The 12 Productions of Christmas
By Richard Schultz, December 2015 Issue.
From the quantity of shopping days remaining and the amount you’re guaranteed to save on Black Friday deals to the eight days of Hanukkah and the nine ladies dancing that your true love gave to you on the ninth day of Christmas, we’re surrounded by numbers throughout this season.
And holiday theater throughout Arizona is no exception.
In fact, from the time this issue hits newsstands through New Year’s Eve, 15 theater groups will present 12 productions in eight Arizona cities.
So, whether you’re looking for familiar characters that continue to capture audience’s hearts or timless stories that reignite memories of past holidays, here’s a sampling of the seasonal offerings staging in Arizona.
Miracle on 34th Street
Through Jan. 10 | Desert Stages Theater, Scottsdale | desertstages.org
Kris Kringle, an old man who lives in a retirement home, gets a job working as the holiday Santa for Macy’s. Kringle, the personification of good will and holiday spirit, unleashes waves of Christmas magic throughout the department store as well as the commercial world of New York City. Kringle enchants children and shoppers so completely, that fellow employees deem him dangerous and begin to question his competency and plot against him. Even Macy’s vocational counselor conspires to have him shanghaied to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, which results in a competency hearing. A small girl’s belief in Santa and the magic of the holiday is at stake in a climactic courtroom decision.
A Christmas Carol
Nov. 27-Dec. 13 | Theatrikos Theatre Company, Flagstaff | theatrikos.com
This fresh approach to the Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale, written by Michael Paller and directed by Scott Ballou, faithfully conveys the magic of the original. On Christmas Eve in 1843, friends and family gathered at Dickens’ home ask him to tell a story, but he refuses to work on Christmas Eve. If there is going to be a story, each must take a part in its telling – and so the story unfolds with the cast of 10 playing more than 40 parts.
A Christmas Carol: The Musical
Nov. 27-Dec. 27 | Arizona Broadway Theatre, Peoria | azbroadway.org
Everyone’s favorite curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge returns to the Arizona Broadway Theatre stage to bring A Christmas Carol back for the holidays! Money-hungry Scrooge bah-humbugs at the joys of Christmas, and, in turn, must face his selfish ways when three ghostly visitors lead him through his past, present and future. This lavish and thrilling Broadway adaptation of Charles Dickens’ most well known story breathes fantastic new life into the classic tale of Christmas tidings and heartwarming generosity. All the characters from the original, including Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley and Bob Cratchit, sing along to Alan Menken and Lynn Ahren’s beloved favorites, “A Jolly Good Time,” “Christmas Together” and “Happy Christmas.”
A Bloody Mary Christmas
Nov. 27-Dec. 27 | Space 55, Phoenix | space55.org
Here’s the perennial holiday musical for people who hate the holidays and musicals. Sun City retirees Blanche, Bertha and Mabel sing, dance and drink themselves silly as they battle a heartless homeowner’s association that tries to evict them from their condo on Christmas Eve. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll pee a little.
A Christmas Carol
Nov. 29-Dec. 20 | Southwest Shakespeare Company | swshakespeare.org
Traditional music, songs, dancing and special effects make this moving tale of the adventures of Scrooge as he is once again visited by the Spirits of Christmas past, present and future. Southwest Shakespeare Company’s presentation of A Christmas Carol stages at Playhouse on the Park in Phoenix.
A Tucson Pastorela 2015
Dec. 3-6 | Borderlands Theater, Tucson | borderlandstheater.org
Back for its 19th year, this Tucson holiday tradition remains generously infused with farcical satire lampooning 2015’s biggest political and pop cultural events. The shepherds and their flock embark on a harrowing journey to find el baby Jesus, but must make it past Lucifer and her minions’ traps fueled by disguises. Alas, Archangel Michael and his sidekick Gabriel are in tow with a few disguises themselves to outsmart those nasty devils and help bring Christmas cheer. This edition is written by Milta Ortiz and the Pastorela Ghost Writers and directed by Eva Tessler and stages at Tucson’s Temple of Music and Art Cabaret Theater.
