James Carpenter and company in A Christmas Carol
(© Kevin Berne)
James Carpenter and company in A Christmas Carol
(© Kevin Berne)
Tis the season for holiday cheer...and theater! This December finds a wide selection of programming comprised of seasonal staples, welcome newcomers, and several productions completely bereft of holiday flair.

Traditionalists need look no further than American Conservatory Theater's annual production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (December 5-20). Directed by Domenique Lozano, this incarnation of the beloved tale once again stars James Carpenter as the notorious Ebenezer Scrooge, and features original songs and score by composer Karl Lundeberg.

For some, the holiday season wouldn't be the same without Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber's Jesus Christ Superstar (American Musical Theatre of San Jose, December 27-30). Ted Neely, who starred in the title role in the cinematic version of this theatrical production, plays the title role, while former Living Colour frontman Corey Glover is Judas.

Non-traditionalists should get in on the 2007 Dance-Along Nutcracker: Ratified, playing December 8 and 9 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Staged by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, families and persons of all ages are invited to dance along, on an actual dance floor, in view of the production's cast and see this Tchaikovsky classic told from the point-of-view of the show's rats. Over at The Marsh, David Hirata and Friends present Magic Holiday (December 9-30), in which two magicians and a juggler use sleight-of-hand, bats, and batons, to invoke the holiday spirit.

TheatreWorks in Palo Alto is serving up a new production of William Shakespeare's beloved comedy Twelfth Night (through December 23), re-set in the 1960s and featuring original music by composer Paul Gordon (of Jane Eyre and Emma fame). The cast features Darren Bridgett, Ron Campbell, Carie Kawa, Warren David Keith, Michael Gene Sullivan, Vilma Silva, and Rafael Untalan.

The African-American Shakespeare Company stages Cinderella (December 8-30) keeping the age-old story essentially the same, yet keeping it fresh with newly interpreted characters. Evil stepsisters exude testosterone, while the show's fairy godmother is a sassy realist. Meanwhile, the Shotgun Players in Berkeley explores environmental activism with Obie Award-winning playwright Adam Bock's The Shaker Chair (December 12-January 27).

Finally, folks looking for something a little bit different need look no further than the New Conservatory Theatre, which presents Songs to Offend Almost Everyone, featuring the brassy Sharon McNight. (December 12-30). A former Tony Award nominee, McNight is also a proven Bay Area favorite, having won six San Francisco Cabaret Gold awards and three Cable Car Awards.