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13 local theater productions to see through the end of the year

With Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s and more, November to the end of the year is full of holidays and traditions.

For Orem resident Vickie Olsen, 60, one of her traditions has lasted 26 years.

She has attended Hale Center Theater Orem’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” since it began 27 years ago, only missing one year of the show in more than two decades.

“You just get so wrapped up in the message and the story,” Olsen said of “A Christmas Carol” in an interview with the Deseret News. “It’s something that we look forward to every year. We can decorate trees, and even though we do it as a family and groups, it’s not the same as being away from the house, being away from everything and just having the theater as our whole focus.”

Olsen went to HCTO’s very first year of “Christmas Carol” with her co-workers and remembers “Grandpa” Nathan Hale, who established HCTO with his wife, Ruth, in 1990, as Scrooge. She said she was captivated by Hale’s “exceptional” portrayal of the famous character and knew immediately she wanted to bring her mother and son to see the show.

Bring them she did, and it has been a family tradition ever since. Over the years, they’ve invited other family members and friends to come along, and they always try to go to the last performance of the show so it’s as close to Christmas as possible.

“This is a way that we bring the whole family together,” Olsen said. “‘A Christmas Carol’ is such a good story of how you can go from bitter Scrooge to so much love, and that’s what Christmas is.”

HCTO’s “A Christmas Carol” is just one of many theater productions to fill stages throughout the state from now until the end of the year. Here is a list of several familiar favorites, some holiday-themed and some not, taking place over the next few weeks. Please note that this list is not all-inclusive. Information about shows not listed may be sent to features@deseretnews.com for inclusion in the Deseret News’ theater listings.

‘A Christmas Carol’

Hale Center Theater embarks on its 27th year of “A Christmas Carol,” a musical adapted from Charles Dickens’ novella with music by Cody Hale, HCTO managing director.

“A tale of both humor and heart, Charles Dickens’ written work takes on new life as the audience watches the miser Ebenezer Scrooge have a change of heart with the help of three Christmas ghosts,” according to a press release.

Where: Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North, Orem

When: Nov. 26-Dec. 23

How much: $22 for adults and $16 for children on weeknights; $24 for adults and $18 for children on weekends

Phone: 801-226-8600

Web: haletheater.org

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

The plot made popular by the James Stewart-led 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life” is set to fill the stage at Centerville’s CenterPoint Legacy Theatre this year.

“This adaptation is so true to the movie dialogue and story that we think our audiences will have the same emotional connection, but love the live aspect of the experience,” wrote Jansen Davis, CPT executive director and director of the show, in an email to the Deseret News.

While many performing companies throughout the state maintain a holiday tradition of staging the same production every year, Davis said CPT takes a different approach.

“CenterPoint Legacy Theatre is on the quest to find a handful of really great holiday productions that will offer our audience a bit of variety from year to year,” he wrote.

The play tells of a man named George Bailey who, after expressing a wish that he had never been born, gets a glimpse of what life would be like if his wish were true.

“The message of ‘It's a Wonderful Life’ is as important today as it was on its first screening,” Davis wrote. “I think everyone has moments when they feel alone or question whether they are really contributing to the world. Most of us can really connect with George Bailey's experience, and I think it is a great reminder of how valuable each person's life is in the grand scheme of things.”

Where: CenterPoint Legacy Theatre Barlow Main Stage, 525 N. 400 West, Centerville

When: Nov. 25-Dec. 22

How much: $17.50-$24.50

Phone: 801-298-1302

Web: centerpointtheatre.org

‘The Winter Wonderettes’

Also at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre but in the venue’s smaller Leishman Performance Hall will be “The Winter Wonderettes,” a production that mixes ’60s pop music with Christmas, according to a news release.

According to the news release, the show is set in 1968 at a hardware store holiday party. When the boss, who is supposed to be appearing at the party as Santa, doesn’t show up, four women take it upon themselves to provide an evening “filled with Christmas cheer” as they sing “favorite holiday classics with a new spin, like ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town,’ ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and ‘Santa Baby,’” according to the news release.

Where: CenterPoint Legacy Theatre Leishman Performance Hall, 525 N. 400 West, Centerville

When: Nov. 25-Dec. 17

How much: $15

Phone: 801-298-1302

Web: centerpointtheatre.org

‘Scrooge: A Christmas Carol’

Terrace Plaza Playhouse in Washington Terrace, Weber County, is celebrating its 25th year of performing “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol.” According to the theater’s website, the production was created by theater founder Beverly Olsen and her daughter Jacci Florence.

“The Christmas season is not complete without this heartwarming musical full of ghostly visitors, memorable songs and the message of love for all humankind,” according to the theater’s website.

Where: Terrace Plaza Playhouse, 99 E. 4700 South, Washington Terrace

When: Nov. 25-Dec. 23

How much: $12-$14 for adults, $11-$13 for seniors, $9-$11 for children ages 12 and under

Phone: 801-393-0070

Web: terraceplayhouse.com

‘Beauty and the Beast’

Although Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” isn’t exactly a holiday story, JuDean Parkinson, director of Heritage Theatre’s upcoming production, believes it's fitting for this time of year.

