Many companies around town are bringing back crowd-pleasers from past seasons, stressing family-friendly shows based on children’s classics.
Yet some are bucking the trend, with a few surprises for those seeking something other than fairy tales and seasonal chestnuts.
That girl with the glass slipper is back for her third holiday season at the Ensemble Theatre. As “The Wiz” did to “The Wizard of Oz,” the Ensemble’s version brings a contemporary African-American spin to the fairy tale — adding fresh style and sass, without losing the age-old story’s basic innocence. Nov. 15-Dec. 23, at the Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main. 713-520-0055.
Love Goes to Press
For those seeking something they haven’t seen before, here’s perhaps the season’s most promising option. Main Street Theater is presenting the Houston premiere of Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles’ romantic comedy about two women war correspondents working at a press camp on the Italian front in 1944. Informed by its authors’ real-life experience as journalists, the romantic comedy was produced on Broadway in 1947, but not seen again until off-Broadway’s Mint Theatre Company rediscovered it earlier this year— to great reviews. MST has a track record making the most of such neglected gems and this bids to prove another. Nov. 23-Dec. 16 at Main Street Theatre, 2540 Times. 713-524-6706.
Another top pick for fans of more grown-up fare, David Lindsay Abaire’s dark comedy centers on a lonely teenage girl trapped in an elderly body because of a disease that makes her age five times faster than normal. Acclaimed off-Broadway in 2000, the play depicts the heroine’s struggles with her dysfunctional family and the bond she forms with another misfit. Abaire has emerged in recent years as one of America’s foremost young playwrights; his other important works include “Good People” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Rabbit Hole.” Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Company, at Spring Street Studios, 101 Spring. 832-418-0973.
Winter Wonderettes Those four “Marvelous Wonderettes, “ the close-harmony singing sweethearts of their high school (c. 1960), return in this Yuletide sequel to the popular nostalgic revue. Both shows keep coming back to Stages because — well, they’re just so darned popular with audiences. Never underestimate the appeal of “cute and perky.” Now through Dec. 30 at Stages Repertory Theatre. 713-527-0123.
Panto Mother Goose
For the fifth holiday season, Stages serves up a Texas take on the traditional British “panto” — a loose-knit family musical that leaves room for vaudeville-style clowning, topical/regional references and audience participation. This year, Mother Goose and her gang get the treatment in a new show with music by David Nehls, book and lyrics by Stages’ artistic director Kenn McLaughlin. Nov. 21-Jan. 6 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. 713-527-0123.
Sanders Family Christmas
The heart-warming bluegrass troupe returns in Connie Ray and Alan Bailey’s seasonal sequel to “Smoke on the Mountain.” The occasion is their 1941 Christmas Eve service for soldiers about to be shipped off to World War II. Both Sanders shows have proved favorites with A.D. Players’ audiences in several past stagings. Nov. 21-Dec.31 at A.D. Players, 2710 W. Alabama. 2710 W. Alabama. 713-526-2721.
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
Things go all wrong for self-sacrificing George Bailey until a bumbling apprentice angel sets them right one Christmas Eve. Back for its second Christmas season at Texas Rep, Joe Landry’s adaptation re-tells the classic Frank Capra film in the format of a 1940s radio play. Nov. 29-Dec. 23 at Texas Repertory Theatre Co., 14243 Stuebner Airline. 281-583-7573.
A Chorus Line
Touring production of the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about the lives of Broadway dancers. 8 p.m. Nov. 23, 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 24. The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice. 800-821-1894.
More guides for holiday fun :