Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Life & Style

Ivoryton and Other Connecticut Theaters Offer New Options for Holiday Theater-Going

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The Nutcracker in all its variations is back this year. Eastern Connecticut Ballet is featuring three New York City Ballet dancers in its production. Photo courtesy of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet

The Nutcracker in all its variations is back this year. Eastern Connecticut Ballet is featuring three New York City Ballet dancers in its production. (Photo courtesy of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet)

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Eastern Connecticut Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker features spectacular scenery that shows New London in the 1850s. Photo courtesy of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet

Eastern Connecticut Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker features spectacular scenery that shows New London in the 1850s. (Photo courtesy of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet)

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The Goodspeed in East Haddam is offering A Bing Crosby Christmas starring Jared Bradshaw and featuring the music of the Andrews Sisters. Photo courtesy of The Goodspeed

The Goodspeed in East Haddam is offering A Bing Crosby Christmas starring Jared Bradshaw and featuring the music of the Andrews Sisters. (Photo courtesy of The Goodspeed)

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The Holiday Light Fantasia at Goodwin Park in Hartford benefits the Channel 3 Kids Camp. Photo courtesy of The Holiday Light Fantasia

The Holiday Light Fantasia at Goodwin Park in Hartford benefits the Channel 3 Kids Camp. (Photo courtesy of The Holiday Light Fantasia)

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Illuminations in Ivoryton is always a big hit every holiday season. Photo courtesy of Illuminations

Illuminations in Ivoryton is always a big hit every holiday season. (Photo courtesy of Illuminations)

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At The Goodspeed, Broadway performer Heidi Kettenring will bring her show Merry Christmas Darling: Heidi Kettenring sings Karen Carpenter to the stage. Holiday songs will be mixed with well-known Carpenter hits. Photo courtesy of The Goodspeed

At The Goodspeed, Broadway performer Heidi Kettenring will bring her show Merry Christmas Darling: Heidi Kettenring sings Karen Carpenter to the stage. Holiday songs will be mixed with well-known Carpenter hits. (Photo courtesy of The Goodspeed)

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Adults and teens will enjoy this: TheaterWorks in Hartford is bringing back the ever popular Christmas on the Rocks. Photo courtesy of TheaterWorks

Adults and teens will enjoy this: TheaterWorks in Hartford is bringing back the ever popular Christmas on the Rocks. (Photo courtesy of TheaterWorks)

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The Hip Hop Nutcracker will be performed live at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven and at the Bushnell in Hartford. It includes hip hop pioneer Kurtis “The Breaks” Blow as the MC with a dozen dancers, an on-stage DJ and electric violinist. Photo courtesy of The Shubert

The Hip Hop Nutcracker will be performed live at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven and at the Bushnell in Hartford. It includes hip hop pioneer Kurtis “The Breaks” Blow as the MC with a dozen dancers, an on-stage DJ and electric violinist. (Photo courtesy of The Shubert)

Are you anticipating the holiday rush with pleasure? Or are you already feeling stressed?

No matter your answer, A Christmas Survival Guide at Ivoryton Playhouse is just the ticket. Artistic Director Jacqui Hubbard was looking for something different as a holiday offering and found this intimate revue that has had a had a successful off-Broadway run and been performed around the country.

“I was looking for something funny but meaningful,” Hubbard said. “Traditional but modern.”

She thinks this revue featuring a cast of five is a treat for the whole family and will make the holiday fun. The premise of the revue is that the characters charge into an urban holiday landscape with a positive attitude and a copy of the book, A Christmas Survival Guide, in search of the true essence of the holiday. It features both traditional songs and carols and at times humorous versions of well-known songs. As Hubbard said, “the tongue is firmly planted in the cheek!”

Among the familiar songs are “Silver Bells” and “Carol of the Bells” as well as lesser known or humorous songs such as “The Twelve Steps of Christmas” and “Reindeer Boogie.” The show runs Thursday, Dec. 2 to Sunday, Dec.19. For tickets, visit IvorytonPlayhouse.org.

And that’s just one of many, many holiday offerings available to us from Connecticut theaters in the coming weeks. From productions for children, and children of all ages, to those for just adults, from the shoreline to Hartford and over to Fairfield County, there is a wide array of holiday fun, some of old favorites and classics from years past, and others brand new this season.

Please note everything is subject to change, so always check the website to get the up-to-the-minute details not only on dates and times, but also on pandemic-related protocols. Many venues require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, as well as masks.

Here are some of my recommendations.

A Christmas Story is a classic film and story about Ralphie and his desire for a BB gun. A fine musical version of the show, I loved it on Broadway, has been rehearsing at the Palace Theater in Waterbury prior to going on tour. You can see the cast’s first performances in front of a live audience on Friday and Saturday, Dec 3 and 4. For tickets visit PalaceTheaterCT.org.

