The holidays mean different things to different people. Some folks choose to eat too much. Others decide to serve the needy. Some of us revel in family. Others just want to get away from relatives.
And then there’s the family outing option: A chance to escape into a darkened theater to see a movie — any movie will do — or perhaps a stage show designed to remind us that for kids and even world-weary adults, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be magical.
Kansas City theatergoing audiences tend to be a ritualistic bunch, and nowhere are there better opportunities for ritual than at some of the local playhouses. Here’s a quick look at some of the noteworthy productions:
▪ “A Christmas Carol,” Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s annual version of the Charles Dickens classic about greed and compassion draws in big numbers every year to see the handsomely mounted show.
Again Gary Neal Johnson, one of Kansas City’s best and best-known actors, will anchor the production as Ebenezer Scrooge, the money-lending penny-pincher who at the play’s outset dismisses Christmas as “humbug.” Johnson is always fun to watch as Scrooge, after terrifying nocturnal visits from ghosts, metamorphoses from skinflint to paternalistic philanthropist.
The Rep’s 34th production of “A Christmas Carol” uses an adaptation by playwright Barbara Field. The Rep tells us that more than 878,000 people have seen the show since it began. Last year’s attendance came to 26,623.
Employing 25 actors, 34 volunteer kids and a music director/pianist, the show will be staged by Jerry Genochio, the Rep’s director of production. Previous director Kyle Hatley had honed the show to its highest professional level since it began. So let’s hope Genochio adopts the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
▪ For the second year in a row, the Rep is staging David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries” at Copaken Stage, the company’s downtown venue at 13th and Walnut streets.
Brian Sills returns to play a hapless elf toiling at Macy’s during the holiday shopping season. Artistic director Eric Rosen is in charge this year.
The material takes a decidedly unsentimental look at some of our holiday rituals. Anyone looking for a theatrical sugar cookie should probably look elsewhere, but if you’re in need of a satirical antidote to holiday tropes, this might be for you.
Shanna Jones, whom theatergoers saw open the show last year as one half of the Shenanigans, will perform between scenes, according to the Rep.
The show runs Dec. 6-24. Call the Rep box office for more information.
▪ The Kansas City Ballet should satisfy anyone in the market for visual spectacle and auditory splendor with Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” choreographed by the company’s late artistic director Todd Bolender.
According to the ballet, 1,082,800 people have seen “The Nutcracker” since its inaugural production in 1981. Last year, more than 32,000 saw the show.
It’s based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 19th-century tale of a toy nutcracker that comes to life in a little girl’s playroom after dark and leads an army of dolls against the forces of the Mouse King.
The spectacle employs three casts of KC Ballet dancers and some 175 youngsters from the community, as well as Kansas City Symphony musicians in 18 Kauffman Center performances.
▪ Each year Quality Hill Playhouse stages a mix of sacred and secular Christmas music selected and arranged by executive director J. Kent Barnhart. This year, “Christmas in Song” runs Nov. 20-Dec. 24.
Joining Barnhart will be singers Lindsey McKee, Cary Mock and LeShea Wright. Last season, more than 3,850 patrons took in the show at the intimate 143-seat playhouse at 303 W. 10th St. What that means, among other things, is that tickets tend to go fast. Call the box office at 816-421-1700 or visit QualityHillPlayhouse.com.
▪ The young-audience Coterie theater on the lower level in Crown Center is introducing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical.”
Based on the 1964 stop-action clay animation TV special adapted from a story by Robert May with songs by Johnny Marks, the show incorporates a huge cast by Coterie standards, including adult professional actors and kids. Jeff Church directs, and Anthony Edwards is the musical director.