December 2022 Theater Guide: Three Nutcrackers, Two Carols, and a Cinderella

Sugar Plum Fairy dancing with partner in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' (Photo: Rosalie O'Connor)

The Sugar Plum Fairy dancing with partner in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s ‘The Nutcracker.’ (Photo: Rosalie O’Connor)

There are plenty of theater sugar plums this month. A fan of The Nutcracker? You have three different productions to choose from—Pittsburgh Ballet, Texture Contemporary Ballet, and Lincoln Park. Or you could go see all three!

And how about two Christmas Carols? Pittsburgh Musical Theater (PMT) has their annual tradition, A Lyrical Christmas Carol onstage. Pittsburgh CLO is running their A Musical Christmas Carol.

Looking for something a little more secular? Pittsburgh Playhouse is producing Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella and The Wanderers continues at City Theatre. There truly is something for everyone in the Entertainment Central Theater Guide stocking.

These shows and more are previewed below in three tiers. Spotlight Picks for the month are followed by Other Shows of Interest, and then a look-ahead to Big Shows on the Horizon. Productions are listed by run dates within each category. Mike Vargo (M.V.), C. Prentiss Orr (C.P.O.)  and Rick Handler (R.H.) contributed to this guide.

Spotlight Picks

A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL by Phillip Grecian. Pittsburgh Public Theater. November 30 – December 18.

A Christmas Story: The Musical. Based on the 1983 movie, which was based on stories by storyteller/writer Jean Shepherd—hey, after thousands of years of recorded human history, it’s getting hard to come up with new plots, so no complaints about adaptations, please!—based on the movie A Christmas Story, this musical relates the humorous and heartwarming tale of a little boy in 1940s Indiana who wants a BB gun for Christmas. Indiana in the 1940s? You’d have to do a lot of shopping to find anything that’s more vintage Americana. Cultural District. O’Reilly Theater
621 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (M.V.)

THE NUTCRACKER (ballet) by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Texture Contemporary Ballet with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra. Dec. 3, 4 (August Wilson Center), and 10 (Palace Theatre). 

Texture Contemporary Ballet is staging their production of 'The Nutcracker' in Pittsburgh and Greensburg. (Photo courtesy of Texture Contemporary Ballet)

Texture Contemporary Ballet is staging their production of ‘The Nutcracker’ in Pittsburgh and Greensburg. (Photo courtesy of Texture Contemporary Ballet)

Yes, you can see The Nutcracker in Greensburg! It has been a Tchaikovsky tradition with Pittsburgh’s Texture Contemporary Ballet and the Westmoreland Symphony teaming up to keep the good times going. At Greensburg’s landmark venue The Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. Texture will also be performing the traditional holiday production at the August Wilson Center sans the live orchestra on December 3 and 4. The Nutcracker will feature choreography by Texture’s Artistic Director, Alan Obuzo and Texture’s Associate Artistic Director, Kelsey Bartman, who is co-creator of WIP Choreography Project. There will be over 70 performers in Texture’s The Nutcracker. 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. (M.V., R.H.)

RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA (musical), adapted by Douglas Carter Beane. Pittsburgh Playhouse Conservatory Theatre. December 7 – 11. 

Calli Brielle McIntyre plays the lead role of Cinderella in the Playhouse production.

Calli Brielle McIntyre plays the lead role of Cinderella in the Playhouse production.

When people say “Cinderella story,” do you think of (a) the 15th seed that beats high seeds in the NCAA hoops tournament, or (b) the ancient folk tale found in many cultures? There is a (c) and it’s happening near you. The Conservatory Theatre Company at Pittsburgh Playhouse is staging Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, an updated version of the famous duo’s original. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II created their musical as a live TV special in 1957. Various stage adaptations followed, with the most remarkable being the one by playwright Douglas Carter Beane, which premiered on Broadway in 2013. Beane revised Hammerstein’s book and added some songs that had been cut from other Rodgers and Hammerstein shows. In this version, Cinderella is socially conscious. She informs the Prince that injustice and oppression run rampant in his domain, due to a wicked chancellor who’s been playing dirty tricks in the government. Will the good guys restore order? Suffice it to say that in the end, the glass slipper fits. Beane’s Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is OK for kids. The Saturday matinee performance is a family friendly performance with lobby activities like magic crafts and photos with the cast before and after the show. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 350 Forbes Ave., Downtown. (M.V.)

THE NUTCRACKER (ballet) by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, choreographed and conceived by Terrence S. Orr. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. December 9 – 28. 

