DENVER — Longtime readers know that heartwarming holiday dramas and delightful seasonal comedies with uplifting messages are not my favorite thing. However, as a proponent of the arts and theater, in particular, I do appreciate that the gathering of family, which happens at this time of year, creates a nice opportunity to see a show. Holiday productions can be the financial lifeblood of many local theater companies, with the increased ticket sales and full houses at this time of year allowing for more risky and unconventional shows the rest of the year. While many companies stick with tried and true plays and musicals, some offer an antidote to the holiday hype with unconventional or alternative productions that either twist traditions or flat out flaunt the antithesis of the season. A few may choose non-holiday musicals that can make for a special evening out for the whole family, and some just continue their string of productions without any nod to the time of year.
To help readers find just the right performance to see here is a summary of what is available, divided into the more traditional options, the anti-holiday choices, and other possibilities. Hopefully, you can find the right performance for you.
Traditional Holiday Fare
The quintessential holiday production is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. As always, there are several options, led by the Denver Center’s 24th year presenting the musical adaptation of the story, running through Dec 24. The talented Sam Gregory is taking over the role of Scrooge from veteran Philip Pleasants, who has been performed the role 357 times since 2005. Miner’s Alley Playhouse in Golden is presenting a new comic adaptation with only five actors performing all the roles, including the capable Jim Hunt as Scrooge, through Dec 23. There are two other adaptations, both telling the story from different perspectives, with Vintage Theater in Aurora producing Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol through Dec 23, and Phamaly delivering Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol through Dec 18 at the Courtyard Theatre on the Auraria Campus. Vintage’s show is an intriguing retelling that I found engaging when The Victorian did it years ago, and Phamaly’s take is certain to be thoughtful and unique.
The Arvada Center is bringing the world premiere musical I’ll Be Home for Christmas to the stage through Dec 23. This is the first new musical developed by the Arvada Center, with original music and lyrics by longtime musical director David Nehls. Set in Pueblo, Joaquin’s Christmas, an alternative from Su Teatro running through Dec 18, includes “a magical grandmother, a talking dog, evil influences, and a loving mom and dad” in a show for the whole family. Another standard of the season is It’s a Wonderful Life, and there is no shortage of productions based on the classic film this year. Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown is producing the musical version through Dec 31, and both the Lone Tree Arts Center (through Dec 18) and Spotlight Theater (through Dec 18, in repertory with a similar version of A Christmas Carol) offer the live radio play version that adds another layer to the story.
Both Littleton Town Hall Arts Center (through Dec 31) and the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins are presenting musical versions of A Christmas Story, with Ralphie’s dreams of a Red Ryder BB gun. Specifically for children is The Story of the Nutcracker, from the Miners Alley Children’s Theater, through Dec 23, adapted by Rory Pierce from the original book with a nod to the ballet. Another more classically traditional production is Amahl and the Night Visitors, provided this year by the Evergreen Chorale and Jefferson Orchestra, on Dec 9 at Central Presbyterian Church and on Dec 11 at Rockland Community Church. Though a bit further away, Bas Bleu in Fort Collins is offering an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, through Dec 23. Up in Boulder at Chautauqua on Dec 10 and at the King Center, Auraria on Dec 11, Stories on Stage is presenting a “potpourri of Holiday cheer” titled Making Merry.
Antidotes to Holiday Excess
For the more cynical among us who get tired of the excessive amounts of smarmy good cheer and annoyingly earnest hope for a better future, have no fear – there are shows for you, too, starting with two that have become local alternative classics. The Avenue Theater is presenting the 8th incarnation of the biting sketch comedy Santa’s Big Red Sack, “the holiday show you shouldn’t take your kids to,” through Dec 24. And the Boulder Ensemble Theater Company (BETC) is teaming with the Denver Center to bring us The SantaLand Diaries, with Michael Bouchard as Crumpet the Elf in David Sedaris’ hilarious and biting comedy, also through Dec 24. At the Dairy Center in Boulder, BETC also offers the comic Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some), “a madcap romp,” through Dec 24. Also up north, through Dec 18, the Longmont Theatre Company is presenting Best Christmas Pageant Ever, featuring “the most inventively awful children in history.”
The holidays are a great time for improvisational comedy as well, with Revenge of the Misfit Toys at The Clocktower Cabaret on Dec 9, 16, 21, and An Improvised Christmas Carol, returning for the third year, at the Bakery Theater at 2132 Market, thru Dec 26.
This is a good time of year for family outings to the theater or to impress a date, even for productions that are not specific to this time of year. Some good possibilities for this are Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, at Vintage Theater through Jan 15, and Porgy & Bess at the Aurora Fox, through thru Jan 1, both out east in Aurora, as well as An Act of God closer in at the Garner Galleria Theater. And if you want a stark contrast to the traditional seasonal fare, then shell out the big bucks and head down to the Buell Theatre for the Broadway touring production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, winner of four 2014 Tony Awards, one week only from Dec 6-11.
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