Thanksgiving is over and Christmas-themed stage productions have already begun, with momentum building as the big day approaches. Whether you look on the holidays as a time for festivity and family or with a bit of jaded cynicism, there's a show to get you smiling. My top picks for this week include two delightful world premiers and an LA staple.
First up is Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies' Coney Island Christmas. This world premier, commissioned by the Geffen Playhouse, is destined to be a new holiday classic. An LA Jewish grandmother transports her great-granddaughter back to 1930s Coney Island to show her what happened when she was cast as Jesus in her school Christmas play. Questions of assimilation and cultural identity are punctuated by adult actors' hysterical renditions of young children acting in school pageants. Grandma's recollections include Santa Claus and Scrooge showing up to pay homage to baby Jesus in the stable. It's a highly entertaining, feel-good play appropriate for the whole family, but it's 95 minutes with no intermission so not recommended for kids who can't sit still.
Also on my "must go" list is CTG/The Second City's A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens. Choc full of alums from The Second City and familiar TV faces in the cast, on the writing team, and as nightly special guests, this twist on the classic tale also interjects a host of anachronistic characters, from Charlie Brown to the three wise men, into Scrooge's journey through time. The improv pros have great fun incorporating audience-submitted misdeeds that even Scrooge would be ashamed of with wit and velocity. With twists and turns that change on the vote of the crowd, you'll want to see this one more than once. I do!
Although David Sedaris isn't the one performing his SantaLand Diaries at the Blank Theatre, his stories, acted this year by Paolo Andino, has become a Los Angeles holiday institution. My friend Lisa, who has heard Sedaris read this work, can't imagine listening to someone else do it, but for those of us who haven't heard Sedaris' own reading of the piece, the humorist's words, adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello and interpreted by Andino, are still worth experiencing.
For details on these, and 18 more holiday shows from the religious to the raunchy, visit my list of LA Christmas Plays and Shows.
For ballet fans there are a record number of Nutcracker performances this year taking place at fourteen separate venues around LA and Orange County. Some of them sell out, so get your tickets now. The same goes for popular Christmas Sing-Along Events at the Music Center. Some are already almost sold out.
- LA Christmas Traditions
- Most Unusual LA Christmas Traditions
- LA Gift Guide - Experiences to Give
- LA Holiday Boat Parades
Photo 1 by Michael Lamont courtesy of the Geffen Playhouse, photo 2 by Craig Schwartz courtesy of Center Theatre Group