Holiday Theater for the Whole Family

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

It's that time of year - the stores are filled with holiday music, the extended family's in the guest room, and our theaters are filled with family-friendly jingly fare.

Here's your quick guide on how to share a little live theater with the whole family while you frantically regain a little sanity.

Let's start with kooky Aunt Sally - you know the one with all the scarves who's been a hoot since Uncle Hal died. Take her to see Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward's farce, at the Ahmanson. It's the tour of the Broadway production starring Angela Lansbury - just tell Aunt Sally that that lovely woman from Murder She Wrote won a Tony for it.

Okay, next Timmy and Nina - the little ones. Take them downtown to see The Nutcracker at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. Let them sit on carpet and enjoy ice cream after the show. Come to think of it you can also include Cousin Clive who's majoring in Americana and Kitsch - this place is like stepping into a wonderful time warp but the kids still delight in it. Pay a little extra attention this year, Mr. Baker just passed away at 90. Everyone says the magic will keep going but better to catch it now than regret it later.

Next, we've got the 'tweens - Zach and Aiden. We need something with a little edge. How about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of Into the Woods? Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack of Beanstalk fame. Perfect, they'll think they're going to a movie and you'll spring some live Sondheim on 'em. It's at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

That leaves everyone who speaks Spanish and Esther from Portland who's really into community. How about 24th Street's Teatro del Pueblo production of La Víspera? 24th Street is one of LA's intimate theater gems you should really know about. Located just south of the 10 and just north of USC, they've completely embraced their neighbors and created a show from their immigrant stories. Appropriately, the show's in Spanish (with English subtitles) and ends with a Posada and tamales. It's hard to think of an LA theater that's more engaged with its community. It's "pay what you will" and for neighbors only 24 cents!

Who's left? George and Martha - the traditionalists. They're ham must be spiraled, their carols consistent, and their holiday must include a little Scrooge. You're in luck, you can get your Dickens either down at South Coast Repertory - where A Christmas Carol is in its 35th year - or in Pasadena at A Noise Within. Either way you'll have them covered.

Now if you want to be a little naughty you could take them to Zombie Joe's Underground version of A Christmas Carol - the name says it all. Trust me, it won't be anything like the one at South Coast. But after all what captures the spirit of Christmas quite like the undead? It's a shoe-box theater in the valley where there's always creative staging and more than a couple of inappropriate belly laughs. Definitely not family friendly but worth the trip.

That should take care of everyone on your list - let the holidays begin!

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

Photo:  Jim Cox/SCR