When the weather outside is frightful, there is no place more delightful than the theater. Companies all around the city of Pittsburgh are offering up holiday-themed shows of all genres to give anyone craving it an extra dose of yuletide cheer. Most of these titles will ring a jingle bell for Christmas-obsessives who grew up watching them on TV with family. All of these wonderful upcoming productions will surely be an early Christmas present for everyone able to see any one of them.
“Unsung” is definitely not the word to describe American composer Irving Berlin’s contributions to the Christmas season. But it strikes me as odd that the person who penned the music and lyrics for the world’s most recorded Christmas song isn’t up there with Santa, his elves, and Ebenezer Scrooge as a face of the holidays. I’m of course talking about “White Christmas” which was first sung by Bing Crosby in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, but eventually grew to even more prominence in its 1952 namesake film also starring Crosby.
The stage adaptation of the movie White Christmas, with a book by David Ives and Paul Blake, premiered in 2000 at The Muny and will soon be dancing its way into the Palisade Playhouse. The story, set to a fantastic assortment of Berlin standards including “Happy Holidays”, “Blue Skies”, “Sisters”, and “I Love a Piano”, introduces audiences to two World War II soldiers turned song-and-dance men, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, as they reenter civilian life to become the toast of Broadway. Two beautiful, talented sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, catch Bob’s and Phil’s eye. Romantic hijinks land the foursome at a lodge in Vermont with no other way to process their feelings for one another but on stage and in song. When the curtain and the snow finally fall, the poetic refrain of the title song echoes through everyone’s hearts.
White Christmas plays at the Palisade Playhouse from November 30 through December 9. For more information, click here.
If you’re such a huge fan of the classic Christmas comedy A Christmas Story that waiting until Christmas Eve for its 24-hour marathon on TBS is unbearable for you, then you’re in luck this year. In addition to Fox’s presentation of A Christmas Story Live!, The Theatre Factory and Bricolage Production Company are serving up their own unique versions of Ralphie Parker’s hilarious coming of age tale.
Rather than taking a cue from the broader elements of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s A Christmas Story, the Musical, both The Theatre Factory and Bricolage are using Philip Grecian’s straight play adaptation of the 1983 movie (itself an adaptation of Jean Sheperd’s semi-autobiographical short stories) as their source text. All versions of A Christmas Story center around nine year old Ralphie Parker’s relentless quest for what he sees as the ultimate Christmas present, a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. He faces nightmarish pink bunny pajamas, disapproving parents, and disappointing mall Santas along the way, but no obstacle is more persistent than the warning that upon receiving his coveted BB gun he will “shoot his eye out”.
Catherine Kolos is directing The Theatre Factory’s staging of A Christmas Story while Bricolage will be presenting their production as an installment of their live radio play series, “Midnight Radio”. Both companies promise to give fans of the property all the moments from the movies they love from the reveal of the leg lamp to the sticky situation with a child’s tongue and freezing cold metal pole.
The Theatre Factory’s A Christmas Story runs from December 7-17. For more information, click here
Bricolage’s Midnight Radio: A Christmas Story runs from December 7-23. For more information, click here.
If you’re looking for a palate cleanser for all the movie-turned-play/musical productions happening in the area, Little Lake Theatre has you covered with their A Tuna Christmas.
Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard’s play might not be as well-known as other shows on this list, but A Tuna Christmas does have a rich history in its own right and with Little Lake Theatre specifically. The show is the second in a trilogy of plays about the fictional town of Tuna, Texas. For the citizens of Tuna, the holiday season marks the return of their annual Christmas Yard Display Contest. A mysterious vandal known as the “Christmas Phantom” aims to thwart Vera Carp’s 14-year winning streak and ruin the contest for everyone involved. The real twist of A Tuna Christmas is that those characters and a host of others, including everything from a DJ to an aspiring taxidermist to a UFOlogist, are played by only two people.
This raucous comedy is making its return to Little Lake Theatre after several successful engagements in the past. It’s living proof that Christmas classics don’t just live on our television and movie screens.
A Tuna Christmas plays at Little Lake Theatre from November 30 through December 2 and December 7-9 and 14-16. For more information, click here.
Our fifth theatre recommendation for the Christmas season is, you guessed it, an adaptation of a movie. It’s probably the most famous Christmas story not written by Charles Dickens. It’s being put on at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. It’s It’s a Wonderful Life.
Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story “The Greatest Gift” inspired Frank Capra’s 1946 movie version of It’s a Wonderful Life, which in turn used George Bailey’s existential crisis to inspire people around the world to be thankful for all that we’re given and all that we give.
When George contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve after a day of mounting frustration with his business and family, a guardian angel by the name of Clarence Odbody intervenes. After seeing proof that George is a good person who has been helping people his entire life, Clarence, at George’s request, shows George what the world would be like if he never existed. That alternate reality is anything but wonderful, but the poignant lesson that George learns and the reward Clarence receives for helping to teach him that lesson are truly timeless and universal symbols of the season.
It’s a Wonderful Life runs at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center from December 1-3, 7-10, and 14-17. For more information, click here.
Don’t be a Grinch, please check back with Pittsburgh in the Round throughout the month of December for our coverage of each of these shows! Until then, Happy Holidays!