• Looking for something “more adult”? MTC in Norwalk is presenting the one-woman, one-hour comedy The Who’s Holiday. This show by Matthew Lombardo has Connecticut roots. It began as a short scene as part of TheaterWorks’ popular holiday show, Christmas on the Rocks. Lombardo then expanded it in a longer piece that has had audiences laughing. From The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, we all know Cindy Lou Who, the little girl that caught the Grinch and mistook him for Santa Claus. Now, Cindy Lou is all grown up and regales us with the aftermath of that story while mixing gin and vodka. Let’s just say that her life veered far from the path you would expect of that sweet little girl. It has been described as having a type of campy, bitter humor even though Lombardo wrote almost the entire show in Seussian rhyming couplets. The Who’s Holiday runs from Friday, Dec. 10 to Sunday, Dec. 19. For tickets, visit MusicTheatreOfCT.com

• Another new holiday play, though in a gentler vein, is at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford. Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, is set two years after Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice ends. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are married and hosting Christmas as his home, Pemberley. The family gathers, and quiet, bookish Mary meets an unexpected guest that sparks her hopes for independence, intellectual companionship, and maybe even love. Previous productions of this play, which runs Wednesday, Dec. 1 to Sunday, Dec. 19, have been described as “unstuffy,” “warm-spirited,” and “something multiple generations can enjoy together.” In the lobby, River Bend Bookshop will be on site with Jane Austen-themed gifts, classic novels, and other items. For tickets, visit PlayhouseOnPark.org.

• Keely Baisden Knudsen, artistic director of the new Legacy Theatre in Branford, has created her own adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which runs from Wednesday, Dec 1 to Sunday, Dec. 12. She explained that she created this adaptation because “I appreciate how Scrooge’s backstory, including his loving relationship with his sister who passed and his failed relationship to his betrothed, contributed to his isolating himself (and his currency) as a means of protection toward future pain and loss.” This version highlights his love lost before we see the present-day Scrooge. James Andreassi, well known for New Haven audiences from his work with Elm Shakespeare Company, plays Scrooge. For tickets, visit LegacyTheatreCT.org.

• Hartford Stage is presenting It’s a Wonderful Life—the Radio Play through Sunday, Dec. 26. This version of the classic film is set as a 1940s radio play. You see the performers entering the studio and then beginning the broadcast, switching characters and voices, plus you get to see the sound effects that will make the listening audience feel it is real. Tickets are at HartfordStage.org.

• Adults and teens will enjoy this: TheaterWorks in Hartford is bringing back the ever popular Christmas on the Rocks from Thursday, Dec. 2 to Thursday, Dec. 23. The show features short playlets each featuring well-known Christmas child characters imagining the child into adulthood with both humorous and touching results. TWHartford.org lets you purchase tickets for either virtual or in person performances.

For the Kids

• The Downtown Cabaret in Bridgeport is presenting a new holiday show, and it’s perfect for children: The Santa Story, about how a young St. Nick became Santa Claus. It includes music and merriment for the entire family, though the show is best suited for children under 10 or so. The audience sits at tables and you may bring your own refreshments, though snacks are available. The show runs Saturday, Dec. 4 to Thursday, Dec. 30. For tickets, visit dtcab.com or call 203-576-1636.

• Also, for children, in Milford, The Littlest Christmas Tree will be produced by Pantochino Productions plays at the Milford Arts Council from Friday, Dec. 3 to Sunday, Dec. 19. It’s new musical about an elf who must find a Christmas tree for Santa. A collections trees come to life hoping to be chosen for the honor. Seating is at tables and audience members can bring their own food and drink. For tickets and information, visit pantochino.com

• Kids of all ages will want to head out to Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, where Santa’s trolley car is set up to allow for social distancing holiday merriment. There will be no sitting on his lap, but you will be able to get photos and elves will give each child a gift. You can then stroll through the decorated trolley barns and take a ride on an antique trolley. Reservations are required. Weekends through Sunday, Dec. 19. Visit ShoreLineTrolley.org.

• Those who enjoy both trains and theater can find both at the Essex Steam Train’s North Pole Express. Participants hop aboard a train for a nighttime journey to the North Pole. Every coach stages a live musical performance of “The Night Before Christmas,” and guests can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, take part in sing-a-longs, and more. Rides are approximately 90 minutes and run Friday, Saturday, and Sundays through Nov. 28; Wednesdays to Sundays from Dec. 1 to 19; and Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 22 and 23. For more information, visit essexsteamtrain.com.

Music and More

The New Haven Symphony is offering two programs this holiday season.

