Signature Theatre artistic director Eric Schaeffer is mounting what he promises is an "innovative" production of Les Misérables (December 2-January 25) in the MAX. Producer Cameron Mackintosh gave the OK for Signature to produce a brand-new version by creating an "environmental staging" that combines 28 actors, a 14-piece orchestra, and a five-ton steel set. Boublil and Schönberg's musical is a passionate saga of love and betrayal set during the upheaval of post revolutionary France.
Legally Blonde (December 16-January 11) makes its DC debut as the national tour lands at the Kennedy Center's Opera House. Nominated for seven 2007 Tony Awards, it's the musical story of a sorority star who doesn't take "no" for an answer. When her boyfriend dumps her, she sets out for Harvard Law School.
The Kennedy Center has a return engagement of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (December 23-January 4) in the Eisenhower. A 30-piece onstage orchestra will feature songs from the Tony, Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer, including Cats, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The show stars Shosana Bean, Ron Bohmer, Liz Callaway, David Josefsberg, Eric Kunze, and Laurie Gayle Stephenson.
Also making a return is Forum Theatre's production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (December 5-21), at H Street Playhouse. In a Purgatory courtroom, Judas is on trial, leading to a, shall we say, "spirited" debate on free will, divine intervention, punishment, and redemption. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (December 15-January 4) returns to Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, as Chicago's late-night show from the Neo-Futurists features 30 plays in 60 minutes performed by the cast members who created them. Woolly Mammoth promises a few "holiday-tinged pieces" mixed in, so be warned!
Legendary performer Theodore Bikel returns to Washington for the world premiere of Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears (December 17-January 11) at Theater J. It's described as a play with music about the pioneering 19th Century author. The Shakespeare Theatre Company is staging one of the Bard's great romantic comedies, Twelfth Night (December 2-January 4) at Sidney Harman Hall. A shipwreck separates twins Viola and Sebastian, but tragedy quickly turns to comedy when they wash up in a land turned upside-down by love. Blackbird (December 3-21) takes a different approach to love, provoking assumptions and daring the audience to rethink the meaning of love stories. Two lovers meet again fifteen years after their scandalous relationship ended with significant repercussions. Studio Theatre presents David Harrower's taut drama in the Milton Theatre, starring Lisa Joyce and Jerry Whiddon.
December brings with it special family-oriented holiday programming, and here's a look at some top choices: One of the enduring holiday customs is Ford's Theatre's annual production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas (December 2-28). The show is at the Lansburgh Theatre while renovations on Ford's Theatre continue. Another annual favorite is Washington Ballet's The Nutcracker (December 11-28), at Warner Theatre. Septime Webre's version turns the Nutcracker into George Washington, and the villainous King rat into England's King George II. The American Century Theater has an original show, An American Century Christmas (December 10-January 4) at Gunston Art Center's Theater II in Arlington. It "traces the most memorable dramatic and comic moments from 100 years of Christmas on stage, screen, radio and TV."
For something less traditional, there's also the "anti-holiday" cult classic, The Santaland Diaries (December 4-24) at Warehouse Theatre. Performed by Joe Brack, it's David Sedaris' humorous and acerbic account of working as an elf at Macy's in Manhattan.