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Dramatically Setting Stage for Holidays


By the time you read this, Thanksgiving may be a done deal. If so, and you're ready to jump-start your Christmas spirit, take a stroll through this list of some holiday theater options.

* There's a wonderful irony to the fact that while Ebenezer Scrooge stands on SCR's Mainstage and curses Christmas as "a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every Dec. 25!," shoppers at neighboring South Coast Plaza are falling all over themselves to empty theirs.

Actually, SCR's annual production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is a jolly way to forget the retail madness and focus on the season's less tangible gifts.

The production, adapted by SCR dramaturge Jerry Patch and directed by John-David Keller, features lush costumes and sets and a large mixed-age cast, including longtime SCR artists and three of their daughters.

Previews of "A Christmas Carol" are Sunday at noon and 4 p.m. and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The show opens Wednesday and continues through Dec. 24 with performances Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at noon and 4 p.m.--plus Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 24 at noon and 4 p.m. $14-$34. 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. (714) 957-4033.

* "A Child's Christmas in Wales" was as much a holiday staple as Aunt Ida's fruitcake when it ran for years at the Gem Theater in Garden Grove. After a couple of years' absence, it's back, now at the Laguna Playhouse, where a cast of professional artists and youngsters from the theater's sterling youth company combine their talents in this heartwarming musical based on the story by Dylan Thomas.

"A Child's Christmas in Wales" will be performed Tuesday through Dec. 29 with shows Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. (no performance Dec. 24) at the Laguna Playhouse (606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach). $10-$30. (714) 497-2787.

* Holiday melodrama isn't limited to the toy aisle at Target. Orange Coast College's theater department invites families to share a few laughs with "The Plight Before Christmas," a comic melodrama by Fred J. Cusick and Diane Moore.

It's part of the school's annual Old-Fashioned Christmas Show and Ice Cream Social, which also includes a stage adaptation of O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi," a sing-along, a tasty treat and a visit with Santa for the kids.

It will be presented Dec. 5-15--Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. in the school's Drama Lab Theatre, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. $5-$9. (714) 432-5880.

* Part holiday get-together, part Christmas play, "Christmas at the Cabrillo" at the tiny Cabrillo Playhouse in San Clemente is designed to make audiences feel like guests at a festive party. Characters share songs and skits that tell the history of Christmas from the Nativity to the mid-1800s. After intermission, the party proper gets rolling, with cast members mingling with the audience and leading holiday carols.

"Christmas at the Cabrillo" runs Dec. 5-15 at the playhouse, 202 Avenida Cabrillo. Performances are daily at 8 p.m., plus Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 8 p.m. $6-$12. (714) 492-0465.

* A teenager's ambivalence toward Christmas and its traditions leads her on a journey in which she discovers the holiday's healing power in "La Posada Magica." The piece was written by Octavio Solis on a commission from South Coast Repertory and premiered on SCR's Second Stage in 1994. Solis directs this year's staging.

Based loosely on Las Posadas, a celebration that re-creates Mary and Joseph's search for lodging on Christmas Eve, "La Posada Magica" includes music by Marcos Loya, who alternates with Edmundo Armijo to perform the songs onstage.

"La Posada Magica" previews Dec. 6-8 at 12:30 p.m. and opens Dec. 8 at 4:30 p.m. Performances continue through Dec. 24, Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. Additional performances are Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 24 at 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. On SCR's Second Stage. $10-$25. (714) 957-4033.

* Even Wise Men can learn a thing or two from a selfless child.

That's the lesson in "Amahl and the Night Visitors," Gian-Carlo Menotti's one-act operetta. Written as an opera for television (it premiered in 1951), "Amahl" tells of a crippled shepherd boy who encounters the Three Wise Men on their way to meet the Christ child.

David Aiken, who played King Melchior in the original performance, directs this one-act touring production, which offers live music, dancing and a second act sing-along with the cast.

There will be one Orange County performance, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. at Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. $13-$18. (714) 773-3371. The same production also runs Dec. 6 at the Norris Theatre in Rolling Hills Estates. $20-$25. [310] 544-0403.

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