• The popular Holiday Extravaganza under the baton of Chelsea Tipton performs holiday classics and new favorites on Saturday, Dec. 11 at the Lyman Center on the SCSU campus and Sunday, Dec. 12 at Shelton High School. Dr. Tiffany Renee Jackson, a New Haven favorite, is the soloist.

• On a more classical note, the symphony under the baton of Alasdair Neale offers Handel’s The Messiah with the professional chamber choir from New Haven’s Christ Church. Performances are Thursday, Dec. 16 at Sacred Heart University Community Theatre and on Friday, Dec.17 at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven. For information or tickets, visit NewHavenSymphony.org

• Goodspeed may not have a Christmas show (wait until next year), but it is offering two musical events. From Thursday, Dec. 9 to Sunday, Dec. 12, you can enjoy A Bing Crosby Christmas starring Jared Bradshaw and featuring the music of the Andrews Sisters. It will include some of the most popular Christmas songs and memories from “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” to Andrews Sisters favorites. From Thursday, Dec. 16 to Sunday, Dec. 19, Broadway performer Heidi Kettenring brings her show Merry Christmas Darling: Heidi Kettenring sings Karen Carpenter to the stage. Holiday songs will be mixed with well-known Carpenter hits. For tickets, visit Goodspeed.org

• At the Jorgensen Auditorium on the UConn campus in Storrs, the Boston Pops’ Holiday Pops will perform Saturday, Dec. 4 with the Metropolitan Chorale. Tickets at Jorgensen.UConn.edu

The Nutcracker in all its variations is back this year. Eastern Connecticut Ballet is featuring three New York City Ballet dancers in its production on Saturday, Dec. 11 and Sunday, Dec. 12 at the Garde in New London. This show has spectacular scenery showing old New London from the 1850s. In addition there’s multimedia and film. For tickets, visit EasternCTBallet.org

• A different take on the familiar ballet is The Hip Hop Nutcracker which will be live at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven on Thursday, Dec. 23. It includes hip hop pioneer Kurtis “The Breaks” Blow as the MC with a dozen dancers, an on-stage DJ and electric violinist. If you can’t make it in New Haven, it’s at the Bushnell in Hartford on Friday, Dec. 17.

• Also at the Bushnell is singer Jim Brickman with his The Gift of Christmas concert on Sunday, Dec. 19. Tickets are at Bushnell.org.

• The Drifters—Holiday & Hits will be performed at The Kate in Old Saybrook on Saturday, Dec. 12 as well as A Carpenters Christmas on Thursday, Dec. 2, Judy Collins with An Evening of Holiday and Hits on Monday, Dec. 6 and Wednesday, Dec. 8. The Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus has their concert on Sunday, Dec. 12. Tickets are at KatharineHepburnTheater.org.

• Ugly sweater parties are a newer fad and the Essex Steam Train is joining in the fun with an audience participation mystery on Friday, Dec. 3. It’s billed as The Ugly Sweater Party to Remember! as a stand-up comedy performance takes a deadly turn. The audience must solve the mystery. It begins at 9 p.m. with drinks and light appetizers before you board the train to join the show until 11:30 p.m. Visit EssexStreamTrain.com for details.

Holiday Lights

Light displays are spectacular and make it easy to maintain social distance. Ivoryton’s well-known Illuminations is back this year, though with no big opening night. Just drive by or park and stroll around the displays.

• Olde Mistick Village’s display in Mystic is best seen walking around the shops and restaurants.

• Drive through light displays include the 27th annual Fantasy of Lights at New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park through Friday, Dec. 31 benefiting Goodwill.

• Holiday Light Fantasia at Goodwin Park in Hartford benefits the Channel 3 Kids Camp. It runs to Sunday, Jan. 2

In New York City

New York City is offering two different takes on A Christmas Carol.

A Sherlock Carol is a new play by Mark Shanahan that is playing off-Broadway through Jan. 2. In this version, a grown-up Tiny Tim turns to Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery of Scrooge’s death. For tickets, visit Telecharge.com.

• The Merchant House Museum is reprising its solo adaptation of the story from Dec. 1 to 31. Here, John Kevin Jones portrays Charles Dickens retelling the classic story as he on tours of America. Tickets are available at SummonersEnsemble.org and MerchantsHouse.org. In addition, last year’s virtual version of the show is available to stream on demand.

• The Bronx Zoo’s holiday lights exhibit runs through Sunday Jan. 9. Large parts of the zoo are decorated with animal lanterns, light displays, and animated light shows. In addition, there is entertainment and music. Tickets must be purchased in advance for a specific day and time. The holiday lights begin at 4:30 p.m. Indoor exhibits are closed during the evening. For more information and tickets, visit BronxZoo.com/Holiday-lights.








Karen Isaacs is the Columnists for Zip06. Email Karen at .

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