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Happy Holiday Fare At San Diego Theaters

David Engel, Laura Dickinson, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, and Jill Townsend in the San Diego Musical Theater's production of "Irving Berlin's White Christmas."
Ken Jacques
David Engel, Laura Dickinson, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, and Jill Townsend in the San Diego Musical Theater's production of "Irving Berlin's White Christmas."

The Best Of The Christmas Shows

Happy Holiday Fare At San Diego Theaters
GUESTS: Ed Hollingsworth plays General Waverly in San Diego Musical Theater's White Christmas James Hebert, Theatre Critic, U-T San Diego

Midday Edition 11/26/12 Program Transcript MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Holiday traditions, holiday music just a little bit of holiday reference to our own debilitated the theaters this time of year. Keeping with the season the other companies, turn to the editors past present and future to get audiences and to warm the chilly December and joining me today to talk about choices in San Diego are actor Ed Hollingsworth who plays Gen. Waverley in San Diego musical theaters White Christmas and Ed, welcome to the program. ED HOLLINGSWORTH: Thank you very much. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: James Hebert is theater critic at UT San Diego. Welcome back JAMES HEBERT: Good to see you again MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As a theater critic do you look forward to the holiday season? JAMES HEBERT: I have to say I do for the most part I kind of think of it as eggnog in a way you don't want to chug it in July but it's good to know it's going to be there in December as long as you don't get the carton that is past the sell by date. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You do not want that. Do you basically a kind of review really some of the same holiday place each year. Is there enough new stuff to keep you interested? JAMES HEBERT: Yeah there really is. One thing is in live theater even the same protection from performance to performance is a little bit different so you can imagine the same show from season to season even if there is one different actor or something a little bit different been done it really changes the energy and dynamic and I'm sure Ed can tell you about being in the inside of this. ED HOLLINGSWORTH: There's a different relating on how things put together the timing it all changes each time. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What is new about the old clubs perennial favorite how the Grinch stole Christmas? JAMES HEBERT: Yes so it is a 15th season for the Grinch and Steve Blanchard is for the second year playing the green dude, the mean Green dude, so he brings a different energy I think he played the beast and beauty and the beast for a long time so he's got the real villain track record, and so he's back again and besides that it's pretty much the same show. A few years ago they brought in some new socks. They added the salt from the cartoon, which is a favorite, but I think one thing people like about it is the like a few changes, but they like it to be a tradition in something they can't rely on. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The Grinch is currently playing at the Globe in Balboa Park. The old Globe in Balboa Park. Now, Ed, you're in the San Diego music theaters like Christmas, this is an Irving Berlin standard kind of thing in fact actually the movie is playing on Netflix I just found out yesterday. Remind us about the story if you would. ED HOLLINGSWORTH: The story basically covers two guys who meet during the war in 1944 and it starts in 1954, 10 years later and they end up meeting to you ladies, they follow them to Vermont and the two young ladies are performers and their they find their general trying to run this in, losing money and then they bring up there I'll show to rehearse to try to make money without letting him know there's any charity going on. So it's a love story, it's a friendship starring and the incredible part is the way they are staging it there's going to be a 21 piece orchestra led by Don Lemaster on stage and the music is just credibly lush with harmonies and the dancing is just super. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a little music from the play, let's hear that now. [Orchestral music playing. Happy holidays.] MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And of course, that great Irving Berlin score, right? ED HOLLINGSWORTH: The music is incredible. If you go on the website there's all sorts of information on a. I'm really looking forward to this. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You have a very serious situation here you are playing a nonmusical role in a musical. You did no singing, right? ED HOLLINGSWORTH: I don't in this show. Usually I get cast in singing roles. After this I will be doing this three shows at the San Diego Opera being a tall guy in the back in the chorus but my degrees in theater enacting and I've gotten singing roles because I can sing but I fell in love with the craft of acting so it's fun to have a rule I can really do something with and that is this one. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I was get this one mixed up with holiday in. JAMES HEBERT: I do too. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is one of (inaudible) K and Bing Crosby. White Christmas, not the movie version but the San Diego music theaters like Christmas ED HOLLINGSWORTH: There's actually more music and dancing in the theater then there is in the movie. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It opens (inaudible) Cygnet has done a live radio holiday in the past they've done is a wonderful life, but this year they are doing a version of a Christmas Carol. What is the attraction for an audience in a live radio play. JAMES HEBERT: I think the attraction is kind of feeling as though you are behind the scenes. They have done it for six years I think did the radio version of it's a wonderful life the great Jimmy Stewart movie and so you have the actions actors standing by in microphones pretending to read from scripts and also some great sound effects. You know everything that would've gone into an old time radio show. So it's kind of cool to sit there and see how that kind of thing actually happened back then as if you were an audience member in a radio studio. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Who is playing Scrooge? JAMES HEBERT: Tom Stevenson. He's pretty much a veteran at Cygnet. He's done (inaudible) and some other shows. Very distinguished actor and you've got Melinda Gilbert and some other very, lots of local standbys, Cygnet always has great casts for these shows. And you know, it should be fun, it is something new for them. They did a more traditional version of a Christmas Carol a couple years ago but I think they feel as though this radio thing is kind of in their wheelhouse. They have so much experience from it's a wonderful life. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We will probably be hearing those chains going up the steps. ED HOLLINGSWORTH: Everybody watches the sound effects guy beside what's going to happen next. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You are a fan of these radio plays ED HOLLINGSWORTH: Very much so, my son was in it's a wonderful life the first two years and it's fun to watch. JAMES HEBERT: I think Ed's family tradition is pretty strong his sons have been in a Christmas Carol and the Grinch MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you a sense of starlight music theaters closed in San Diego theater are you trying to fill the gap? JAMES HEBERT: No they try to do theatrical productions, it's more like a theatrical event because of the airplanes. SDMT, San Diego musical theater is year-round. They try to use local actors some people complain there are not enough. The thing is as a professional theater you hire the best person for the role. And so the shows, all of them have been unilaterally wonderful shows. Very well done. So I would say you are replacing I would say Starlight is gone in San Diego musical theater is now performing, filling the niche with these big beautiful productions. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me move on, Jim there is something a little less traditional to the ultimate Christmas show abridged at the San Diego rep. This is the reps first holiday show in a while JAMES HEBERT: Right they have not done a holiday show in seven years, and before that they were known for decades for doing a Christmas Carol in different versions. They did, we were talking about this earlier and reminiscing, dated a circus version at one time and all kinds of crazy things. But the new show as you say it's to do Shakespeare Company there are specialty is minimizing various cultural properties MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is a nice way of putting it. JAMES HEBERT: That is my minimal way of putting it. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We actually have a sample of the musical parody of the Comedy [Musical theater singing] MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think that clip says it all. JAMES HEBERT: Very sober show, yeah. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Who is the creative force behind this? It is the reduce Shakespeare Company JAMES HEBERT: (Inaudible) Reed (inaudible) starting to the company they started doing as the name indicates the reduced Shakespeare they have a fantastic show that is just all Shakespeare's works in one 90 min. show, then they did the Bible as well, the complete works of the Bible. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I remember that. JAMES HEBERT: Actually they still, little bit of black humor, but they still in 2003 they did the show in San Diego rep at the same night was when that year's huge wildfires started so they still kind of put up a website like a week, here we get the sacrilegious show, and look what happened. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: People came down. The ultimate Christmas show open since December 5 at the rep. And there is more irreverence on display, Scrooge in Rouge. The diversionary Theatre. Jim, what is that? JAMES HEBERT: It is what they call a present musicale version of the Scrooge story of the Scrooge story and it's very loose adaptation. It's just kind of this bawdy, a lot of drag, that kind of thing a lot of just guilty pleasure kind of humor to it. It's a really fun show it's surprising they have brought it before, they did a couple years ago and it took to off pretty well so glad they brought it back to stage. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jim, how many variations have you seen of the Dickens tale? Do you have any favorites around town? JAMES HEBERT: I don't know that I could count how many I have seen. But I remember the rep once upon a time actually did a gangster version which they somehow pulled off pretty well and the North Coast rep actually commissioned a version was done by the playwright Jackie Goldfinger and that ran for three or four years. That was a really good one, really captured kind of the lyricism. It is an amazingly adaptable story when you think about the crazy ways it's been done from traditional to Scrooge in Rouge. It really takes a lot. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's like Shakespeare it takes a licking and keeps on ticking. JAMES HEBERT: I don't know what Dickens would say. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there any holiday for that you particularly enjoy besides your own play,? ED HOLLINGSWORTH: I enjoy them all, going down to Cygnet , North Coast rep, the Grinch, I saw so many times when my son was in it when he was nine, and he's 6'1” now, so he can be a kid now. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is this a good time a year for theaters, Jim? Are they really able to make a lot of profit with the shows? JAMES HEBERT: I think they can and it is a mixed bag. I think a lot of recent Christmas theaters did not to Christmas Carol for well I think if you do that traditional version it requires a big cast and it's a pretty big commitment. And so you know obviously there's limited appeal because if you've seen it 1 million times, so it can be be a good pick for the bottom line but not always. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But it's great for audiences a listing of all the dates and place mentioned assignment is available on the website at I've been speaking with Dr. Ed Hollingsworth who is in San Diego music theater's White Christmas and Jim Hebert, theater critic for you to San Diego. Thank you both very much. JAMES HEBERT: Thank you. ED HOLLINGSWORTH: Thanks Maureen.

