Holiday theater around WNC

BRANCHING OUT: Parkway Playhouse stages a musical adaptation The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. From left, Mountain Heritage High School drama students Lindsey Edwards and Katy Futrell with Parkway Playhouse intern Logan Walden star as the Green family. Photo by Rob Storrs

Little about the holidays goes according to plan. Pumpkin pies burn, stocking are hung by the chimney with only minimal care, it’s nearly impossible to find the Happy Solstice card that truly expresses the reason for the season, and family members — bless their weird little hearts — do a fine job of reminding us why we choose to live in a different time zone.

But there is one place where it does work out perfectly (or perfectly imperfectly): on the stage. And this year, local theater companies are pulling out the stops. Offerings range from classics (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) to the revamped classics (a newly rewritten production of A Christmas Carol), and from local spins on beloved tales (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King) to outright shenanigans (The 42nd Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular).

Looking for more holiday theater? Check out Community Calendar and mountainx.com.

All Is Calm

The Christmas Truce of 1914 between British and German troops during World War I was an actual event. Soldiers on either side of the conflict laid down their weapons and spent the holiday together. They sang carols, played music and traded treats from home. The event was commemorated in the songs “Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon and “Christmas Miracle 1914” by Leo Glaser. N.C. Stage brings the story to stage in All Is Calm. “This dramatic retelling contains actual quotes and excerpts from letters written by 30 World War I figures,” says a press release for the show. Cantaria, The Gay Men’s Chorus of Asheville, rounds out the production with songs. Performances at N.C. Stage Company Wednesday, Dec. 9, to Sunday, Dec. 27. Wednesdays to Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. $16-$36. ncstage.org

COAL IN THEIR STOCKINGS: When the badly behaved Herdman siblings are cast in the local Christmas pageant, the production takes a surprising turn. From left, Katie Purnell, Rohan Myers, Nora Flynn-McIver, Will Cowan, Alex Gast and Sam Collett. Photo by Studio Misha
COAL IN THEIR STOCKINGS: When the badly behaved Herdman siblings are cast in the local Christmas pageant, the production takes a surprising turn. From left, Katie Purnell, Rohan Myers, Nora Flynn-McIver, Will Cowan, Alex Gast and Sam Collett star in Asheville Community Theatre’s production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Photo by Studio Misha

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Based on a book by Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever tells the story of the Herdman children, “the worst kids in the history of the world.” Not only do they lie, cheat and steal, none of them has ever heard the Christmas story. Nonetheless, they land the lead roles in the local production and turn the whole hallowed affair on its head with their wacky interpretation. Asheville Community Theatre calls the production “our most popular holiday show ever!” Friday, Dec. 4 to Sunday, Dec. 20. Fridays and Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m., Sundays, at 2:30 p.m. $12-$22. ashevilletheatre.org

Also at ACT: The Legend of La Befana Saturday, Dec. 5; The Santaland Diaries at 35below, Thursday, Dec. 10, to Saturday, Dec. 19; Christmas with Santa Saturday, Dec. 12.

A Christmas Carol

Dwight Chiles directs a newly re-written and staged production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol for Montford Park Players. Chiles adapted the play, which usually features more than 30 actors, to a cast of just six, including Badi Mirheli, Rachel McCrain, Jenni Robinson, Christine Caldemeyer, Emma Heisey and himself. The director says he wanted the audience to feel as if they were sitting with their own family to read the story aloud after Christmas dinner. “Charles Dickens would perform his book after it was published in 1843, and it became a tradition,” says Chiles. “He would receive letters from folks in the town about how much it helped them to remember the true spirit of Christmas.” But fewer actors doesn’t mean a limited show. Instead, Chiles has tapped a team of local designers, and “We are including more dance and more singing than we have used in the past,” he adds. Performances at the Masonic Temple. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10; Friday, Dec. 18; Saturdays, Dec. 12 and 19; Monday, Dec. 21 and Wednesday, Dec. 23. Shows at 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 13 and 20, and Saturday, Dec. 19. www.montfordparkplayers.org

Stuffed

Experimental theater ensemble Accordion Time Machine taps into an all-too-familiar holiday experience with the production Stuffed. But the show is less about that fourth serving of mashed potatoes and more about a heaping helping of “pieces that are personal, silly, absurd and unique,” according to a press release. The company also points out, “The show technically starts at 8 p.m., but audience members are highly encouraged to arrive when doors open at 7:30 p.m. as Accordion Time Machine hosts a range of fun surprises before the show begins.” Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5, at 8 p.m., at Toy Boat Community Art Space. $12 advance/$15 at the door. anamcaratheatre.org

ANIMAL INSTINCTS: Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre stages a dark take on a classic with The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Photo by Toby Maurer
ANIMAL INSTINCTS: Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre stages a dark take on a classic with The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Photo by Toby Maurer

