Decorations are in the malls, displays are in toy stores — the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier each year. And so do holiday theater productions.
While the yearly array of "Christmas Carols" won't start arriving until the end of November (there are six this year . . . so far), no less than three holiday-themed shows kick things off next week:
"Miracle on Main St. Plaza: A Christmas Affair to Remember," Desert Star Cabaret's original spoof.
"The Forgotten Carols," Provo Theatre Company's new stage version of Michael McLean's show (adapted by McLean's son, Scott).
"Joyful Noise," Utahn Tim Slover's drama with music focusing on George Frederick Handel composing his great oratorio, "Messiah." (Jointly produced by two Orem companies — the SCERA Center and Utah Valley State College.)
And that's just for starters.
"Disney's Beauty and the Beast," a Pioneer Theatre Company regional premiere, is probably the most anticipated production in the next few weeks, and several performances are already sold out. Saturday matinees and most of the Monday-Tuesday evening performances, which have half-price children's tickets, are also sold out. Best available seating is for Wednesday-Saturday performances and there are several additional matinees the final week (Dec. 20-24) when school is out.
"Christmas in the Heart of Every Child" is another highlight this season, Draper Historic Theatre's all new production (a switch from its traditional "The Rented Christmas" and a variation on its popular "Broadway Kidz" series). This one will also showcase the talents of dozens of children, who will perform within the framework of six original one-act "minimusical" vignettes based on familiar yuletide stories. Kevin McClellan, Rhonda Neiswender and composer Carrie Maxwell Wrigley are collaborators on the project.
"A Christmas Carol" returns after an absence of four years. Rodgers Memorial Theatre in Centerville has once again acquired the rights to Madison Square Garden's acclaimed version of the familiar tale, which will be directed by Jim Christian, and the music, under direction of Maurie Tarbox, is wonderful.
"Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia," based on the classic novel, will be presented by the Children's Theatre of Salt Lake.
"The Santaland Diaries," an adult-oriented comedy, is being revived by Tooth & Nail Theatre Company. It was written by satirist David Sedaris and is based on his less-than-enjoyable experiences as a Christmas elf at Macy's.
"My Big Fat Christmas Wedding" is a retooling by Desert Star Dinner Theater (the Murray theater's newly added venue) of its long-running hit, "My Big Fat Utah Wedding." I'm guessing that figgy pudding may replace the green Jell-O, and there may be sprigs of mistletoe hanging on the cultural hall basketball hoop. (The original version will return after the holidays.)
"Scrooge" has replaced the previously scheduled "I, Nephi" at Emerson-Smith College, now based in the Villa Playhouse in Springville, to coincide with Springville's annual Dickens Festival.
Non-Christmas diversions will include the world premiere of J.T. Rogers' "Madagascar" at Salt Lake Acting Company, the national touring production of "The Producers," Tennessee Williams' classic "Glass Menagerie" or even "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical" (which seems more akin to Halloween than Thanksgiving or Christmas).
Westminster Players will be staging an unusual drama, "Fefu and Her Friends," in which the audience splits into four groups to watch scenes from four different perspectives — moving to different locales in the Jewett Center. (By the end of the play, the entire audience will piece together all four perspectives.)
For family audiences, there are "The Wizard of Oz" in the Egyptian Theatre in Park City and "Seussical, the Musical" in the Heritage Community Theatre in Perry.