"CHRISTMAS CAROL" MAGIC GLOWS IN THE FOOTHILLS MALL
The "Christmas Carol" cast led by James Gooden as Scrooge don their gay apparel for a sincere production of this timeless favorite.

Standing O Entertainment has got the band back together for another hearty holiday production of “A Christmas Carol: A Musical Comedy,” with James Gooden returning as Ebenezer Scrooge – clearly, a role he was born to play.

Last year the show was presented at the Roadrunner Theatre Company. This year Nick Seivert as director has many of the same cast members returning with happy hearts, eager to make the most of a simplified theater setting in an empty storefront thoughtfully decorated in traditional Christmas trim at the Foothills Mall A Christmas Carol Theatre, suite 123.

What's lacking in stage and theatrical effects is made up for with detailed period costumes and the sincerity of these actors. Although the story and the characters may seem as familiar as your next door neighbor, the performers keep their talent focused on the job at hand.

It is reassuring to see how Michael Claridge brings to life the exuberance of Fezziwig and the overflowing spirit that fills the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Polished thespians Jodi Darling and Colleen Zandbergen shine sharing the parts of the Ghost of Christmas Past and the eager-to-party Agnes.

On different nights playing Belle, the young woman that Scrooge as a young man declined to pursue, are Lydia Zadareky and Adora Abanishe.

The long-suffering Bob Cratchit gets his turn at family happiness in the hands of William Winterton and Michael Conrad. A cast of eight others keep the show's energy up as various Londoners and as party-goers at the Fezziwig's home. All these roles are double cast, as well.

Gooden plays Scrooge at every performance, attuned to the shadings of personality change in this obsessed businessman while perfectly timing his Bah-Humbugs for maximum effect.

Given the overheated anxieties of today's political fervor, Charles Dickens' observations on Scrooge's behavior, written more than 170 years ago, feel even more keenly appropriate when heard in this setting.

Standing O's version of “A Christmas Carol” is also a little different in that there are also 18 uncredited songs and several moments of Gaslight Theatre-type humor.

Lindsey McHugh is the Musical Director and piano accompanist. Daniel “Sly” Slipsetsky accompanies some performances.

The costumes are provided by Linda Andresano.

Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol: A Musical Comedy” runs through Dec. 31, performances are Dec. 8-10, Dec. 15-17, Dec. 19-24, Dec. 26-31. All Sunday matinees are 3 p.m. All others days are 7 p.m., including New Year's Eve. Tickets are $22.50 general admission; $19.50 military and seniors 65+; $13.50 children 12 and under.

For details and reservations, visit: http://standingoentertainment.blogspot.com/ or call/text 520-235-0954.

To locate A Christmas Carol Theatre in the Foothills Mall, suite 123, stand in the food court, face the hallway, go right.









CHRISTMAS CRIME FOILED IN "BIG APPLE"
Santa Claus, elves and dancing girls...you gotta be at the Gaslight Theatre watching "Christmas in the Big Apple."

Taking in the Gaslight Theatre's annual Christmas show is a uniquely Tucson tradition, a mix of Yuletide good cheer and free popcorn, a sea of smiling faces without mall shopping on their minds. A family tradition to cheer up even the grumpiest of in-laws.

This year the Gaslight munchkins have dipped into their seasonal repertoire for a return to “Christmas in the Big Apple.” It's not exactly “Miracle on 34th Street,” but onstage the year is 1933 and a big Manhattan department store is in Grinch-level financial trouble with lots more red than green on its books

That department store would be Pennypacker's, and everybody knows “Pennypacker's Means Christmas!” Mr. Pennypacker himself looks a lot like Santa Claus with his luxurious white beard and mustache.

But a very unsentimental Vonda De Cringe figures this is an excellent time to increase her wealth by disrupting the holiday shopping season at Pennypacker's and then buying the whole place at after-Christmas discount prices.

Well, there's a whole lot of plot to get through before that has a chance to happen. At the Gaslight all the roles are double or triple-cast and then some, but at the performance I saw, David Orley was a very Kris Kringley Mr. Pennypacker trying to save money by being his own department store Santa.

Disguising their true intentions are a couple of gangsters-for-hire, Ace (Todd Thompson) and Moe (Charlie Hall), dressed up like the North Pole's most earnest workshop workers. They might be tall for elves, but when it comes to ethics they are very short.

Providing the cheerful antidote is high-energy Jake Chapman as Jimmy the eager elevator operator, whose twinkle catches the eye and warms the heart of Trixie (Erin Thompson) from the cosmetics department.

For those keeping score at home, sinister Vonda (Heather Stricker) not only carries a long slender cigarette holder but also has her colleague in evil, Archibald Pennypacker (Jacob Brown), keeping the tips of his black mustache in a devilish curl.

Completing the line-up are Mike Yarema as Cheswick the store's business manager and Janee Page playing Vivian, an aspiring actress.

For Gaslight regulars (you know who you are) the usual song list of goldie oldies outfitted with more topical lyrics has been replaced in this show with less familiar songs that have sort of a 1950s early rock sound. Like maybe they were selected from B-sides recorded back in the day.

Ace also gets to do a long string of jokes about jobs he used to have: I used to work in a soup factory, but I got canned; I had a job at a crematorium, but I got fired for working from home. Stuff like that.

The aftershow olio celebrates “Santa's Rockin' Christmas” with a generous helping of genuine favorites from “Blue Christmas” to “Rockabilly Reindeer.” Right on schedule Santa himself shows up at the end to send everyone happily on their way ho-ho-home.

Christmas in the Big Apple” runs through Dec. 31, ending in a New Year's Eve Gala. Every day three shows are scheduled at various times in the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway. Tickets (plus tax) are $20.95 adults; $18.95 students, seniors, military; $10.95 children age 2-12. For details and reservations (required), 520-886-9428, or visit the Gaslight box office, 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.