23 December 2019

Christmas (On-stage) in Connecticut

Remember the old seasonal entertainment traditions around Christmas? Growing up, I always watched Perry Como's Christmas program on TV, and there were other holiday specials I came to take for granted, too. The Grinch still guarantees a green Christmas, and the Peanuts special a white one.

In Connecticut, and I assume elsewhere, local theaters bombard us with Christmas-themed productions, some funny, some traditional, some downright scary.

Leading the pack is the Hartford Stage Company's production of A Christmas Carol.
It stays faithful to Dickens with elaborate staging including flying ghosts, spectacular lighting effects and creepy sounds. Students from nearby Hartt College play supporting characters, and local children become the Cratchit family. In this, the production's 22nd season, the four-week run was sold out before the opening show. I only got to see it because my wife, who acted at Hartford Stage a few years ago, still gets comps to most shows. Naturally, we grabbed them.

A newer standby is TheaterWorks Christmas on the Rocks. Artistic director Rob Ruggiero invited local playwrights to create monologues in which well-known characters from various other works sit in a bar and discuss their lives since their moments in the spotlight. This year's production features Ted Lange, formerly known as Isaac, the bartender on The Love Boat, as the bartender. He listens to an older Tiny Tim, Charlie Brown, Zuzu from It's a Wonderful Life, and Clara from The Nutcracker, among others.
The production premiered in 2013 and has become a local tradition, gathering momentum and new characters each year.

Joe Mantello adapted The Santaland Diaries, originally an essay by David Sedaris in 1992, telling of his working as an elf in Macy's Santaland. At least three different productions are now running within driving distance of our condo.

And, of course, last but longest-running, a "radio" play production of It's a Wonderful Life, complete with the foley table for sound effects and old microphones the actors pretend to read into. My wife was in a production of this decades ago and, again, we can find several different versions less than a gas tank away.

Like Perry Como in a previous generation, all of these have come to mean Christmas in Connecticut, almost as clearly as mobbed shopping malls and neighbors singing carols after getting fortified with high-test eggnog.

Only two shopping days left, so remember that books are great gifts. There's a book out there for everyone, they can be re-read and shared, and they're easy to wrap. Just sayin'...

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Oh, and BSP for the holidays, "This Year's Model" won Honorable Mention for this year's Black Orchid Novella Award, sponsored by The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. I received the news ten days ago.


  1. I'm so out of touch with theatre these days! Christmas on the Rock sounds clever, almost a peek in the celebrity café on that Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

    As I call for my pipe and smoking jacket, I might modestly mention my own trodding of the boards starring in A Christmas Carol for which (ahem) I received marvelous reviews…

    … by my parents. I was in middle school at the time.

    Hey, folks. This Year's Model!

  2. Congratulations, Steve! Merry Christmas!

  3. I'd love to see Christmas on the Rocks! That sounds like a ton of fun. Merry Christmas, Steve!

  4. Steve, congratulations on the Honorable Mention for your novella.

  5. I remember Garrison Keillor saying that December is when all the performing arts groups break even for the year. The orchestras do The Messiah. Ballet does Nutcracker. Theatres do Christmas Carol. Operas do Amahl...

    We used to have an organization in my town called the Midnight Mystery Players that did live radio drama (they did two of my short stories). My favorite was watching them do The Maltese Falcon. When Sam Spade unloaded a pistol the sound guy took a part a stapler. It sounded perfect!

  6. The play using established characters is interesting, even intriguing. Charlie Brown is still under copyright as far as I know so I was surprised to see the character included. Perhaps usage rights were secured.

    Anyway, congrats again on your honorable mention. That's fantastic.

  7. Real live theatre is a great holiday tradition, if just to get the kids to turn off all their electronic devices.
    And congrats on your award!


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