Christmas is awesome and we as a society are rightfully obsessed with it. At its core, it is the most American of holidays, a reason to spend obscene amounts of money on material things. A reason to stuff yourself with pie until you barf. A reason to get in screaming arguments with your relatives and slip bourbon into your eggnog like grandpa used to. Traditions. Family.
If you’re into Christmas, if you’re about candy canes and Rankin Bass Claymation, if you can recite – without hesitation – the lyrics to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” there’s plenty of theater in Rhode Island this holiday season to scratch the yule-tide itch.
It goes without saying that A Christmas Carol at Trinity Rep (Nov 5 – Dec 31) remains the gold standard. Regardless of whatever particular interpretation prevails year by year; it’s an institution. Christmas Story comes on annually on TBS and if I don’t get to see the scene where Ralphie beats the shit out of Scut Farkas in the snow, well, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas. I imagine it’s the same for the families and friends who see A Christmas Carol at Trinity every year. Just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it. To their credit, Trinity has added a Sensory Friendly Performance this year suited to meet the needs of patrons with cognitive and developmental disabilities. It invites the audience to make as much noise as they want and leave and enter as they please. Pretty cool.
There are quite a few productions of Christmas Carol being staged in Rhode Island this holiday. There’s Stadium Theatre’s Carol in Woonsocket (December 2 – 11). Artists’ Exchange is staging a production with performances at both Theater 82 (Dec 8 – 11) and at the historic Park Theater (Dec 15 – 17). And over in Westerly, the Granite Theater gives Dickens the ol’ razzle dazzle with a musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol (Nov 25 – Dec 23).
Christmas would be a lot less Christmas-y without Christmas music. This year Ocean State Theatre Company is cooking up a production of White Christmas based on the 1954 film of the same name (Nov 30 – Dec 24). If you were alive in 1954 and like musicals, this is like crack for you, basically. OSTC has a reputation for high-quality musical productions with talented performers and this show is sure to be no exception. The story follows two WWII vets turned vaudevillians who pursue the affection of female singers at a Christmas show in Vermont. Guess what song they sing… guess what they sing in White Christmas.
Contemporary Theater in South Kingston has a double whammy of holiday goodness in store this season. First, An Evening with Donner and Blitzen by Andy Hoover runs December 2 – 23. And on December 22, CTC also is hosting a Christmas Cocktail Cabaret at the Towers in Narragansett with carols, music and seasonal scenes. If there’s one thing Christmas and theater have in common, they’re both better when you’ve had a few.
Back in Providence, the oft-neglected Barker Playhouse mounts The Christmas Spirit (Dec 2 – 11). It’s a festive farce about a woman who bargains with Death to live one last day before she goes. A day which happens to Christmas. To round out the holidays, Empire Revue is hosting a New Year’s Eve show – Revue Year’s Eve at AS220’s Main Stage. The evening includes Empire Revue’s monthly variety show featuring stand up, burlesque, sketch comedy and plenty of live music from the Superchief Trio. The Party Animal-themed event goes straight into the new year with the bar at AS220 conveniently open all night. New Year’s Eve is still technically Christmas season, by the way. Keep those trees up, you heathens. Baby Jesus is watching. And don’t forget – if you loved Academy’s Ant’ny Claus last year, the sequel comes out this year, when beloved Ant’ny has a run-in with the most dangerous man in Johnston. If you’re more into classic holiday fare, Little Theatre of Fall River is putting on Gift of the Magi, a hair-raising tale which might give you some holiday shopping ideas.
Need a twist on a classic? Carol’s Christmas allows audiences to experience the friendship between Carol and Charles Dickens. Check it out at The Artic Playhouse. And Attleboro Community Theater is putting on The Best Xmas Pageant Ever. We heard it’s the best Xmas pageant ever, so check it out! Holiday programming is always fun. It’s inclusive. You can bring the younger ones and older ones and they’ll all be stoked. They might find some common ground and might start a discussion on the finer points of the production they saw. A multi-generational conversation about art. That’s important. But if you learned anything from Scrooge and those ghosts, I hope you consider supporting this community and donating to the smaller theaters in the state. Who knows? With your gift, maybe next year even more theaters will be able to stage even more productions of A Christmas Carol.