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It’s going to look a lot like Christmas soon, as Grinches, Scrooges and countless other holiday-themed characters are learning their lines and eagerly anticipating their opening nights at professional theaters all across the area. And for those who prefer less sugar and more substance with their holiday entertainment, plenty of special treats are headed their way, as well!

The season began November 10th with the Detroit premiere of the box-office-shattering Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at Detroit’s Fox Theatre (November 10-15). And quickly on its heels comes Metro Detroit’s longest-running annual family tradition, A Christmas Carol, at Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester (November 13 - December 24).

After that, the floodgates open.

Youngsters will have a merry holiday when their favorite storybook and TV characters come to town in Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas at Detroit’s City Theatre (November 20-22) and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at the nearby Fox (December 5-6), while theatergoers of all ages will return to the era of old time radio when the UDM Theatre Company brings back its popular It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at the Boll Family YMCA Theatre in Downtown Detroit (December 3-13).

Also returning are a handful of other longtime favorites: Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold at the City Theatre (December 10-13); Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Fox (December 22-27); the dynamic duo of Joe Bailey and Brandy Joe Plambeck in The SantaLand Diaries & Season’s Greetings at The Ringwald Theatre in Ferndale (December 17-21); and Jeff Daniels’ Onstage & Unplugged at The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea (December 26-31), but reserve your tickets early, as it will likely sell out quickly!

There’s more, of course. But here are the top five holiday-themed productions a certain cranky critic recommends for festive theatergoers looking for quality entertainment this upcoming Christmas season:

5. A mysterious storyteller and a quartet of holiday carolers tell the classic tale of hope and redemption in Dickens: An A Capella Carol at Performance Network Theatre in Ann Arbor (November 27 – December 20). In the spirit of the season, a portion of each ticket will be donated to a local homeless shelter.

4. If you’d like to sprinkle a little parody among your holiday treats, you may want to check out Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge at The Dio – Dining & Entertainment in Pinckney (November 27 – December 31).

3. You’ll have A Very Electric Christmas when the amazing Livewire Theatre returns to Detroit’s Music Hall with the captivating tale of a young migrating bird who gets blown off course during a snowstorm (November 22).

2. Find out what happens backstage when a down-on-its-luck theater company tries to stage its annual production of A Christmas Carol in Inspecting Carol at Detroit’s Hilberry Theatre (December 4-19).

1. Actors, puppets and live music come together when the National Theatre of Scotland comes to Ann Arbor with its exquisite take on A Christmas Carol at Power Center, courtesy of the University Musical Society (December 17 – Janunary 3, 2016).

If such holly-jolly fare is not your cup of tea, then you may want to indulge yourself in one or more of the following:

5. The Ringwald tackles the 20th-century classic A Streetcar Named Desire with a fresh interpretation and an intriguing cast that will make this one of the hottest tickets of the season (November 13 – December 6).

4. Straight from Chicago comes the critically acclaimed Why Not Me? A Sammy Davis Jr. Story to Performance Network Theatre, in which actor Sean Blake presents an insightful look at the highs and lows of the entertainer known as "Mr. Wonderful” (November 24 – December 19).

3. Director Charles Reynolds takes a break from The Abreact to stage Orson’s Shadow at Hamtramck’s Planet Ant Theatre. Billed as an ingenious tale of two Hollywood legends, Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier, the superb cast pretty much guarantees this will be yet another don’t miss production of the season (November 25 – December 19)!

2. Real-life married couple Dr. Arthur Beer and Mary Bremer—two of Metro Detroit’s best (and best loved) thespians—star in Kalamazoo, a romantic comedy about life’s second act at Northville’s Tipping Point Theatre. If you’re smart, you’ll add this to your list of “must-see” shows (November 19 – December 20).

1. Direct from Broadway comes one of the most anticipated shows of the year: Newsies at the Detroit Opera House, courtesy of Broadway in Detroit. They delivered newspapers—until they made the headlines, and now you’ll find out why (December 15-27)!

For complete information on what’s happening in all of the state’s professional theaters, log on to www.EncoreMichigan.com!

By Donald V. Calamia, editor-at-large of www.EncoreMichigan.com 

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