By Richard Schultz, December 2016 Issue.
In a season filled with so many entertainment options, there’s a holiday performance to suit every taste from classical to contemporary and humorous to heartfelt. What better way to share in the theatrical tidings and musical musings of the season than a night on the town with tickets to the most festive local productions.
A Christmas Story
Nov. 25-Dec. 28 | Arizona Broadway Theatre
Based on the perennial holiday movie favorite, the musical takes place in 1940’s Indiana, where a bespectacled boy named Ralphie wants only one thing for Christmas: an official Red Ryder
Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle! A kooky leg lamp, outrageous pink bunny pajamas, a cranky department store Santa, and a triple-dog dare to lick a freezing flagpole are just a few of the obstacles that stand between Ralphie and his Christmas dream.
Twist Your Dickens
Nov. 30-Dec. 24 | Phoenix Theatre
Unwrap The Second City’s holiday hit with amped-up improvisation and the funniest interpretation of a classic tale! This twisted take on Charles Dickens’ classic skewers Scrooge, Tiny Tim and pop culture’s most beloved holiday specials with yuletide yuks and hilarious audience participation. Featuring nods to beloved yuletide specials, Twist Your Dickens is written by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, the Emmy Award-winning writers of The Colbert Report.
Dec. 1-11 | Borderlands Theater
This Tucson holiday tradition by an award-winning local theatre company is a family favorite. It’s a nativity story as shepherds make the harrowing journey to find the baby Jesus. Set in the American Southwest, this spirited production is filled with farcical satire lampooning 2016’s biggest political and pop cultural events, written by Milta Ortiz and the Ghosts Writers.
A Christmas Carol
Dec. 1-24 | Hale Centre Theatre
Now in its 14th year, the Hale’s heart-warming version of Dickens’ classic tale of redemption is magically brought to life with traditional carols, stunning costumes and memorable characters. Look for Scrooge to be alternately played by favorite local actor Mark Kleinman and Fox 10 weatherman Cory McCloskey.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Dec. 1-30 | Don Bluth Front Row Theatre
Based on the holiday favorite film directed by Frank Capra, George Bailey comes from the small town of Bedford Falls. His dreams of escape and adventure have been quashed by family obligation and civic duty. George’s guardian angel descends on Christmas Eve to save him from despair and to show him what the world would have been like had he never been born. All the beloved characters are there: George and Mary Hatch, Clarence, Uncle Billy, Violet, and, of course, the Scrooge-like villain, Mr. Potter. This heart-warming story celebrates the faith of the season and the American philosophy of life: hard work, fair play and the love and support of one’s family and community will be rewarded.
Dec. 2-18 | Black Theatre Troupe
Last season’s sold-out, legendary holiday event by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, returns in a new production. Based on the Gospel of St. Luke, combined with Hughes’ poetry, this is jubilant account of an historic event that occurred 2,000 years ago. It’s a celebration that tells the original story of the Nativity in scripture, verse, music and dance with a joyous company of singers, actors, dancers and musicians that delivers its powerful message of hope, victory and liberation.
Scrooge in Rouge
Dec. 2-18 | Mesa Encore Theatre
It’s just not the holidays without some irreverence. This zany comedy is set in a raggedy theatre in England where the 20-member cast of “A Christmas Carol” has fallen victim to food poisoning the night before their performance. But “the show must go on,” so the three remaining cast members unaffected by illness work hard to deliver a stellar show. The actors master a variety of gender roles while tackling more than 20 characters.
A Christmas Carol, The Musical
Dec. 2-18 | Fountain Hills Theater
This new musical is an original adaptation written by Fountain Hills Artistic Director Peter J. Hill, with music and lyrics by Hill and Jay Melberg based on the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. It tells the tale of curmudgeonly miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future hoping to change his destiny and save his soul as he ultimately discovers the true spirit of the holiday season.
A Christmas Story
Dec. 2-18 | Theatrikos Theatre Company, Flagstaff
Humorist Jean Shepherd’s memoir of growing up in the Midwest in the 1940s follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker in his quest to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Ralphie pleads his case before his mother, his teacher, and even Santa himself. All the elements from the beloved motion picture are here in this stage play by Philip Grecian, including the leg-shaped lamp, school bully Scut Farkas, the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin and the boys’ experiment with a wet tongue on a cold lamppost.
Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen
Dec. 3-18 | Center Dance Ensemble at Herberger Theater Center
Now in its 25th year, this popular holiday production has become a “don’t miss” Valley tradition. One of the Valley’s leading dance companies stages this classic story by Hans Christian Andersen which is set to music by Sergei Prokofiev.