The Spanish Dance scene from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' (Photo: Rosalie O'Connor)

The Spanish Dance scene from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s ‘The Nutcracker.’ (Photo: Rosalie O’Connor)

Here comes the ballet that even non-ballet fans enjoy. The Nutcracker provides a big share of annual ticket sales for ballet companies across the nation, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production is among the grandest. It was developed by former PBT artistic director Terrence S. Orr, who drew in part from the original 1892 choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. But Orr also studied contemporary versions, then teamed with his PBT colleagues to create a one-of-a-kind synthesis of classical ballet, modern artistry, and stunning stagecraft. (See the background story here.) This Nutcracker is set at an old-time Christmas party in Pittsburgh at the turn of the last century. Then, as we move into the realm of fantasy—with the Nutcracker doll coming to life and leading a cast of adult and child dancers through a visit to the Land of Enchantment—there are dazzling special dances, amazing magic tricks, and breathtaking stage effects. The music of course is by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Benedum Center. 237 7th St., Cultural District. (M.V.)

A MUSICAL CHRISTMAS CAROL (play with music) by David H. Bell, from the Dickens story. Pittsburgh CLO. December 9 – 23. 

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is considered schmaltz by some but high art by others. In Japan, the novella has been viewed as one of the great works of English literature—“possibly in a league with Hamlet,” one Japanese scholar wrote. Distinguished actors who’ve played Ebenezer Scrooge range from Lionel Barrymore to, memorably, Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, with Kermit and Miss Piggy as Bob and Mrs. Cratchit. In Pittsburgh CLO’s production of A Musical Christmas Carol, Scrooge is played by Broadway and TV star Michael Cerveris, winner of two best-actor Tony Awards (for his roles as John Wilkes Booth in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins and the domineering dad in Fun Home). Other cast members include Jerreme Rodriguez and Lisa Ann Goldsmith as the Cratchits, plus Daniel Krell as both Marley’s ghost and young, very-much-alive Marley. The latter was not in Dickens’ original story but he shows up here because CLO uses an adaptation by American playwright David H. Bell, who added scenes that help to flesh out the narrative nicely. A Musical Christmas Carol plays at the Byham Theater. 101 6th St., Cultural District. (M.V.)

A LYRICAL CHRISTMAS CAROL (musical) by Ken and Jane Gargaro, from the Dickens story. Pittsburgh Musical Theater. December 13 – 18. 

A toast to Holiday traditions, including PMT's 'A Lyrical Christmas Carol.'

A toast to holiday traditions, including PMT’s ‘A Lyrical Christmas Carol.’

The centuries have seen countless stage versions of the Christmas tale by Charles Dickens, and a longtime standard here in Pittsburgh is Ken and Jane Gargaro’s A Lyrical Christmas Carol. Ken Gargaro was founding director of the Pittsburgh Musical Theater school and performance center. He wrote A Lyrical Christmas Carol with Jane and premiered the show in 1991. It has been delighting local audiences ever since. This year’s show features up-and-coming young performers from the PMT school along with professional artists Richard McBride as Scrooge and Rob Jessup as The Narrator. A Lyrical Christmas Carol includes song-and-dance numbers that will send you home in a supercharged holiday spirit. At PMT’s Gargaro Theater, 327 S. Main St., West End. (M.V.) 

THE NUTCRACKER (ballet) by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. Dec. 15 – 18. 

In case any newcomers to our city wondered: Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center is not related to the Chicago zoo of the same name. It is a regional hub of arts activity in Midland, just down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, and an annual production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is a highlight there. One Lincoln Place, Midland. (M.V.)


THE WANDERERS by Anna Ziegler. City Theatre. Through December 18.

Life tests us––well beyond the challenging years of SAT tests––to compare and contrast. In Anna Ziegler’s highly acclaimed wistful drama, The Wanderers, two couples play out their marriages in comparative strokes of introspection and dreams. Esther and Schmuli are two young Orthodox Jews in a traditional arranged marriage. Abe and Sophie, more modern and more fascinated with secular ideals of fame and fortune, follow more common paths to marital happiness. But, as a novelist and near-narrator of his own story, Abe flirts with temptation and, like a serpent, it bites back in ways that pose for each couple the elusive mysteries of true love. Ziegler, whose popular plays include The Last Match, Boy, and Photograph 51, has won huge praise for this sweet, wryly funny, dive into what makes humans happy. The DC Theatre Scene even lauded it as “the perfect play.” City Theatre presents The Wanderers at 1300 Bingham St., South Side. (C.P.O.)

Other Shows of Interest:
(By opening date)

December 1
Miracle on 34th Street Musical (Little Lake)

December 16
Amahl & the Night Visitors and The Ballad of the Brown King  (Resonance Works at New Hazlett)

December 29
Holiday Dreams (Benedum Center)

Big Shows on the Horizon

January 3
Hairspray (PNC Broadway)

January 21
Ariodante (Pittsburgh Opera)
What the Constitution Mean to Me (City Theatre)

January 24
Jagged Little Pill (PNC Broadway)

Mike Vargo and C. Prentiss Orr are Pittsburgh-based writers who cover the performing and visual arts for Entertainment Central. Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central. 

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