As Charles Dickens himself penned in A Christmas Carol, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” Mark your calendars today and enjoy for yourselves the best of local holiday theatrical offerings, ranging from family-friendly spectacles to knee-slapping comedies fueled by adult beverages.
A Wealth of Chances to See a Dickens of a Play
The granddaddy of the local productions, Trinity Rep’s A Christmas Carol plays now through New Year’s Eve. It stars local favorite Joe Wilson, Jr. as Scrooge in Trinity’s 40th anniversary of Scroogifness, and features roughly 20 different local community non-profit groups and service organizations, one each week. We spoke with Wilson right before opening night. “The non-profits will literally be in the show. I encounter them as Scrooge twice in the show… We rehearsed them, we are costuming them, and they’re stepping into our production. It also serves as a platform to make the audience aware of these organizations, and it gives us a chance to engage in the sort of activity that the play asks of us all. We’ve done this play 40 times, and it’s been different every single time, but the opportunity to have a tangible interaction with the community that ties into the story, I think that’s our responsibility.” The first will be Progressive Latino, the first organization to sign up, and other charities will be cycling in every few days – “from mental health to social justice to veterans and health groups, of all different sizes. We’re very, very excited,” says Wilson.
As for playing one of the most iconic figures in theater, Wilson says, “I’m just trying to inhabit the character emotionally. Does that have physical manifestations? Sure. They have me using a cane, which I understand because I’ve had a bum knee… the trick is remembering not to limp when I go home. But the character demands a physical approach – I’m not playing age, I’m playing a point of view, but the play demands that he be the most decrepit of things.” (trinityrep.com)
Elsewhere around the state, Shining Light Productions’ A Christmas Carol takes the stage (and sometimes soars above it) from Dec 8 – 17 at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket (stadiumtheatre.com).
Artists’ Exchange’s highly anticipated annual production of A Christmas Carol produces an infectious sense of enthusiasm and interaction between the cast and the audience. It features an inclusive cast of local actors of all abilities and ages at Theatre 82 in Cranston from Dec 7 – 23. The production promises an “intimate in-the-round staging,” says marketing coordinator Emily Urban. “The community (and audience!) is central to helping Scrooge transform from a miser into a believer – and undergoing a magical transformation of its own along the way.” (artists-exchange.org)
Attleboro Community Theatre continues their 61st season with a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which runs from Dec 1 – 17 (attleborocommunitytheatre.com). A representative from Attleboro Community Theatre says of the show, “David Blessinger, one of our seasoned directors, decided to adapt the work into a short, easily digestible version that is sure to [appeal to] a vast and diverse audience. We’re also thrilled to include local children in the cast of this holiday classic.”
A Christmas Carol – A Live Radio Play brings the holiday classic vocally to the stage as a live 1940s radio broadcast at The Arctic Playhouse from Dec 1 – 10 (thearcticplayhouse.com).
Ring in the Holidays with a Variety of Revues
Stadium Theatre brings the spectacular to their Woonsocket stage on Dec 2 with The Stadium Theatre Christmas. This family-friendly variety show is chock full of song, dance, special guests from the North Pole and a live Nativity (stadiumtheatre.com).
Dec 16 – 17 marks the return of The Mixed Magic Exult Choir & Friends’ Great Holiday Traditions, featuring beloved holiday songs and celebration at the recently renovated and expanded Mixed Magic Theatre in Pawtucket (It’s beautiful – check it out if you have a chance!). Says artistic director Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, “The theme of our holiday show this year is ‘Celebrate Me Home.’ Yes; like the Kenny Loggins song. In times that often feel tense and uncertain, it’s important to take a minute to enjoy the familiar and all the spaces and places we consider home.” (mmtri.com).
Deck the halls with Striving Artists as they share stories and songs in their 9th annual Comfort & Joy onstage at Arctic Playhouse in West Warwick on Dec 16 and 17 (thearcticplayhouse.com).
Tinsel and Tales: A Story of Family, Music, and Coming Home brings their original evening of song and dance to Bristol Theatre Company on Dec 8 and 9 (bristoltheatrecompany.org). Take notes!
A Christmas Survival Guide hits the stage at Granite Theatre in Westerly from Dec 1 – 23 with songs and vignettes to help us all survive the holiday season (granitetheatre.com).
Holidays with a Twist and a Smile
For those looking for more of an off-beat take on the holiday, there are many offerings that aim to bring the gift of laughter this holiday season. Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge by Christopher Durang brings the holiday mayhem to local audiences Dec 1 – 23 at The Contemporary Theater Company (CTC) in Wakefield (thecontemporarytheater.com). CTC’s founder says, “Our Mainstage holiday show brings new audiences and youth actors into the theater community, and features veteran ensemble members in extremely playful and joyful roles.” Also, don’t miss CTC’s Christmas Cocktail Cabaret at the Towers in Newport on Dec 21.
RI Shakespeare Theatre is producing A Comedy Christmas Carol in Newport for one weekend only, December 8th and 9th, at the Guild hall at St. John the Evangelist Church in Newport. Show begins at 7pm – call 401-332-0029 for info.
From the fertile comic mind of local funnyman Frank O’Donnell comes A Christmas Carmella, a wacky retelling of the holiday classic courtesy of Ant’ny Claus family matriarch Carmella Zucchero Foccaccia, who, unable to find the classic book, makes up the story from memory to quell the zeal of her grandchildren. It’s at the RISE Playhouse in Woonsocket from Dec 8 – 17 (ristage.org).
Radioactive Theatre Company brings their time-traveling (and family-friendly) romp Carol’s Christmas to William Hall Library in Cranston from Nov 25 – Dec 9 (radioactivetheatre.com).
Dashing Through the Snow tickles funnybones at The Newport Playhouse & Cabaret Restaurant from Nov 24 – Dec 31 courtesy of the colorful parade of eccentric guests at the Snowflake Inn in Tinsel Texas (newportplayhouse.com). “We are thrilled to be putting on Dashing Through the Snow since it’s ridiculously funny and Lord knows, people could use a laugh these days,” says Jonathan Perry, president of The Newport Playhouse. “The show is a real crowd-pleaser, with everything from a two-minute christmas carol to a naughty Mrs. Claus to a wild winter wedding. Plus, all this month and next we’re doing a special Christmas-themed cabaret for folks after each show, which, as always, is included with their regular admission.”