The holiday shopping season has officially launched, Christmas lights are already going up, and San Diego theater companies are turning to holiday themed fare to bring audiences in.

U-T San Diego Theater critic James Hebert serves up his recommendations for what holiday fare to check out in his preview article. Here are the shows he highlights for Midday Edition.

"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" returns to the Old Globe for its 15th year, starring Steve Blanchard as the Mean One, alongside a cast of local favorites. This year for the first time, the theater also is offering an autism-friendly performance of the show, December 15. The play runs through December 29.


"A Christmas Carol - A Live Radio Play" is currently playing at Cygnet Theatre. After six seasons of staging its popular "radio" version of the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," Cygnet in Old Town is turning to a new project - a broadcast-style take on Dickens' Christmas classic. Tom Stephenson stars as Scrooge in a production directed by company artistic chief Sean Murray. The production runs through December 30.

"The Ultimate Christmas Show (Abridged)" features those mad minimizers of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. This time the company employs their talents to downsize holiday fare into an all-in-one compendium of yuletide stories. This is the first holiday show in seven years at The Rep, which previously had a holiday tradition of producing variations on "A Christmas Carol." "The Ultimate Christmas Show (Abridged)" runs December 5 through 23 at the San Diego Rep's Lyceum Stage in Horton Plaza.

"Scrooge in Rouge" is Diversionary Theatre's holiday offering. The University Heights company brings back a hilarious piece it last did in 2008. They describe it as a "British-music-hall" take on the Scrooge tale, with lots of drag and bawdy comedy. The play runs December 14 through 30.

Ed Hollingsworth stars as General Waverly in the San Diego Musical Theater's upcoming production of the adaptation of the classic Paramount Pictures holiday standard, "Irving Berlin's White Christmas." The play runs December 13 through 23 at the Birch North Park Theater.