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Based on the original 1816 story by German author E.T.A. Hoffman, Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King puts a darker spin on Tchaikovsky’s well-known Nutcracker ballet. “The famous Mouse King and his lovely wife and their numerous children [wreak] havoc all over the ballet with magical aerialists flying overhead creating a surrealism to visually delight all ages,” says a press release for the production, which features the ACDT adult company, White Dog ProjectX International and the students of New Studio of Dance. Friday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 5, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., at Diana Wortham Theatre. $28 general / $23 students and seniors / $20 children. dwtheatre.com

More Nutcracker performances at Diana Wortham Theatre:
• Asheville Ballet presents a full-length production of the classic tale, set to the traditional Tchaikovsky score. Friday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 12, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m; Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2:30 p.m. $25-$50 adults / $18 students / $15 children 12 and younger.
• Ballet Conservatory of Asheville stages a full-length production with professional classical dancers and the conservatory’s preprofessional company. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 17 and 18, at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. $22-$30 adults / $20-$25 seniors / $20 students / $15 children 12 and younger.

Home for Christmas: A Holiday Cabaret

Daniel Hensley, Karen Covington, Lyn Donley, Tabatha Judy and Mark Jones all lend their voices to this festive production at HART Theatre in Waynesville. Thursday to Saturday, Dec. 10-12, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 13, at 3 p.m. $20 adults / $15 seniors / $7 students. harttheater.org

The 42nd Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular

The season’s most dysfunctional family returns (and this year The Magnetic Theatre gets to perform its annual holiday comedy on its own stage). Now in its seventh (or 42nd — who’s really counting?) incarnation, the raunchy, punchy, over-the-top antics continue to evolve as the Bernstein Family finds new ways to reinterpret the meaning of Christmas. The R-rated show stars Tracey Johnston-Crum, Darren Marshall, Kirby Gibson, Erik Moellering and Glenn Reed. It’s directed by Katie Anne Towner. The annual arrival of the Bernsteins “always presages citywide shortages on contraceptives, vodka and various types of illegal drugs,” says the theater’s website. Tickets tend to sell out, too, so consider purchasing in advance. Thursday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 p.m., $12 advance / $17 at the door. Friday, Dec. 4 to Saturday, Dec. 19, at 7:30 p.m., $18/$23. Saturday, Dec. 12 and 19, at 10 p.m., $15/$20. themagnetictheatre.org

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

Parkway Playhouse stages a musical adaptation of Gloria Houston’s book The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. It’s a tale about one family’s holiday in 1918. Young Ruthie has looked forward to Christmas for a long time, but as the day draws closer, her father is yet to return from the war. “Soon it’s Christmas Eve, and Ruthie and Mama can think only of seeing Papa again,” says a press release for the production. “But despite that, Papa promised the townsfolk a tree, and now — with Papa or without him — Mama will see that his word is kept.” Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 6, at 3 p.m., at Mountain Heritage High School (333 Mountain Heritage High School Road, Burnsville). $8 students /$12 adults. parkwayplayhouse.com

BACK TO THE CLASSICS: James Ridenhour reads A Christmas Carol and performs the various voices in the tradition of Charles Dickens. Photo courtesy of Black Mountain Center for the Arts
BACK TO THE CLASSICS: James Ridenhour reads A Christmas Carol and performs the various voices in the tradition of Charles Dickens. Photo courtesy of Black Mountain Center for the Arts

The Santaland Diaries

The one-man play The Santaland Diaries began as a short story by writer David Sedaris, who shared it in a broadcast of “This American Life.” It’s a culled-from-real-life account of the season Sedaris spent working as a yuletide elf at Macy’s department store. Hendersonville Community Theatre presents the show for mature audiences. Fridays to Sundays, Dec. 4-6 and 11-13. hendersonvilletheatre.org

A Christmas Carol reading

Actor and Dickensian scholar Jamieson Ridenhour gives a Victorian-style reading of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic. “Dickens was an inveterate performer of his own work and toured throughout England and America during the 1850s and ’60s,” says a press release for the one-man performance at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts. “Ridenhour re-creates the experience, bringing A Christmas Carol to life with a book and his voice.” Sunday, Dec. 20, at 3 p.m. By donation. BlackMountainArts.org

Three Spirits

For another take on A Christmas Carol, Central United Methodist Church presents the multimedia production, Three Spirits. The show, a staged dramatic reading of the holiday tale, includes video animations of Victorian pen and ink drawings created more than a century ago. Scottish-born actor Jim France performs the story while local musicians add live accompaniment. The event, held at The Orange Peel, is a benefit for Pisgah Legal Services. Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. $15 advance/$20 at the door/free for kins younger than 12. theorangepeel.net

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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