I’m typically not super excited by the typical holiday season line-up of theater offerings. I’m not a Christmas pageant sort of a girl, mostly because I get my Christmas fix via cheesy movies, romantic short stories, and The Great Dickens Christmas Fair.
But every so often, something a little different comes down the pike for holiday theater-lovers. Here’s what’s on my radar for December in the San Joaquin Valley. – Heather
Kick the Season Off Right This Weekend
The Fool’s Collaborative – that merry band of Fresno players producing shows, events, and creative projects with an eye toward raising money for charitable causes – kicks off December with Joyful Noise, a cabaret/holiday party benefiting the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund.
The event is December 1st and features a reception with lots of Christmas goodies, cocktails, a 50/50 raffle, and a galaxy of local stars providing entertainment. The cabaret features Terry Lewis, Camille Gaston, Amalie Larsen, Jennifer Appleby, Kindle Cowger, Karen Burley, Damen Pardo, Emma DenBesten, Adam Meredith, Kyle Lowe, Rodolfo Robles Cruz, Jessica Meredith, Joel C. Abels, Amy Ryan, Haley White, and Miguel Gastelum offering tunes merry and bright.
Sounds like a great way to get into the holiday spirit right off the bat!
Tickets for the event can be reserved in advance at https://joyfulnoise.bpt.me. Tickets will also be available at the door the evening of the cabaret. The suggested donation is $10, but audience members are welcome to Pay-What-They-Can, so don’t be afraid to join in if funds are a little tight this weekend. (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Fools Collaborative, but am not directly involved with this event. – HP)
Get Some Jane Austen Good Cheer
Jane Austen (beloved of my heart) isn’t a classic author typically associated with Christmastime. That honor typically falls to Charles Dickens. Year-after-year A Christmas Carol headlines theaters around the country with nary a break in sight. When playwright Lauren Gunterson realized there might be a need in the holiday theatrical market for a play with a classic lit tie in, but with a new story, she decided on a sequel to Pride and Prejudice – with a Christmastime theme!
The result is Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley which Gunderson co-wrote with Margot Melcon. Set in 1815, two years after the novel ends, the play continues the story of the Bennet sisters, only this time with bookish middle-sister Mary as its unlikely heroine. When the family gathers for Christmas at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s estate, an unexpected guest sparks Mary’s hopes for independence, an intellectual match, and possibly even love.
Gunderson is known for telling tales based on historical or literary characters with a delightful modernity, so don’t bet that this will be a stuffy-old-dozer. Under the direction of Fresno State professor Brad Myers, it is sure to meet your needs for a holiday story that can still surprise.
Also, the play itself has met with rave reviews from Austen super-fans all across the country for the past year. If it can please the Janeites, it can pass muster anywhere!
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Written by Lauren Gunderson & Margot Melcon
Directed by Brad Myers
December 7 -15, 2018 @ 7:30pm
John Wright Theatre (Speech Arts Building)
Fresno State Campus, 5201 N. Maple Ave. Fresno, CA
Tickets: www.fresnostate.edu/theatrearts or 559.278.2216
In Bakersfield: The Classic That Keeps On Giving
Yes, we’ve already mentioned that A Christmas Carol is the gift that keeps on giving during this time of year, but I’m going to plug the Ovation Theater’s production in Bakersfield. This version is the Broadway musical version penned by the talent behind Beauty and the Beast and Ragtime. And given how well I enjoyed Ovation’s production of 1776 last summer, I’d bet they put together a heartfelt and well-sung version of this classic.
A Christmas Carol
Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Book by Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent
Directed by Joe Lowry
November 30 – December 23, 2018
Ovation Theater, 1622 19th Street, Bakersfield, CA 93301
Other Holiday Options:
Good Company for Christmas. Good Company Players. Fresno. Nov 1 – Dec 23. Variety/Musicale. Family oriented.
Annie. Playhouse Merced. Nov 16 – Dec 9. Musical. Family oriented.
The Lion King. Broadway in Fresno. November 28 – Dec 9. Musical. Family oriented.
Elf, Jr. Children’s Musical Theatreworks. Fresno. Dec 7 – 16. (Performers aged 8 – 20 years old). Musical – family oriented.
A Christmas Carol. Golden Chain, Oakhurst. Nov 23 – Dec 23. Play. Family oriented.
She Loves Me. Empty Space. Bakersfield. December 7 – 29. Musical.