Mark Cofta’s holiday theater picks: Did someone say ‘Christmas Carol’?

Greg Wood's Scrooge in McCarter's 'Christmas Carol,' running through December 31. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson.)

Holiday theater starts with the popular Christmas stories, none so ubiquitous as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which appears annually on three area professional stages. McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, broke records when it premiered David Thompson’s new adaptation last year; this season’s A Christmas Carol (December 5 through 31; recommended for ages seven and up) is again directed by Adam Immerwahr and stars Philadelphia’s Greg Wood as Scrooge and Jessica Bedford as Mrs. Cratchit, plus a large community ensemble of all ages.

The Walnut Street Theatre’s A Christmas Carol (through December 23) is an hourlong musical adaptation for kids, written and directed by Bill Van Horn with classic carols selected by Van Horn and music director Chris Burcheri. Hedgerow Theatre’s A Christmas Carol (through December 24), a 25-year tradition, also premiered a new adaptation last year, penned and staged by Jared Reed. It’s a brisk 90 minutes with more than 30 actors and lots of traditional songs.

West Chester’s new Resident Theatre Company joins in with A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play (December 15 through 31), Joe Landry’s six-actor version set in a 1940s radio studio with live sound effects and vintage commercials. Landry adapted another Christmas standard in the same format, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (through December 17; here’s my review), playing in the Walnut Street Theatre’s Studio on 3 featuring Philadelphia favorites Damon Bonetti, Tabitha Allen, and Michael Toner.  

Classic family theater outings

Delaware Theatre Company presents the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s seminal comedy The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) [REVISED] (November 29 through December 23), a comic romp through all 37 plays in 97 minutes, featuring Philadelphia funny man John Zak. It’s a great show for anyone suffering from Fear of Shakespeare.

The Arden Theatre Company’s 20th annual children’s theater production is Douglas Irvine’s adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (through January 21), directed by Whit MacLaughlin. Jo Vito Ramirez plays the title character, with Emilie Krause as Wendy and Catherine Slusar as their pirate nemesis Captain Hook.

Musicals bring families to the theater around the holidays. The Walnut Street Theatre’s revival of the Tony-winning crowd pleaser Annie (through January 7) features Mary Martello, Christopher Sutton, Lyn Philistine, Fran Prisco, and Ben Dibble. The Media Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast (through January 14) is the Disney version of the classic tale, starring Alanna J. Smith and Jarret Jay Yoder, plus young actors from the Media Theatre’s education program. People’s Light presents Aladdin: A Musical Panto (through January 7; here’s my review), an all-ages original musical by Pete Pryor, Samantha Reading, and composer Michael Ogborn with a unique style inspired by the British holiday panto tradition.

Get a babysitter

Cape May Stage features its own twist on the holiday glut in The Ultimate Christmas Show (ABRIDGED) (through December 30), an adults-only frenetic parody of all our beloved classics, by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor (two-thirds of the Reduced Shakespeare Company).

If you need another excuse to ditch the kids, check out Holiday Burlesque (December 16), from Fringe Festival favorite Tribe of Fools. It’s the physical-theater company’s eighth annual bawdy vaudeville night, hosted by Nasty Frosty (Meghann Williams) and featuring Dirty Santa, Sexually Anxious Rudolph, Ivan and Irina Jackinoff, and acrobats from Almanac Dance Circus Theatre performing songs, dance, comedy, and showing a bit of skin, all directed by Tara Demmy. 

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