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THEATER REVIEW : Familiar Fare Tops the Season's Show Bills : From traditional to avant-garde stagings, performances of 'The Nutcracker' and 'A Christmas Carol' are back in Santa Barbara.

November 24, 1994|PHILIP BRANDES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Boy, it seems like only a year ago we theater lovers were reveling in a cornucopia of "Nutcracker Suite" and "A Christmas Carol" revivals, doesn't it?

Well, with change the order of the day, the rich array of holiday fare in the Santa Barbara theater scene this time around consists of--um, "A Christmas Carol" and "The Nutcracker Suite."

In fact, Santa Maria-based PCPA Theaterfest is already up and running with its lavish holiday production of "A Christmas Carol," featuring James Edmondson of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival spitting out "Bah humbugs!" with the precision of a classically trained thespian. Ends Dec. 22. Tickets: $13-$18. Call 1-800-549-PCPA (7272).

Closer to home, the Santa Barbara Shakespeare Festival will tackle a different version with "A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley" at the Center Stage Theatre in Santa Barbara's Paseo Nuevo Mall. This Israel Horowitz adaptation is scrupulously faithful to Charles Dickens' original story, except for one intriguing spin: Jacob Marley, Scrooge's deceased partner, assumes the role of a recurring narrator in addition to his cameo as the initiator of the miser's comeuppance. Runs Dec. 2-Dec. 23. Tickets: $12-$14. Call 963-0408.

Creative liberties are taken with Dickens in the American Family Theater's contemporary musical adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," featuring original songs and a 75-minute running time sure to please even the most discriminating attention spans. The Philadelphia-based touring company brings its full-scale production to the Lobero Theatre Dec. 10, 2 and 5 p.m., and Dec. 11, 2 p.m. Tickets: $7-$12. Call 963-0761.

Had enough? Perhaps you might enjoy some sweet revenge for all the "Christmas Carols" you've had to squirm through. In that case, the sight of an inept group of tacky British society matrons staging the worst rendition ever might be just your cup of tea, as "The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Production of 'A Christmas Carol' " makes a return engagement at the Ensemble Theatre Company. One of the troupe's most popular productions, this wicked David McGillivary-Walter Zerlin satire carries on the Monty Python-Fawlty Towers tradition. Runs Dec. 7-Dec. 31. Tickets: $15-$20. Call 962-8606.

On the "Nutcracker" front, students of the Ellen Schipper Classical Ballet Studio will dance their way through Tchaikovsky's classic score at UC Santa Barbara's Campbell Hall. Reid Olson of Pacific Northwest Ballet is among the guest artists dancing the lead roles in a traditional staging, with original embellishments--such as envisioning the entire piece as a little girl's dream. Runs Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets: $7-$15. Call 583-8700.

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