“Christmas in itself is a magical time of year, and (‘Beauty and the Beast’) has so much magic in it,” she said.

Parkinson said one of the show’s main appeals is that it is appropriate for audiences both old and young.

“This one’s just a light and fun (show) that all ages can come to, which is fun for Christmastime to have an activity where everyone can come together,” she said.

Many audience members are familiar with the story of the young woman named Belle, who stumbles on an enchanted castle with a hard-hearted master. She trades her own freedom to save her father, becoming a prisoner of sorts, but soon her charismatic personality begins to have an effect on those who live in the castle, including the Beast.

“She made the best of the situation in a hard circumstance to try do what she can to keep herself happy,” Parkinson said. “I think that’s a great theme for Christmas, too.”

Parkinson also noted that the theater’s small stage allows the cast to perform the story in an intimate way that brings out the emotion of the story.

Where: Heritage Theatre, 2505 S. Highway 89, Perry

When: Nov. 25-Dec. 17

How much: $12 for general, $12 for seniors and children ages 12 and under

Phone: 435-723-8392

Web: heritagetheatreutah.com

‘Peter Pan’

Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Wendy, Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys are set to take the stage at Empress Theatre in Magna.

The theater kicked off the production with an educational outreach initiative Nov. 14-18. Kylee Robinson, who will play Peter Pan, decided “she wanted to take the character straight into the classroom and combine a chance to portray the well-known character with an opportunity to promote literacy,” according to a news release.

According to the theater’s website, within 72 hours of the theater announcing the program, 25 teachers from Tooele to Herriman had made appointments for Robinson to visit as Peter Pan.

“I feel like I have been given a gift in the talents that I have and the opportunities to perform,” Robinson said in the news release. “If I can use that to help kids … I just feel like it is something I am so lucky to get to do.”

Where: Empress Theatre, 9104 W. 2700 South, Magna

When: Nov. 25-Dec. 17

How much: $10

Phone: 801-347-7373

Web: empresstheatre.com

‘A Fairly Potter Christmas Carol’

Dumbledore, Harry Potter and Voldemort all hate Christmas for different reasons. Dumbledore’s childhood rival is Father Christmas, Harry doesn’t like the holidays because of his family history and Voldemort is turning his focus away from Harry Potter to devise a plot to kidnap Father Christmas and take over the holiday.

It’s all part of “A Fairly Potter Christmas Carol” at Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden. The production is “an updated and revised telling of (the theater’s) original parody musical” that combines “the magic of wizarding and the magic of Christmas into a heart-warming musical parody for the whole family,” according to a news release.

The original score is by Rick Rea, and the story combines elements of “A Christmas Carol” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” as well as other stories, according to the news release.

Where: Ziegfeld Theater, 3934 S. Washington Blvd., Ogden

When: Nov. 26-Dec. 23

How much: $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors and $11 for children; all tickets $1 less when purchased online

Phone: 855- 944-2787

Web: theziegfeldtheater.com

‘Oliver!’

While several local theater companies are bringing Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to the stage this time of year, Pioneer Theatre Company has selected another Dickens’ classic, “Oliver!” based on the 1838 novel “Oliver Twist: The Parish Boy’s Progress.”

“I think that Dickens’ literature is a wonderful entertainment source that can appeal to people of all ages,” Karen Azenberg, PTC artistic director and director of “Oliver!” said in an interview with the Deseret News. “It’s a family show, but it also appeals to adults without children.”

According to a news release, PTC’s production includes 14 Equity actors who will be joined by local cast members, including 13 child actors.

Azenberg said the story contains several themes that are important for audiences to hear.

“I think there’s a lot of really great messages, such as caring for others or children who are hungry or in a difficult situation and showing them love and support,” she said. “Thinking of the greater global picture of mankind is an important holiday message.”

Azenberg, who personally identifies with a non-Christian-based faith, said such messages are important regardless of which holiday someone is celebrating.

“We can all, regardless of religious affiliations, can take a moment and think of all mankind,” she said.

PTC will also be hosting a food drive in conjunction with “Oliver!” according to Azenberg.

Where: Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, Salt Lake City

When: Dec. 2-17

How much: $40-$62; prices increase $5 the day of the show; children and teens in kindergarten through 12th grade are half-price on Mondays and Tuesdays

Phone: 801-581-6961

Web: pioneertheatre.org

‘The Happy Elf’

Eubie, one of Santa’s elves, notices a problem and takes it upon himself to fix it.

As he’s checking the naughty-or-nice list, the happiest elf at the North Pole notices that not one person in Bluesville has been nice that year, so he decides to visit the town and to spread his contagious Christmas cheer.

