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9 must-see holiday shows that aren't so familiar

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Posted at 12:19 AM, Nov 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-17 00:19:43-05

CINCINNATI --  theaters have something for everyone to enjoy this holiday season, whether you’re a good-natured type like Bob Cratchit or an old grouch like Ebenezer Scrooge. If you’ve done "A Christmas Carol" or "The Nutcracker" in the past and want something different, fear not -- here are nine productions to consider.

All Childish Things (Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St., Over the Rhine, Nov. 20-Dec. 19). A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away -- Norwood, circa 2006 -- three buddies are despondent that the galactic adventures Star Wars promised when they were kids never came to be. They’re 30 now; one lives in his mom’s basement, another has a girlfriend who doesn’t know or care about the Force. When a well-financed mysterious buyer surfaces, they decide to raid Kenner Toys’ secret warehouse and steal all the Star Wars collectibles they can. Joseph Zettelmaier’s hilarious show could be a great outing for holiday laughs. Tickets: (513) 300-5669.

White Christmas (Broadway Series, Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, Nov. 24-Dec. 6). Irving Berlin’s 1942 song was an instant holiday classic. It was featured in a hit 1954 with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Now it’s a stage musical, at the Aronoff for two weeks, opening just before Thanksgiving. It’s about two showbiz buddies staging a show at a picturesque but snowless Vermont inn. There’s dancing and romance, and local audiences will enjoy seeing Broadway veteran and Cincinnati native Pam Myers as Martha, the outspoken innkeeper. Tickets: (513) 621-2787.

Mary Poppins (Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glenway Ave., Nov. 27-Dec. 27). The “practically perfect” nanny takes the stage in this supercalifragilisticexpialidocious musical, a Broadway hit for nearly seven years. Based on the charming 1964 Disney movie, it’s the story of the starchy but magical woman who takes two kids on jolly adventures with her friend Bert, a chimney sweep. Lots of great tunes and fun for the entire family. The Covedale has its own magical touch with shows like this, so you can expect a good time even if you skip that “spoonful of sugar.” Tickets: (513) 241-6550.

Cinderella (Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, Dec. 2-Jan. 3). Every year Ensemble Theatre stages a holiday musical based on a familiar fairytale with some modern twists. This time Cinderella is a nearsighted bookworm who prefers sneakers to glass slippers. A slightly nerdy prince falls for her, and then has to locate the girl who the sneaker fits. Songs by David Kisor and Fitz Patton and a delightful script by Joe McDonough make this is a tried-and-true show a repeated hit: It sold more than 90 percent of its tickets in 2010. (Some performances are already selling out.) Director Lynn Meyers keeps it fresh. Kids have a great time, as do the adults who come along. (It continues into early January, when most holiday shows have closed.) Tickets: (513) 421-3555.

Sanders Family Christmas (Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre, Parrish Auditorium, Miami University – Hamilton, 1601 University Blvd., Hamilton, Dec. 3-6). This sequel to the popular bluegrass gospel musical Smoke on the Mountain, has that show’s charm plus a holiday theme. It’s December 24, 1941, and America is going to war. So is Dennis Sanders of the Sanders Family Singers. Pastor Oglethorpe and the rest of the Sanders Family send him off with hilarious and touching stories -- not to mention 25 Southern gospel Christmas favorites. Tickets (513) 737-7529.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Children’s Theatre at the Taft Theatre, 317 East 5th St., Downtown, Dec. 4-13. This year is the 50th anniversary of this beloved holiday TV special. It’s at the Taft where kids can celebrate with Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang, reminding them of what’s truly important during the Christmas season. Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati knows how to put on shows that kids love. In addition to shows for school groups, there are public performances, including one signed for kids who are hearing impaired on Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. There’s also a performance designed for home schoolers; it’s on Dec. 8 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets: (800) 745-3000.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (The Drama Workshop at the Glenmore Playhouse 3716 Glenmore Ave., Cheviot, Dec. 4-19). The Herdman kids are not good role models. In fact, they’re bullies, and they smoke cigars. Hearing that free cookies, punch and other refreshments will be handed out after church, they show up in force, only to learn that that it’s an audition for the annual Christmas Pageant. When they get cast, it’s a collision with the Christmas story. Will it be the most disastrous pageant ever … or the best? This is a fun show for the kids. Tickets: (513) 598-8303.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 719 Race St., Downtown, Dec. 16-27). You might think that after a decade this show would wear out its welcome, but it’s more popular every year. It opens as a typical production of A Christmas Carol, but before long it’s hijacked into a hilarious, irreverent look at “Beloved Holiday Classics” including It’s a Wonderful Life, Frosty, Rudolph, the Grinch and more! Three actors (and a very drunk Santa) send up everything from Dickens to Dr. Seuss in 90 minutes. The show is not recommended for anyone young enough to still believe in Santa. Tickets: (513) 381-2273.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Ohio Stage Company at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, 101 S. Monument Ave., Hamilton, Dec. 17-20). You know the poem: “ ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” But in the hands of comic playwright Ken Ludwig that mouse is indeed stirring: Santa failed to stop by last year. It’s a wild adventure involving the mouse, an elf and a spunky little girl who won’t take no for an answer. Grab some kids and head to Hamilton. Tickets: (513) 863-8873, x110.