Another sassy Cy Coleman tuner, the rarely revived The Life (Stella Adler Theatre, December 3-21), depicts the pulsating world of hookers, pimps, and topless bars aligning Times Square in the 1980s. A full-scale revival of the Leiber and Stoller revue Smokey Joe's Café, starring Tony nominees DeLee Lively and Robert Torti runs at the El Portal Theatre, December 10-January 4. The hit 1995 show is a perennial toe-tapping favorite, evoking the heyday of rock-n-roll. More traditional tastes should be satisfied with an extremely rare revival of Leonard Bernstein's Peter Pan (Santa Barbara Theatre, December 17-28), with a libretto by the classic tale's original author, J.M. Barrie. This is reportedly the first full staging of the show to feature the complete score, including music not used in the 1950 Broadway production.
The latest of countless musicals based on Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol is relayed with a Brechtian flavor in A Chicago Christmas Carol (Crown City Theatre, through December 21), with book and music by William A. Reilly and lyrics by Gary Lamb, described as a powerful indictment of corporate America, set during a fierce 1908 winter. A Christmas Thrance (Studio/Stage, December 6-14), described as a mix of dance and theatre, pokes fun at the stresses of the holiday period, mixing traditional and offbeat songs. A look back at the holiday TV variety shows of yesterday, such as The Carol Burnett Show -- but with a sardonic twist -- is offered in Holiday Fever! (Secret Rose Theatre, through December 20). Plenty of flashy sequins and outrageous wigs are served up alongside the seasonal cheer. Also, The Chance Theater is set to remount last year's holiday production of Anne of Green Gables - The Musical, set to run at The Heritage Forum, December 18-21.
Beyond the musicals, there's additional holiday fare. The frequently daring Furious Theatre Company in Pasadena premieres an "adults-only" version of The Night Before Christmas (Carrie Hamilton Theatre, through December 20), by Anthony Neilson, following the misadventures of an elf, two thugs, and a prostitute on Christmas Eve. Actors Gang goes a bit further than that, describing its Scrooge Must Die (through January 10) as "very raunchy" and "uproariously NC-17." Those who want to come up for air following these irreverent spoofs can pay a visit to South Coast Repertory's classic-styled version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol (through December 27), in its 29th annual presentation. If you're the mood for yucks, you might want to pay a return visit to the interactive favorite Sister's Christmas Catechism (Laguna Playhouse, December 15-24), a sequel to Maripat Donovan's Late Nite Catechism. Nostalgia is on tap in It's a Wonderful Life--A Live Radio Play (STAGEStheatre, December 12-January 4), Joe Landry's take on the vintage Frank Capra film.
Believe it or not, there are some non-holiday-themed attractions as well. Of special interest to lovers of Del Shores plays and the outrageous character of Beverly Leslie on Will & Grace will be Leslie Jordan: My Trip Down the Pink Carpet (Renberg Theatre at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, December 4-21), the latest autobiographical solo vehicle from the multitalented Emmy-winning sprite Jordan, dishing delicious dirt about his life and career. Speaking of Shores, one of his vintage Southern-fried comedies is served with a twist -- an all-black cast -- in Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got the Will? (Theatre/Theater, through December 21), with a basic plot that's quite evident in the title. Aetuer theatremaker Ken Roht, jack of all theatrical trades, unveils his newest campy epic, Ken Roht's 99-cent Only Calendar Girl Competition (Bootleg Theatre, December 4-21), featuring R&B music, audience interaction, and the extraordinary costumes of Ann Closs-Farley, created entirely from materials purchased at (or donated by) 99-cent Only stores. There's a huge change of pace in writer-performer James Gleason's Actor Under Fire (Sherry Theatre, December 4-21), charting this actor's true-life adventures in the Vietnam War.
Two family offerings this month are certainly in the yuletide spirit. Returning from last year is James J. Mellon and Scott DeTurk's delightful musical adventure, Yo Ho Ho! A Pirate's Christmas (NoHo Arts Center, through December 28). And Santa Monica Playhouse again offers its sugar-plum treat, Alias Santa Claus (December 6-21), in which Old St. Nick visits a pioneer family on a blustery December night in the 1800s.