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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA theater for KCRW.

The holidays are upon us!

Which means LA theaters are filled with festive fare. Now a good holiday show can be a lifesaver for theater companies offering that rarest of dramatic commodities: predictability. Like The Nutcracker for the ballet, a seasonal hit you can remount year after year offers redemption for both the characters and the box office.

So in the spirit of holidays both past and present - here's a quick guide to find your perfect holiday theater tradition.

Let's start with the traditional - which when you're talking about Christmas plays naturally means A Christmas Carol.

South Coast Repertory wins the award for both consistency and longevity. This is the 34th year for their production! It's a straightforward 19th century Dickens classic. It's the kind of production that people grow up in: you'll read actor's bios with lines like, "I played one of the children 15 years ago". If you're looking for tradition, and you're willing to drive to Orange County, this is the Christmas Carol for you.

If Pasadena seems a little more manageable, A Noise Within is offering their take with a little less pageantry but still a solid production.

Now, with any tradition there are those who push against it.

Center Theatre Group is trying to get into the holiday game bringing back Second City's A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens for a second year. It's bawdy improv comedy and celebrity guest stars melded with holiday redemption.

If you're tastes are a little more daring, head to Noho and catch Zombie Joe's Underground production of A Christmas Carol. Zombie Joe's is a shoe box theater in the valley that puts their own unique dark stamp on everything they do. I have no idea what to expect but I guarantee it won't be anything like South Coast's.

If boozy, small town office party is more your holiday speed, head to the Pico Playhouse for Bob's Holiday Office Party - in it's 18th year. Set in Neuterburg, Iowa (population 382) this insurance agent's office party is directed this year by Justin Tanner (of Oklahomo and Pot Mom fame). So that should give you sense of the raunchy comedy mileu.

In the mood for both irreverent comedy and pop music? The Falcon Theatre is hosting the Troubadour Theater Company's latest holiday mash-up. The recipe is take a classic Christmas story and the music of a pop icon; past year's titles tell the story: A Charlie James Brown Christmas, It's a Stevie Wonderful Life. This year it's Walkin' in a Winter One-Hit Wonderland. It sells out every year so if this valley tradition sounds intriguing act fast.

And if this all sounds a little too irreverent, the Latino Theater Company is back with La Virgen de Guadalupe. In its 10th year, it's performed in Spanish with English subtitles. Join the faithful for this classic religious pageant play at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral downtown.

Happy theatrical holidays. Whew, I can't wait for the New Year!

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.


Banner image: A Christmas Carol at South Coast Repertory. Photo: Henry Di Rocco/SCR

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