Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Theatre Roundup for Humbugs Part Three

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 2:20 PM

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I've been writing about Christmas shows for the past couple of weeks, but have yet to spend much time with the biggies. And now the holiday has snuck up, as it will, and there's not too much time to spend. So, here goes...

Still Caroling

Christmas is upon us, beware of ghosts.

Although our annual gifting season comes with almost as many spook stories as Halloween, only one has really stuck in the public consciousness; Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Theatre Memphis has transformed the story into an annual holiday extravaganza that closes tonight (Dec. 23, 7 p.m.). 

Over the past few years, and under the creative guidance of director Jason Spitzer, TM has redesigned and evolved the show, with the assistance of Christopher McCollum, who created some extraordinary design elements, and the late John Hiltonsmith, who gave the show its eerie sonic landscape. The aim was to keep a few iconic elements, while reimagining the rest.

The biggest change this year: Barry Fuller, Memphis' most beloved Scrooge, decided to take a break from the role. Fuller promises to return in four years, when he is 91, to revive the role for TM's centennial. In the meantime his brocade-covered seat is being kept warm by the most able David Shipley. 

Everyone knows the story, of course, as it is inescapable, and every filmed version from the iconic 1938 film with Reginald Owen to the 1999 Patrick Stewart interpretation, seem to be in heavy rotation, so there's no point going over all of that again. What you need to know is that Theatre Memphis committed to this show a long time ago, and in recent years committed to knocking off the dust, and revitalizing its annual gift to the community for a new generation. 

Here's a video I shot in 2010 of designer Christopher McCollum talking about the show's gorgeous redesign. 


If you're looking to experience something that's both relatively new and very traditional at once, this is the ticket you're looking for—if you can even get one at this late hour. 

Still Crowing

I'm afraid to turn on the TV these days. Almost as depressing as the gloom and doom on the nightly news, was a disastrous live performance of Peter Pan with Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. But don't let that abomination prevent you from spending some time at Playhouse on the Square with the little boy who won't grow up. 

POTS hasn't done Pan as often as TM has done Carol, but it's a frequently produced part of the company's repertoire, and beloved by the artists who bring it to life. Again, the story is too well known to repeat. So instead, here's a video from the 2013 production, to give you a taste of what's in store.  

Peter Pan is at Playhouse through Jan. 4. 

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