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DC Metro Spotlight: December 2009

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Roger Bart in Young Frankenstein
(© Paul Kolnik)
The Kennedy Center presents the touring production of the new Mel Brooks musical, Young Frankenstein (December 15 - January 10), which Brooks based on his1974 hit film of the same name, writing the music and co-writing the book. He also brought in Susan Stroman to direct and choreograph, having had prior collaborative success with The Producers. As you may recall from the film, brain surgeon Frederick Frankenstein inherits a Transylvania castle from his crazy grandfather, Victor Von Frankenstein, along with the family predilection for re-animation. The score includes "The Transylvania Mania," "He Vas My Boyfriend" and a reprise of the film's highlight, a twisted rendition of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' On the Ritz." The show's original Broadway stars Roger Bart and Shuler Hensley repeat their roles for the tour.

Meanwhile, it's mostly family fare in December, with DC area stages full of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Ford's Theatre continues its annual tradition of presenting Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (through January 3), promising a new staging "that reinvigorates this timeless tale." Top DC actor Edward Gero is miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who takes us with him on a journey of transformation and redemption. Not all of the family shows concern dancing sugar plums and visits with Scrooge, however. Round House Theatre in Bethesda premieres Look Out Below! (December 4-20), developed by Happenstance Theater, and including a blend of whimsical imagery, physical comedy, and live music. The story is set at the end of the 19th century, and includes comic misadventures at the Circus, the Paris Metro, the Eiffel Tower, and the Moulin Rouge.

Venerable thespian Nancy Robinette has a sturdy vehicle this month at Studio Theatre, starring in Howard Teichmann and George S. Kaufman's The Solid Gold Cadillac (December 2 - January 10). Written in 1953, this pointed farce seems startlingly relevant today with its focus on the power of the individual in the face of corporate corruption. Robinette is Mrs. Laura Partridge, a minor stockholder in a major corporation who takes on the board of directors. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company marks the return of Chicago's The Neo-Futurists and their long-running late-night sensation Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes) (December 7 - January 2), following three sold-out runs at the theater the last two seasons. Woolly promises all new material, including a few holiday-tinged pieces mixed in with the set of 30 mini plays performed at a frantic pace. Rebellion, romance, a dead king, an evil prince, a surprised hero, and, of course, a beautiful princess are coming to 1st Stage, with their production of The Prisoner of Zenda (December 12 - January 3). The skilled new theater company based at Tyson's Corner says the swashbuckling epic will be "impassioned, full-blooded, convincingly thunderous and delightfully tongue-in-cheek" and appropriate for the entire family.

Keegan Theatre, known primarily for staging a mix of small-scale dramas from Irish playwrights and classic American plays, expands its reach this month with the rock opera Rent (Church Street Theater, December 17 - January 17). Using Puccini's La Boheme as its inspiration, Jonathan Larson's tuner tells the story of one year in the life of friends dealing with love, loss, and AIDS in 1980s New York. Look out, Judy Gold is back at Theater J, this time in Mommy Queerest (December 16 - January 3), an "edgy, multi-media comic memoir" with original music that offers the acerbic comedian's take on working gay moms, anti-depressants, nursing homes, and raising two boys in New York City.

And before we bring down the curtain on 2009, let's squeeze in one last family show, going back to the Kennedy Center for Teddy Roosevelt and the Ghostly Mistletoe (December 5-30). When the first President Roosevelt refuses to put a Christmas tree in the White House, his kids revolt. This is a sequel to the 2006 hit Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major, and is appropriate for kids age seven and up.

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