With so much holiday-related children's theater to choose from, spending all that leftover money from Black Friday's shopping spree on family entertainment can be daunting.
Playhouse on the Square alone serves up a different Christmas show for practically every demographic.
For adults, there is David Sedaris' snarky "SantaLand Diaries," which plays to a capacity crowd even after several years running.
Kids can learn the benefits of being adopted by a rich capitalist at the musical "Annie," in which the meaning of Christmas is synonymous with a mountain of presents.
Playhouse also typically puts on a Saturday and Sunday matinee show, mainly for young people, that falls into the generic "spirit of Christmas" category.
This year's offering, "Twas the Night Before Christmas," continues Circuit Playhouse's string of comic, slapdash kiddie fare that perennially comes across as a seasonal afterthought — a production thrown together for parents who don't want to see another "Annie" or "Christmas Carol" but who want their kids to have the gift of live theater.
Playwright Ken Ludwig, author of the popular farce "Lend Me A Tenor," uses the old Clement Clarke Moore poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" as his springboard, just as previous scripts have yule-ogized Charles Dickens, nostalgic holiday movies and even Aesop's fables.
Ron Gordon plays a grizzled old uncle whose recitation of the famed poem ("… not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse") is interrupted at the opening line by a mouse named Amos.
Amos (Jacob Zelonky) is indeed stirring, literally, a batch of Christmas cookie batter. It seems that Amos' house has, for some mysterious reason, been taken off Santa's delivery list and he wants to get back on it.
With the help of a young girl named Emily (Carly Nahon) and one of Santa's elves (Danielle Carr), Amos travels to the North Pole to help save Christmas from a rogue elf (Jimmy Hoxie) who schemes to outsource Christmas to Wal-Mart.
The plot gets more screwball and unwieldy as actors take on multiple roles, engage in long chase scenes and sword fights, and, worst of all, perform a couple of silly holiday rap numbers (because nothing improves upon a beloved Christmas poem like setting it to rap music.)
At Sunday's performance, children did get a kick out of Zelonky's Amos. His girlyboy screams and saucy tail-wagging kept the youngsters giggling. Hoxie's bad guy is a chip off Captain Hook's block.
"Twas the Night Before Christmas" would be a fun little production for a church basement, a school tour or, better yet, in the children's book section of the public library. The $10 per child ticket is a decent admission price — same as a movie. But for an adult ticket of $30, I don't want to see Santa Claus helping to change the scenery.
“Twas the Night Before Christmas”
Performances continue at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 30 at Circuit Playhouse, 51 South Cooper. Pay-what-you-can shows are Sunday and Dec. 28. Tickets are $30 adults, $22 seniors and students and $10 children under 18. Call 901-726-4656.