Local theaters offer diverse takes on the holidays

Last year, Leaver says, was the most successful season yet and 2012 will be ripe with all sorts of pop culture and political references.

Lesbian director Cathe Hall Payne is staging “Nuncrackers – the Nunsense Christmas Musical” at Onstage Atlanta. The holiday follow-up to “Nunsense” features a cast of nuns trying to raise money and all original songs, says Payne.

Onstage is also producing “Merry Little Holiday Shorts,” a series of eight one-act plays. Payne is directing one of the shorts, “Fruitcake,” as are gay artists Charlie Miller (“Very Trudy Christmas”) and Barry West (“Introduction” and “Colic & Petty Thief: A Christmas Story”). These are the last shows at the current location before the company moves to a new home in 2013.

Located at the home of the late, great Theatre in the Square, the new Marietta Theatre is presenting “Tuna Christmas.” It’s part of the “Tuna” trilogy by openly gay Ed Howard, also the artistic director of the new troupe, and features two actors — William Murphey and Douglas Berlon — playing a plethora of characters, including women.

Gay actors Spencer Stephens and Bryan Mercer are teaming up again for Synchronicity’s musical “A Year With Frog and Toad.” Although more about friendship than the holidays, it’s proven to be a popular fixture and is a Suzi Award winner. Elsewhere, out actor Glenn Rainey appears in Theatrical Outfit’s “The Gift of the Magi.”

Perhaps the most lavish holiday onstage treat is the Alliance Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” again featuring Chris Kayser doing a turn as Scrooge. The Alliance also has a new offering this year, the musical “Holiday With the Chalks,” featuring a country western trio who are setting up a honky tonk at the Alliance’s Hertz Stage.

Libby Whittemore, the popular chanteuse, brings her inimitable pipes – as well as her alter ego, Connie Sue – to Actor’s Express for “Ho, Ho, Home for the Holidays and a Connie Sue Day Christmas” in December.

Among the new holiday offerings, gay bar Jungle Atlanta turns into a Parisian nightclub – at least for two upcoming weekends. “Birds of a Feather,” a re-imagining of the gay French classic “La Cage Aux Folles,” opens there Nov. 23.

Originally a 1973 play about the chaos that ensues when a young man brings his fiancée’s conservative parents home to meet his bar-owner father and his father’s gay lover, “La Cage” became a 1978 film, which bore two sequels. It spawned a 1983 Broadway musical, penned by Harvey Fierstein, as well as the 1996 film “The Birdcage” with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.

Director Tony Smithey is taking some liberties with his premise. In his take, which is set in Atlanta, a young couple has to deal with one’s straight parents and the other’s gay parents while on college break during the Christmas season.

“We have also added a few characters,” he says.

More holiday fare

Two years ago, a stage version of  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” opened during the Christmas season at the Center for Puppetry Arts and became a sensation. It’s back as well this year and its tale of an outsider looking for acceptance is especially relevant – and fun.

Other treats include: “Little Women” at Fabrefaction; “White Christmas” courtesy of Atlanta Lyric Theatre; the Martin Luther King drama “The Mountaintop” via True Colors; “It’s A Wonderful Life” at Ansley Park Playhouse and a “live radio play” version of the same show at Stage Door Players; “West Side Story” at the Cobb Energy Center; “Christmas Canteen” at Aurora Theatre; and the irreverent “Invasion: Christmas Carol” at Dad’s Garage.

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’
Through January 6 at Center for Puppetry Arts

‘The Santaland Diaries’
Nov. 23 – Dec. 30 at Horizon Theatre

‘Nuncrackers – The Nunsense Christmas Musical’
Nov. 23 – Dec. 22 at Onstage Atlanta

‘Birds of a Feather’
Nov. 23 – Dec. 8 at Jungle Atlanta

‘A Christmas Carol’
Nov. 25 – Dec. 24 at Alliance Theatre

‘The Gift of the Magi’
Nov. 29 – Dec. 23 at The Balzer Theatre

‘Holiday With the Chalks’
Nov. 30 – Dec 25 at Alliance Theatre

‘Merry Little Holiday Shorts’
Dec. 6 – 16 at Onstage Atlanta

‘Tuna Christmas”
Dec. 7 – 23 at Marietta Theatre

‘A Year With Frog and Toad’
Dec. 7 -30 at 14th Street Playhouse

‘Ho, Ho, Home for the Holidays and a Connie Sue Day Christmas’
Dec. 15 – 23 at Actor’s Express


Top photo: For the 14th year, Harold Leaver stars in ‘Santaland Diaries’ at Horizon Theatre, the stage adaptation of gay humorist David Sedaris’ hilarious, biting account of his days as a department store elf. (Photo via Facebook)