From 'Nutcrackers' To 'Nuncrackers,' Holiday Theater Treats 'Til Christmas

You know how some people buy their gifts from nationwide chain stores, while others make them by hand? And both are well worth having?

Connecticut Christmas theater is like that, too.

Just about every nationally touring Christmas show makes a stop in our fair state. Watch out for "A Christmas Story — The Musical" Nov. 24 to 26 at The Bushnell; "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Nov. 25 at the Stamford Palace and Dec. 1 to 3 at The Bushnell in Hartford; and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer The Musical" Dec. 8 to 10 at the Shubert in New Haven.

There are also Christmas shows that are unique to Connecticut. This year those include Christmas on the Rocks, which runs Nov. 28 through Dec. 23 at TheaterWorks, Hartford, with a few changes; "The Christmas Elf" Nov. 11 through Dec. 28 at Bridgeport's Downtown Cabaret Theatre; the new musical "A Connecticut Christmas Carol" at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre (with apparitional appearances by William Gillette and Mark Twain) Nov. 17 through Dec. 24; and the saucy, sacrilegious yet hysterical "Mama D's Christmas Stocking" at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford Dec. 15 to 31.

The grandest homegrown Christmas theater treat is Michael Wilson's production of "A Christmas Carol — A Ghost Story of Christmas" at Hartford Stage. Now entering its 20th season, with performances Nov. 24 through Dec. 30, this year the show (overseen by Hartford Stage artistic associate Rachel Alderman) will introduce several new cast members in central roles, including a whole new Scrooge, Michael Preston.

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Connecticut-based playwright Joe Landry's popular "live radio show" version of "It's a Wonderful Life" is being performed by the Vagabond Theatre Company Dec. 15 to 17 at the Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport, while Landry's newer radio-theater adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" is being staged Dec. 1 to 17 at MTC in Westport. (Landry is MTC's marketing and public relations director.)

Seven Angels Theatre's rendition of "Nuncrackers" (the Christmas installment of the long-running "Nunsense" series), has a special local connection: Its director, Semina De Laurentis — the founder of the theater, and a Waterbury native — was Sister Amnesia in the first "Nunsense" back in the mid-1980s.

Nuns are popular this season. There's another "Nuncrackers" Dec. 1 to 17 at the Bradley Playhouse. "Sister's Christmas Catechism," starring Nonie Newton-Riley, is at Long Wharf Stage II Dec. 5 to 17, while the musical "Sister Act" is at Curtain Call in Stamford Nov. 17 through Dec. 16.

There are theatrically inclined Christmas concerts at the Ridgefield Playhouse starring comic actor Jane Lynch on Dec. 2 and Broadway star Linda Eder Dec. 8.

Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" ballet is in a category by itself. You can find Clara fending off the dancing mice Dec. 2 at the Oakdale in Wallingford (Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker"); Dec. 8 to 17 at the Hartt School; Dec. 16 at The Bushnell (Nutmeg Ballet) and at the Palace in Waterbury (danced by Woodbury Ballet), to name just a few.

The Albano Ballet Company is particularly busy, doing its "Nutcracker" Nov. 25 at Middletown High School, Dec. 2 and 3 at Cental Connecticut State University and Dec. 8 to 10 at Mohegan Sun Resort Casino's Cabaret Theatre. There's even a nationally touring "Hip-Hop Nutcracker," hosted by legendary MC Kurtis Blow Dec. 17 at The Bushnell.

That's a lot of theater to unwrap.

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