You can’t swing a dead reindeer around North Texas this month and not hit a production with the word “Christmas” in it. And why not?
But not all Christmas tales are the same — from the sentimental to the spiritual to the irreverent to the secularly nostalgic, there’s something for every taste …. whether you’re the ‘Bah, humbug!” type or the plastic-pink-flamingo-in-a-Santa-hat lawn ornament kinda theatergoer.
A Christmas Carol. The Dallas Theater Center’s tradition of telling the heart-warming story of how curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge (this time out, Chamblee Ferguson) finds the Christmas spirit is as honored as the Cowboys making the playoffs… OK, bad example. Point is, it has become a ritual for theater-going Dallasites more reliable than snow on Dec. 25 and stockings stuffed with care. The current production, which is a restaging (by director Lee Trull) of last year’s then-new adaption by Kevin Moriarty, has all the heart, all the plot and a whisk-you-away 90 minute runtime. How they cram all that emotion — resentment, fear, epiphany, joy and wonderment — into such a compact package makes this a better instance of wrapping than you’ll likely find under your tree. Credit the cast (led by Ferguson, but with a button-cute Tiny Tim and airborne Ghost of Christmas Present) with making it magical. God bless them, every one. Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St. Through Dec. 28. DallasTheaterCenter.org.
A Christmas Story. In 1940 Indiana, 9-year-old Ralphie wishes only for a BB gun for Christmas, but the task of convincing adults he won’t “shoot his eye out” seems almost insurmountable. The charm of the film version of course is that’s it’s a first-person account from three feet off the ground — the narrator may have perspective, but it shares it only ironically. The woozy reverie of the child’s Christmas no where near Wales relies as much on its POV for human as the episodic wandering through the yuletide. But once you give all the characters songs to express their own inner voices, the storytelling gets muddled and the charm vanishes. Well, only almost. A number with the famed leg lamp as a kickline, and the eye-popping tap-dancing from a chorus of kids, are both so delightful, you can’t help but smile. But it’s not enough to make you believe in Santa. Fair Park Music Hall, 901 First Ave. Through Sunday. DallasSummerMusicals.org.
The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical (pictured). The gum-smacking trashy inhabitants of Armadillo Acres, first introduced in the similarly-named musical (less the word “Christmas”) are back in Addison, once again with the core cast (Sara Shelby-Martin, Cara Statham-Serber, Megan Kelly Bates) and director (James Paul Lemons). The plot, filled with familiar tropes — an evil landlord plans to evict the residents if they can’t come up with some cash, while one of the mobile homeowners gets convenient amnesia and forgets what a bitch she usually is — is told with energy if not originality, and the songs are fun if not exactly memorable. The conceit of the show and its predecessor is that of a kind of Greek chorus humanizing the wife-beater-wearing, go-go bar working, Joel Osteen-watching folks, poking fun but oh, so gently. There’s appeal in it, but it doesn’t feel as fresh as when WaterTower did it the first time. Then again, if you missed it back then, it’s new to you. Don’t forget to bring a Frito pie — covered dishes are just polite. Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road. Through Jan. 4. WaterTowerTheatre.org.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 12, 2014