There's a new Grinch in town. Stentorian-voiced J. Bernard Calloway, who some may remember from La Jolla Playhouse's world-premiere staging of Memphis a few years ago, takes over as the Mean Green I Hate Christmas Machine. His antics, like all the Grinches before him in this Old Globe holiday perennial (now in its 18th reincarnation) are the best—and most satisfying for adults—part of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
On opening night, 8-year-old Mikee Castillo co-starred as Cindy-Lou Who, and she's also a bright little star in the one-act, family-friendly production. Sure, this show can be cloying and heavy on Whoville sweetness: Some of the sugary songs are cavity-inducing. But there's a reason it's been around this long. It's dependable and sincerely delivered yuletide entertainment.
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! runs through Dec. 26 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $24-$37. oldglobe.org
The other "grinch" in town is Ebenezer Scrooge, played once again by the stellar Tom Stephenson in Cygnet Theatreís annual production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is not colored green, but he's just as mean as the Grinch—at least until Jacob Marley (David McBean, owning the stage) and three other ghostly visits precipitate Eb's reclamation.
There's no need to recount the story. You've read it or seen it, onstage, on TV or on the big screen many times before. But know that Cygnet's production, directed by Sean Murray, offers a few little surprises that renew what is a tired tale: alternately charming and spooky puppetry (design by Michael McKeon, Lynne Jennings and Rachel Hengsy); a versatile musical score by Billy Thompson; and sound effects from the wings provided by Stephenson's and McBean's fellow cast members. If the show feels 15 minutes too long, that's probably because you spent half an hour trying to park in Old Town or because you've simply had your Christmas fill of Dickens. But remember: the holidays are in part about honoring traditions, and that's why San Diego audiences turn out time and again to jeer and then cheer the Grinch or Scrooge. (Theatergoers tip: Arrive early to hear the actors' pre-curtain caroling.)
A Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 27 at the Old Town Theatre. $37-$55.
A Civil War Christmas: The San Diego premiere of the musical pageant set toward the end of the American Civil War. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel, it opens Dec. 10 at the Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org
MOMologues: The equal parts funny and serious play about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Presented by Different Stages, it opens Dec. 12 at Swedenborg Hall in Hillcrest. differentstages.biz
Shrek the Musical: The singing-and-dancing Broadway musical based on the movie about an ogre in love. Presented by STAR Repertory Theatre, it opens for two performances Dec. 12 at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. artcenter.org
Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold: A comedic and interactive mystery featuring a wisecracking Catholic nun. It opens for three performances Dec. 13 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
2015 in Review: A Living Newspaper: A sketch comedy theatre review of all the notable and pop culture tidbits of the year. Presented by Black Kat Theatre, it runs through Dec. 18 at Desi’s Bar & Grill in Point Loma. blackkattheatre.com
Almost, Maine: Residents of a small New England town mysteriously fall in and out of love with the appearance of the Northern Lights. Written by John Cariani, it runs through Dec. 20 at the OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info
Laugh Stories: San Diego playwright Michael Shames presents a 90-minute collection of comedic one-acts centered on a character named Gloria. It runs through Dec. 20 at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center in Downtown. splashstories.com
Orson Welles Presents… A Christmas Carol Radio Show: A live reenactment of the famous director’s 1939 radio broadcast of the Charles Dickens’ classic complete with Christmas carols and sound effects. Directed by Robin Pollock, it runs through through Dec. 20 at Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa.
Vonya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: Things get heated in this dramedy about two middle-aged stepsisters dealing with a sudden visit from their other sister and her new boy-toy. Written by Christopher Durang, it runs through Dec. 20 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Now in its 18th year, this holiday classic tells the musical tale of a green grump who plans to ruin the holidays for the town of Whoville. Directed by James Vásquez, it plays through Dec. 26 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
A Christmas Carol: The mean and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge gets visited by three ghosts and, well, you probably know the rest. Adapted to be a musical by Sean Murray for Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Dec. 27 at the Old Town Theatre in Old Town. cygnettheatre.com
Lamb’s Festival of Christmas: The annual musical theater performance features classic songs and is set in Little Italy in the late ‘40s. It runs through Dec. 27 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
This Wonderful Life: James Leaming stars in a one-man stage adaptation of the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Written by Steve Murray, it runs through Dec. 27 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The 1940’s Radio Hour: A family-friendly musical about a quaint New York radio station that’s about to air its last broadcast of holiday music. It runs through Dec. 31 at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org