A Christmas Carol This production restores quite a bit of luster to the Sacramento Theatre Company’s holiday standard, written nearly 20 years ago by Sacramento’s Richard Hellesen and the late David de Berry. This year’s model has the best cast in recent years, including Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran Richard Farrell as Scrooge and veteran character actor David Silberman as Marley. Director Philip Charles Sneed also brings a clear understanding of Dickens’ original story. Yes, this show’s a musical with a large cast, but it’s ultimately a tale of one old man’s personal transformation from sour skinflint to community-minded benefactor. If it’s been a while since you enjoyed this version of the tale, this is a good year to check it out again.
Sacramento Theatre Company, various showtimes, $16-$38 or $6-$14 for Saturday family matinees. 1419 H Street, (916) 443-6722, www.sactheatre.org. Through December 24. J.H.
A Christmas Story Poor Ralphie. All he wants is “an official Red Ryder BB Gun with realistic pump action, a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.” It’s the Holy Grail of Christmas gifts, and Ralphie yearns for it with a passion unsurpassed in the annals of Christmas lists. We wince every time an adult tells him, “You’ll shoot your eye out” and groan at every unsubtle hint he utters. Our reward is a perfect Christmas tale, seasoned with just the right blend of wariness and warmth. The Foothill Theatre Company has reverently turned this irreverent 1983 movie classic into a live-theater treat. None of the dialogue or details has been tampered with. We still get the familiar “triple-dog dare,” the “Fragile” leg lamp, the “queen mother of dirty words,” the pink bunny suit and Little Orphan Annie’s secret decoder ring.
Foothill Theatre Company; 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $5-$23. Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street in Nevada City, (530) 265-8587, www.foothilltheatre.org. Through December 31. P.R.
A Garbeau’s Christmas In this holiday spectacular, you get a little bit of everything from an earnest cast: winter-wonderland warbling, Victorian Christmas caroling, secular and gospel numbers, a shortened version of A Christmas Carol, a recreation of the Nativity scene and a reading of The Night Before Christmas. There are tin soldiers and letters from soldiers. We get an audience-participation sing-along of “The 12 Days of Christmas” and a visit from Santa. The show is a virtual Christmas buffet tied up with a bow. The cast members vary in talent, but all are enthusiastic. The program is schmaltzy, in the best sense of holiday schmaltz.
Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with dinner at 6 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday with brunch at 1 p.m. and dinner at 5 p.m.; $22-$43 for show and meal or $20 for show only. 12401 Folsom Boulevard in Rancho Cordova, (916) 985-6361, www.garbeaus.com. Through December 23. P.R.
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol Capital Stage revives last year’s holiday production, which was one of that season’s pleasant surprises. The show reinterprets the Charles Dickens standard from the point of view of Marley (actually, his ghost). He’s reluctantly accepted a mission impossible: reforming his former business partner, Scrooge. The play combines familiar Dickensian dialogue with original material, including several new scenes offering dark verbal glimpses into hell. But it’s done with an attractively lyrical, impish wit. Director Stephanie Gularte gets a lot from her cast, including perky Jamie Jones and versatile Lucinda Hitchcock Cone. But it’s Harry Harris (using his malleable voice as Marley) who carries the show. Miles Miniaci completes the cast as the guy who says, “Bah, humbug.”
Capital Stage; 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday; $46-$49 for show and meal or $22-$25 for show only. Aboard the Delta King riverboat, 1000 Front Street in Old Sacramento, (916) 995-5464. Through December 24. J.H.
Mahalia When actress Elise Reese is singing (in her role as the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson), this show is a joy. And music makes up about half the show. But when Reese stops singing, and the show turns into a routinely written docudrama with actors who have a bit of trouble with their lines, the experience leaves something to be desired. We’ll give Mahalia a “good” rating overall—just keep in mind that you’re in for some ups and downs during this inconsistent show. See it to remember (or, if you’re young, experience for the first time) what a remarkable, enormously popular performer Mahalia was during the 1950s and 1960s. Enjoy the gospel standards that Mahalia made her own, like “Elijah Rock” and “I Will Move On Up a Little Higher.”
Celebration Arts Theatre, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sundays, $8-$15. 4469 D Street, (916) 455-2787. Through December 30. J.H.
Many Happy Returns Following tradition, this year’s B Street Theatre holiday offering is quirky, kinky and completely off-kilter, focusing on the dysfunctional families that light up like Christmas trees this time of year. A Dublin couple awaits the return of a local-boy-does-good so they can manipulate him at a Christmas get-together. Of course, craziness ensues. At center stage are the age-old holiday traditions: drinking, sex and arguing. The humor is fun and naughty, though it missteps when the guest of honor crosses the line from idiot to abusive asshole. Be aware; the humor is more Bad Santa than Santa Claus.
B Street Theatre; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, with Wednesday matinees through December 28; $23-$28. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through January 8. P.R.
Queen of the Remote Control Seventeen-year-old Shilpa feels, like, totally misunderstood by her ever-present parents—both highly successful doctors from India. Though hers is an Indian household, Shilpa takes on the petulant attitude of an overindulged American teen by sulking, sighing and “whatever”-ing at every turn. But because she’s smart and funny, and has a creative way of looking at life through the lens of a TV addict, Shilpa’s self-involvement is more entertaining than exasperating. Her maturity begins with the revelation of family secrets. There are impressive performances by young actress Roshni Shukla as Shilpa and Saffron Henke as her mother.
Sacramento Theatre Company’s Stage Two; 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $22-$32. 1419 H Street, (916) 443-6722. Through January 8. P.R.
The Secret Garden There’s nothing drastically wrong with the Children’s Theatre of California’s new adaptation of the classic 1880s novel for young people by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but it’s less dynamic than other stage adaptations (Foothill Theatre Company’s 2001 production comes to mind), and it doesn’t possess the degree of crossover appeal for adults that marks the Children’s Theatre’s better shows. Playwright and director Jerry Montoya is largely faithful to the spirit of the piece, but the dark creepiness of the old English manor, the mirroring of mental anguish and physical ills, and the mystical and restorative power of nature aren’t as fleshed out as they might be. The cast would benefit from the presence of an older man or woman.
B Street Theatre; 7 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, with holiday shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. December 27 through 30; $15 for children and $20 for adults. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through January 1. J.H.