A Christmas Carol
Dec. 3-24 | Hale Centre Theatre, Gilbert | haletheatrearizona.com
Hale Centre Theatre presents its 13th annual production of Charles Dickens’ classic tale of redemption. Rich with traditional carols, this spectacular, heart-warming version of A Christmas Carol includes stunning costumes and memorable characters that are guaranteed to enrich your holiday season.
A Christmas Carol, The Musical
Dec. 4-20 | Fountain Hills Theater | fhtaz.org
Based on the Charles Dickens classic, this delightful musical is an original adaptation written by Fountain Hills Theater’s artistic director Peter J. Hill with music and lyrics by Peter J. Hill and Jay Melberg. A Christmas Carol, The Musical tells the tale of curmudgeonly miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future in hopes of changing his destiny and saving his soul. Through a series of strange and magical experiences, Scrooge ultimately discovers the true spirit of the holiday season.
The Quiltmaker’s Gift
Dec. 4-20 | Theater Works, Peoria | theaterworks.org
This lively perennial musical comedy, about the joy of giving, centers on a mysterious old woman who makes beautiful quilts for the needy from her home in the misty mountains. Meanwhile, a greedy king is desperate to find happiness from the multitude of gifts he receives daily from his subjects. He demands a quilt from the old woman, but she refuses to comply, and all his attempts to bully her into complying fail and she encourages the king to take his own whimsical journey of self-discovery, during which he learns how to find his own happiness in the act of giving to others. The Quiltmaker’s Gift is based on the children’s book by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail deMarcken and features music by Craig Gohmler, with a book adaptation by Alan J. Prewitt. The Theater Works presentation of The Quiltmaker’s Gift stages at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Dec. 4-19 | All Puppets Players | allpuppetplayers.com
Deck your halls with close encounters of the hilarious kind this holiday season. Santa Claus kidnapped by Martians? Will the children of Earth have no toys on Christmas? Only Hollywood could cook up such an absurd story and only the All Puppet Players would want to make it into a live puppet show as Santa goes on a madcap adventure in outer space. Not recommended for children under 7 (unless you are a dream-dasher and wish to scar them for life). Santa Claus Conquers the Martians stages at Playhouse on the Park in Phoenix.
Dec. 4-20 | Black Theatre Troupe | new-wp.blacktheatretroupe.org
By popular demand, this legendary holiday event by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, returns in a stunning new production. This theatrical wonderment features a joyous company of singers, actors, dancers and musicians, and delivers its powerful message of joy, hope, victory and liberation. This song-play touches a special chord in the hearts of all at a very special time of the year. Black Nativity stages at The Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center in Phoenix.
Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen
Dec. 5-20 | Center Dance Ensemble | centerdance.com
In its 25th year, this popular holiday dance production follows the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, which was first published in 1844. Set to music by Sergei Prokofiev, the story centers on the struggle between good and evil, as experienced by Gerda and her friend Kai. Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen stages at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.
Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Christmas
Dec. 11-13 | Theater League presents Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Christmas | theaterleague.com/phoenix/rat-pack-christmas
With their reliable charm and comedy, the Rat Pack is back for a spectacular holiday-themed concert showcase. Whether it’s Christmastime or any other time, when the Rat Pack is together it’s a party! Enjoy those swinging tunes along with all your Christmas favorites from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joey Bishop. The love, respect and bond that this group had emanates from the stage in a mix of such classic Christmas songs as “Let it Snow” and “The Christmas Waltz,” as well as timeless Rat Pack hits including, “Luck Be A Lady” and “Amore.” Theater League presents Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Christmas at Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix.
Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold
Dec. 11-20 | Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts | scottsdaleperformingarts.org
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, Sister creates an unforgettable living Nativity with her students to expose the culprit. As a part of the Late Nite Catechism comedies, each performance is unique and will appeal to people of all ages and faiths.