This weekend might mark the official beginning of Christmas shopping season, but it also marks the beginning of holiday theater season, one of the most bankable times of year for Central Kentucky troupes.
Even folks who usually do not go to plays embrace an annual trip to see holiday-themed productions. There's plenty to choose from this year. Here's a compilation of some to consider for your calendar of holiday outings.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Lexington Children's Theatre, Nov. 30-Dec. 9. This staged adaptation of Barbara Robinson's 1971 book about an unruly group of kids who threaten to ruin the annual church Christmas pageant is a funny, heartwarming tale about the meaning of Christmas and is one of LCT's go-to holiday offerings. The theater has produced it six times, with 55 children portraying the "worst children in the world" through the years. This tale gets a lot of laughs from kids and adults alike, so be prepared to have a little holiday fun. (Public performances: 2 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 8; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 7. Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St. $18 adults, $15 children. School performances: Dec 2-6, 9. (859) 254-4546, Ext. 245. LCTonstage.org.)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Dec. 4-8. Maybe it's a stretch to include a staged adaptation of C.S. Lewis' famous fantasy book about a magical world called Narnia among holiday plays, but Father Christmas does make an important appearance, giving the four young children adventuring in Narnia gifts that will help them defeat the evil Snow Queen. Adding the fact that Narnia's hero Aslan and the entire Chronicles of Narnia series is steeped in Christian symbolism and mythology, the play is timely for the holiday season. (7 p.m. Dec. 4-6; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 7; 2 p.m. Dec. 8. 1600 Man o' War Blvd. $10 adults, $8 students and children.)
A Christmas Carol by University of Kentucky Theatre, Dec. 5-8. This Charles Dickens tale was first published as a novella in 1843 and since then has become perhaps the most iconic staple of holiday storytelling, inspiring dozens of films, plays and musicals. This is but one regional production of the play. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 5, 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7; 2 p.m. Dec. 8. UK Guignol Theatre, in Fine Arts Building, Rose St. and Patterson Dr. $15, $10 students. (859) 257-4929. Singletarycenter.com.)
The Miracle on 34th Street by Bluegrass Theatre Guild in Frankfort, Dec. 5-8. What if the Macy's Santa Claus were real? The 1947 film about Santa Claus, a little girl who believes in him and the lives they touch won several Academy Awards and has been a holiday mainstay ever since. The play is based on the book by the film's screenwriter, Valentine Davis. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 5-7; 2 p.m. Dec. 8. Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St., Frankfort. $12-$15. (502) 352-7469. Grandtheatrefrankfort.org, Bluegrasstheatreguild.com.)
Amahl and the Night Visitors by Beaumont Presbyterian Church, Dec. 6 and 8. A one-act opera written in 1951 by Gian Carlo Menotti, Amahl and the Night Visitors was written when the major TV networks were doing things like commissioning operas. Can you imagine? Menotti, from Italy, based the work on Christmas visits from the Three Kings instead of Santa Claus, based on the Italian tradition of Menotti's generation. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 6, 3 p.m. Dec. 8. 1070 Lane Allen Rd. $10. (859) 278-5062. email@example.com.)
A Tuna Christmas by The Woodford Theater in Versailles, Dec. 6-22. It's Christmas. In small-town Texas. And everybody is a little bit (OK, a lot) crazy, in that endearing Texan way. A go-to comedy of the season, this show, in which two actors play all the parts, is best enjoyed when you need an evening of guaranteed laughter to balance out the pressure of shopping, cooking and entertaining. It will make your own family's brand of crazy look reasonable by comparison. (8 p.m. Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21; 2 p.m. Dec. 8, 15, 22. 275 Beasley Dr., Versailles. $19. 1-866-811-4111. Woodfordtheatre.com.)
Bah, Humbug by West T. Hill Community Theatre in Danville, Dec. 6-15. Playwright Rebecca Ryland's musical adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol — see? here's that story again — features original music by Bill Francoeur. (8 p.m. Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14; 3 p.m. Dec. 8, 15. 117 Larrimore Ln., Danville. $12. (859) 319-0205. Westthill.com.)
A Christmas Carol, touring production by Nebraska Theatre Caravan at EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond, Dec. 10. A professional tour of Dickens' classic is another opportunity theatergoers have for remembering the spirit of Christmas thanks to Scrooge's mystical time traveling through Christmases past, present and future. (7:30 p.m. 521 Lancaster Ave., Richmond. $35-$45. (859) 622-7469. EKUcenter.com.)
A Christmas Carol, touring production at Lancaster Grand Theatre, Dec. 10. A musical version of Dickens' story. (8 p.m. 117 Lexington St., Lancaster. $45, $50. (859) 583-1716. Lancastergrand.com.)
Home for the Holidays at Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, Dec. 13-14. The Anthany and Eunice Beatty Family Foundation presents "a taste of culture, a sampling of artistic talent — a holiday treat" in this stage and musical performance that focuses on family holiday traditions. (7 p.m. Dec. 13, 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 14. 300 E. Third St. $10-$30. (859) 280-2218. Lexingtonlyric.com.)
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Georgetown Community Theatre, Dec. 13-15. Rachel Kitchen Nipper debuts her original stage adaptation of a book of the same name by Wizard of Oz author Frank L. Baum. The tale chronicles the life of Santa from his infancy and includes fantastical creatures such as wood nymphs and gnomes. Nipper also directs. (7 p.m. Dec. 13, 14; 3 p.m. Dec. 15. Actors Playhouse (formerly First Baptist Church), 209 W. Jefferson St., Georgetown. $8 adults, $6 ages 12 and younger. (502) 316-3102. GCTKY.com.)
A Christmas Memory by The Woodford Theatre, Dec. 23. For one night only, The Woodford Theatre will present a beloved Christmas tale by Truman Capote that captures the warm nostalgia of his childhood Christmases in the South. A 7-year-old boy is best friends with his elderly cousin, and together they make the most of Christmas despite their poverty. Not to sound cheesy but, it is guaranteed to make you laugh and, most likely, cry. (8 p.m. 275 Beasley Dr., Versailles. $10 adults, $6 students. 1-866-811-4111. Woodfordtheatre.com.)
Two acclaimed regional theaters are taking on Dickens' holiday classic.
A Christmas Carol by Actors Theatre of Louisville. Through Dec. 23. Various times. 316 W. Main St., Louisville. $24-$54. (502) 584-1205. Actorstheatre.org.
A Christmas Carol by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Through Dec. 29. Various times. 962 Mount Adams Cir., Cincinnati. $25-$75. (513) 421-3888. Cincyplay.com.
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.