The Quiltmaker’s Gift
Dec. 3-17 | Theater Works
This heartwarming tale of mysterious old woman who lives in the misty mountains, making beautiful quilts for the poor. Meanwhile, the greedy king is desperate to find happiness, assuming it will come from one of the many presents he has demanded from his subjects. When the old woman refuses to give the king a quilt, she starts him on a journey of self-discovery that takes them both on a whimsical adventure. Based on a beloved book by Jeff Brumbeau, this musical play that captures the spirit of the season for audiences of all ages.
Dec. 7-11 | Phoenix Symphony at various locations
Handel’s massive oratorio makes a profound musical statement of the Christian faith, celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The acclaimed and popular “Hallelujah” chorus highlights this spiritual concert. Music Director Tito Muñoz leads The Phoenix Symphony, The Phoenix Symphony Chorus and soloists who perform Handel’s Messiah in churches and venues throughout the Valley.
A Christmas Carol
Dec. 8-18 | Prescott Center for the Arts
A ridiculous, but surprisingly faithful rendition of the Dickens classic in which Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by the ghosts of his late partner, Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come. Faced with his own mortality, and the evil results of his misanthropic, miserly ways, Scrooge is redeemed, reconciled with his nephew and his neighbors, and becomes a second father to his assistant’s son, Tiny Tim. Playwright Charles Ludlam finds the humor as well as the pathos in this Victorian melodrama.
The Nutcracker 2016
Dec. 9-24 | Ballet Arizona at Symphony Hall
Surrender to the grand sweep of Tchaikovsky’s score and the wonders of childhood. Join Clara and her Nutcracker Prince as they embark on a thrilling adventure of dancing toys, mischievous mice, waltzing flowers, and sparkling snowflakes.
Give Me Christmas! A Holiday Cabaret
Dec. 9-18 | iTheatre Collaborative at the Herberger Theater Center
Jeff Kennedy returns for his annual salute to the holidays with some of the Valley’s most talented singers and artists. With cabaret-style seating, this has become a seasonal favorite with its tune-filled celebration in the distinctive style of iTheatre Collaborative.
Sister’s Christmas Catechism The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold
Dec. 9-18 | Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
In an unusually jolly mood, Sister, the tart-tongued, ruler-wielding nun, teaches her students the story of the Nativity and asks for their help to solve the greatest Christmas caper ever – who swiped the gold that those three wise men gave to Baby Jesus? Using the latest forensic technology and her uncanny ability to detect guilt in an interactive performance, Sister creates an unforgettable living Nativity with her students to expose the culprit.
A Christmas Carol – The Musical
Dec. 10-24 | Arizona Broadway Theatre at Herberger Theater Center
Selfish Ebenezer Scrooge must face his ways when three ghostly visitors lead him through his past, present and future. This Broadway adaptation of Charles Dickens’ popular story breathes new life into this heartwarming tale with lively tunes by Disney composer Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens.
Home Alone in Concert
Nov. 26-27 | Tucson Music Hall
Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s tradition of screening a movie with a live symphony continues this year with the beloved holiday classic, Home Alone in Concert. Vinay Parameswaran will make his TSO debut conducting the performances Nov. 26 at 4 p.m. and Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. at the Tucson Music Hall. For more information, visit tucsonsymphony.org.
Making Spirits Bright
Dec. 2, 3 & 4 | Leo Rich Theater, Tucson
As part of its 22th season, Reveille Men’s Chorus presents its annual holiday spectacular Making Spirits Bright Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 3 at 3 and 7 p.m., and Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. For more information, call 520-304-1758 or visit reveillemenschorus.org.
Hope For The Holidays
Dec. 9-11 | St. Marks Presbyterian Church, Tucson
As part of its 28th season, Desert Voices presents its annual holiday show Hope For the Holidays Dec. 9-10 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. Desert Voices is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing Arizona beautiful music and to forging a positive and resolute LGBTQA presence in the community. For more information, call 520-791-9662 or visit desertvoices.org.
Home For The Holidays
Dec. 16-18 | John Paul Theatre, Phoenix College
Winner of “Best of Phoenix – Best Christmas Show 2015,” the Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus presents a new holiday show “Home for the Holidays,” complete with a live orchestra Dec. 16 at 8 p.m., Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. For more information, call 1-844-688-GCPA x5 or visit phoenixmenschorus.org.
A Chorale Christmas: Silent Night
Dec. 16-20 | Phoenix Chorale at the American Lutheran Church
First penned in 1816 for a small pilgrimage church in Austria, Stille Nacht has become the iconic carol for the holiday season. Commemorating this 200th anniversary, this Christmas program will be filled with unique arrangements of this evocative hymn, conjuring peaceful images, as well as familiar favorites like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”