Christmas celebrations — the theatrical kind — move indoors this weekend with Waco theaters staging no less than five holiday productions, following last weekend’s Waco Childrens’ Theater presentation of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Lee Lockwood Library and Museum.
Theatergoers with a taste for Dickens, the Nativity story, the meaning of Christmas or simply holiday music will find something this weekend.
“A Christmas Carol,” Jubilee Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jubilee Theatre, 1319 N. 15th St.; $12, $10 for senior adults and students, $7 for children, available online at missionwaco.brushfire.com and at the door.
Two Christmas traditions combine in the Jubilee Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” There’s the tradition of Charles Dickens’ short story about the Christmas night transformation of the skin-flint Scrooge to a more generous man by morning. There’s also traditional Christmas music from a broader period than Victorian England.
Baylor University theater faculty member and Jubilee Theatre collaborator Lauren Weber wove the two together in her stage adaptation, with Christmas carols and anthems worked into the storyline.
“It’s a straight play with music,” explained Jubilee director Trent Sutton, who said the combination made the Jubilee’s “Carol” a distinctive one. “(The music) really helps the momentum of the play . . . It moves with a greater sense of urgency.”
His cast, led by Cole Sutton as Ebenezer Scrooge, plays multiple characters. Kristi Hunter, for instance, doubles as the ghost of Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come while Caden Soto plays both the Ghost of Christmas Past and Tiny Tim.
A chorus of about a dozen children and adults join in on the songs, performed without instrumental accompaniment.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” Waco Civic Theatre, 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Waco Civic Theatre, 1517 Lake Air Drive; $10 and $8, available online at wacocivictheatre.com or by calling 254-776-1591.
The Waco Civic Theatre brings back its holiday production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” with new members in its 60-person cast and returning ones moving to different characters.
Director Tredessa Thomas said that keeps the performance fresh and funny even as its story — rowdy, misbehaving siblings disrupt a church’s Nativity play only to realize the essence of the Christmas story — appeals to young and old.
“It lets us all examine things while keeping it light-hearted,” she said.
“The Most Wonderful Show Of The Year,” Waco Civic Theatre, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Waco Civic Theatre, 1517 Lake Air Drive; $15 and $5, available online at wacocivictheatre.com or by calling 254-776-1591.
Also returning to the Waco Civic Theatre stage is its holiday music revue, “The Most Wonderful Show Of The Year,” featuring a broader range of music. “We’re trying to do a really wide variety this year,” said director Dylan Gibbons. “There’s really classic Christmas song from the ’40s and ’50s, classic Broadway stuff, pop hits and contemporary Broadway as well. There’s something for everybody.”
Performers will sing such selections as “Jingle Bell Rock;” numbers from “White Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Christmas Story;” “All I Want For Christmas Is You;” “The Christmas Song;” and, the song that supplied the program’s title, “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” — some 25 acts fitted into roughly two hours.
Punctuating the music are a reading of “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (informally known by its opening line “ ’Twas The Night Before Christmas”) and a Radio City Rockettes-inspired dance number, Gibbons said.
The production continues the joint casting between the Waco Civic Theatre and Killeen’s Vive Les Arts Theatre with a cast of approximately 40 actors from Waco and Killeen. The challenge of coordinating rehearsals and performances between the two cities led to the production’s somewhat unusual performance run of Sunday through Tuesday, Gibbons said.
Christmas Radio Show, Brazos Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Brazos Theatre, 7524 Bosque Blvd., Suite Q; $25.50 VIP, $20.50, $15.50 senior adults, students and military, $12.50 upper gallery. Tickets available online at brazostheatre.com or by calling 254-313-8920. A holiday reception with cast members precedes the show at 6:30 p.m.
Crunching cornflakes create the sound of a White Christmas — well, the sound of characters trudging through the snow — in Brazos Theatre’s “Christmas Radio Show,” where live sound effects accompany actors bringing radio scripts to life.
A cast of 15 will perform radio adaptations of “Miracle on 34th Street” and “A Christmas Carol,” with Waco actor Jack Boyd reprising roles of Santa Claus and Scrooge, said theater director Beth Richards.
The theater’s radio play productions are popular and Richards recommended making reservations, particularly for VIP seating and treats, by Thursday.
“The Second Shepherd’s Play,” Insite Waco, 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, University Baptist Church, 1701 Dutton Ave.; free.
The six actors in “The Second Shepherd’s Play” offer a new spin on the Nativity story, but one that’s hundreds of years old. It’s a mystery play from the Middle Ages, where guild members would enact stories from the Bible, loosely and often comically interpreted, for the entertainment of fellow villagers.
“It’s the original community theater,” explained director Luann Jennings, who first encountered “The Second Shepherd’s Play” while a college student and later in a New York City church production.
The play imagines, hours before angels announce Jesus’ birth, shepherds trying to track a sheep stolen by a thief — Christian symbolism of shepherds searching for the lost sheep intended. Humor and anachronisms abound and that’s part of the Mystery Plays’ appeal, Jennings said.
This weekend’s production has a similar spirit. “Instead of shepherds, we have a farmer and a singing cowboy and an Aggie,” she said. It’s the first work by Jennings’ InSite Waco production company and if what she terms “a work in progress” goes well, she’s considering expanding it into a full-blown production.
There’s music as well, shepherded by music director Preston Hunt and featuring Jenning’s husband Chuck on guitar, Tirzah Reilly on fiddle and Laura Case on guitar, with a small angel choir populated by children.