“(Eubie’s) mission is to go there and turn this town around,” said April Berlin, operations manager for SCERA Center for the Arts, in an interview with the Deseret News. “Although (the show is) lighthearted, it definitely has a message about bringing the Christmas spirit and bringing happiness.”

Berlin said the organization selected Eubie’s story in “The Happy Elf” to try a different type of holiday show compared to what has been staged there in the past.

“In the past, we’ve done a little more around the Nativity and the more sacred parts of Christmas, so this year we were looking for something new to do and discovered this show,” she said.

She said the show is upbeat and family-oriented and benefits from music by Harry Connick Jr.

“It’s bright, and it’s very bubbly,” she said. “It definitely has the jazzy feel that he’s kind of known for.”

Where: SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State, Orem

When: Dec. 2-17

How much: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and children ages 3-11, group rates available

Phone: 801-225-2787

Web: scera.org

‘A Christmas Carol’

John Sweeney, director of Hale Centre Theatre’s upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol,” calls the theater’s familiar offering “the theatrical equivalent of comfort food.”

“We recognize the story, the characters and even in some cases the players,” Sweeney wrote in an email to the Deseret News. “We know how the story begins and ends, and yet, we wish, we want, we need to be reminded of it year after year. It allows us to relax, breathe and surround ourselves with the joys of the season.”

Sweeney, who is involved in the production for his 15th year, believes Christmas isn’t complete without “A Christmas Carol” and its message of redemption.

“We all recognize that there is a little Scrooge in all of us,” he wrote. “During the telling of this story, we are all happy to set that little Scrooge aside and experience the joy that can come from opening our shut-up hearts to the love of others and the spirit of the season.”

Thirteen of the 15 years Sweeney has participated in the show have been as director, and while he tries to add a fresh take by finding a new detail in the story to emphasize each year, he said what makes HCT’s 32nd year of the musical unique has nothing to do with what’s happening onstage.

“This will be the last year we will perform the show in this building,” he wrote. “This building in West Valley City has been home to our story for the last 19 years, and when we leave it for our new home (in Sandy) in 2017. … We will always have those memories, but we look forward to creating new memories in our new building with the 33rd annual production of 'A Christmas Carol' in 2017.”

Where: Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City

When: Dec. 9-24

How much: $35-$42 for adults, $18 for children

Phone: 801-984-9000

Web: hct.org

‘Miracle on 3rd and Main’

According to The Off Broadway Theatre’s website, the group has presented famous comedies, musicals and plays, along with “outrageous parodies,” since 1994.

This December, the theater continues that tradition with “Miracle on 3rd and Main,” a parody of “Miracle on 34th Street.”

The show tells of two theater owners who gang up against Santa Claus, who they believe is insane, but some of Santa’s friends are determined to fight back with a lawsuit to prove his identity.

“Come experience the magic that is Christmas and Santa Claus, and we may just make a believer out of you,” according to theobt.org.

Where: The Off Broadway Theatre, 272 S. Main, Salt Lake City

When: Through Dec. 24

How much: $16 for adults; $12 for students ages 13 and older, seniors and military; $10 for children ages 2-12

Phone: 801-355-4628

Web: theobt.org

‘Nutcracker: Men in Tights’

Desert Star Playhouse offers its “famous brand of screwball comedy” with its new holiday production, “Nutcracker: Men in Tights,” according to a news release.

Scott Holman, Desert Star artistic director and writer and director of the show, said in an interview with the Deseret News that audiences return to the theater simply to have a good time.

“We do everything in a way over the top way, and year after year, people come and say ‘Christmas is so hard with everything going on. … We come to Desert Star to just laugh,’” he said.

The melodrama tells of a fictional Utah town called Slagville that is in deep financial trouble. To save the town from ruin, the town council comes up with a plan to put on a production of “The Nutcracker” to raise some extra funds. The only problem is that no one in the town has experience with performing.

“It’s a show about a crazy little town that does something creative to try to solve an infrastructure problem,” Holman said.

In addition to “Nutcracker: Men in Tights,” each performance will also include “Let it Snolio,” one of Desert Star’s “signature musical olios,” following the show, according to a news release.

Where: Desert Star Playhouse, 4851 S. State, Murray

When: Through Dec. 31

How much: $24.95-$26.95 for adults, $14.95 for children ages 11 and under

Phone: 801-266-2600

Web: desertstarplayhouse.com

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Brigham’s Playhouse in Washington, Washington County, is set to mount a lesser-known musical adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” by Keith Ferguson and Bruce Greer.

“George Bailey has always dreamed of traveling the world, but his opportunities have always passed him by,” according to brighamsplayhouse.com. “He gets to a point in his life where he wishes he had never been born and is sent Clarence, an angel, to show him what would happen if his wish really came true.”

Where: Brigham’s Playhouse, 25 N. 300 West Building C1, Washington

When: Nov. 25-Dec. 31

How much: $23 for adults, $21 for seniors, $17 for children ages 5-17 and students

Phone: 435-251-8000

Web: brighamsplayhouse.com