show-Me Burlesque Festival. This show features a lot of song and dance, a little striptease, some magic and a sideshow. But leave the kids at home: It’s aimed at audiences 18 and older. Know Theatre is also presenting OTR Improv’s holiday show at Arnold’s Bar & Grill, The Naughty List (Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays through Dec. 30). Since it’s improv, it changes from night to night, but there’s a series of fixed elements — “Objection,” arguing two opposing views; a “Holiday Advice Panel”; a fill-in-the-blank joke-telling segment; a remake of a familiar holiday tale and so on.
While the troupes are elsewhere, Know’s Jackson Street theater will host a production by the currently homeless company, New Edgecliff Theatre: The 12 Dates of Christmas (Dec.
11-21), a one-woman show featuring Annie Kalahurka. After seeing her fiancé kiss another woman at the televised Thanksgiving Day Parade, Mary’s life falls apart — just as the holidays begin. She spends a year making forays into dating, where “romance” includes weird, creepy, absurd and comical episodes, growing more cynical by the date. Finally, a five-year-old boy offers a new outlook on life and love. It’s a contemporary take on holiday cheer.
If that’s not wacky enough for you, how about a truly offbeat piece: A Klingon Christmas Carol. It’s the first play to be performed in tlhIngan Hol, the language of the mean guys with the wrinkled foreheads from Star Trek. With the exception of a Vulcan narrator, it’s all Klingon — with English supertitles. You’ll get a warrior take on Dickens’ tale with new versions of Scrooge, Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the ghosts. Hugo West Theatricals (who put together the 2012 Fringe Festival show Don’t Cross the Streams, a show inspired by the movie Ghostbusters) produces this one at the Art Academy in Over-the-Rhine (Dec. 11-22).
One of my holiday favorites, now in its eighth year, is Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some) (Dec. 15-29) presented by four zany members of the acting company at Cincinnati Shakespeare. It’s a non-stop, 90-minute romp through your favorite holiday stories. Billy Chace is the tongue-in-cheek narrator offering audiences a generous dose of Dickens (or at least a lot of satirical pokes), plus versions of the Grinch and Rudolph, excerpts from A Charlie Brown Christmas, a libidinous portrait of Frosty the Snowman by Justin McCombs and Sara Clark doing a dead-on rendition of Jimmy Stewart from It’s a Wonderful Life. A very drunk Santa, portrayed by the hilarious Miranda McGee, pulls it together — or nearly rips it apart.
If you want something that entertains but avoids all the treacle and sugarplums that come with so many holiday shows, how about Ensemble Theatre’s staging of Around the World in 80 Days? (through Jan. 4). This is one of ETC’s original holiday musicals by the local creative team of playwright Joe McDonough and composer David Kisor. Some of ETC’s shows have been recycled multiple times, but this one has only been onstage once, back in 1999. It’s a little different than ETC’s usual holiday shows, which are based on fairytales (Snow White, Cinderella), because this show is based on Jules Verne’s classic Victorian adventure novel. It’s about a picaresque adventure to rapidly circumnavigate the globe, with winning a big bet as the ultimate reward. Along the way are villains, obstacles and misadventures that sidetrack the heroes, all turned into fun and good humor by ETC’s creative wizards. The swashbuckling musical is designed for kids but offers plenty of laughs for adults.
All in all, anyone who wants off-the-radar holiday entertainment during December can find plenty of good choices on Cincinnati stages.
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