Stage for the season: Productions to get you in the holiday spirit

Dancer Alena Brocker in Into the Light!

Vanaver Caravan performs Into the Light! this Saturday at Sinterklaas in Rhinebeck, Sunday at Ellenville High School

Happy Holidays! There are many of them celebrated around the world this waning time of year, and what they all have in common is a symbolic reassurance that light will return to overthrow darkness. Whichever happens to be your family tradition, it’s a broadening and deepening experience to understand the variants on this universal theme in diverse cultures.

In collaboration with Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, Ulster County’s multicultural dance and music troupe the Vanaver Caravan developed a seasonal stage extravaganza called Into the Light! which takes audiences on a world tour guided by young Lucia (the Pagan personification of light, syncretized over time into a Christian saint who is venerated this month in Scandinavia). The narrative created by Isabel Cottingham, Miranda ten Broeke, Livia Vanaver and Patrick Wadden follows Lucia’s travels through many communities to witness light-related holiday traditions associated with Chanukah, Diwali, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Sankta Lucia, the Winter Solstice and Yule.

This is the third year that the Vanaver Caravan’s Youth Company and CaravanKids have been performing Into the Light! at various venues, incorporating live music, puppetry and dance. And now a new artists-in-residence program called CaravanKids in Ellenville has been established at the Ellenville Public Library & Museum, hosting workshops for local youth. The result will be a performance of this tuneful, colorful pageant for the whole family this Sunday afternoon at the Ellenville High School Auditorium, located at 28 Maple Avenue, featuring the vocal duo Barely Lace as special guests. Into the Light! begins at 2 p.m. on December 6; admission is by a $5 donation at the door. For more information, call the library at (845) 647-5530 or visit

And this Saturday, December 5, if you’re planning to attend Rhinebeck’s Sinterklaas Celebration, you can catch 30-minute excerpts of Into the Light! at the Church of the Messiah, located at 6436 Montgomery Street. Performances begin at 2, 3 and 4 p.m., and admission is free! To find out more, visit


Greetings! at Ellenville’s Shadowland Theatre

When 30ish Andy Gorski brings his atheist Jewish fiancée Randi home to Pittsburgh at Christmastime to meet his Archie-and-Edith-Bunkerish blue-collar Catholic parents and developmentally disabled brother Mickey, all Hell predictably breaks loose – but not quite in the expected way. Mickey, who has never said a word in his life besides “Wow” and “Oh boy,” is suddenly moved to utter the word “Greetings!” Soon he’s in full flow, spouting what appears to be ancient, universal wisdom. Is he ill, possessed or is it a holiday miracle?

That’s the premise of Tom Dudzick’s touching stage comedy Greetings! (not to be confused with Brian DePalma’s 1968 film about a Vietnam-era draft-dodger) which ran Off-Broadway in the 1990s. Opening this Friday, December 4 at the Shadowland Theatre, the play will be the first-ever holiday production for Ellenville’s 184-seat, Art Deco vaudeville house.

Shadowland’s artistic director Brendan Burke directs, and the cast includes Bernie Sheredy, David Yaskin, Justin Pietropaolo, Sally Minich and Molly Densmore. The show runs through December 20, with showtimes at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sunday matinées. There will be an extra 2 p.m. performance this Saturday, December 5 as part of the communitywide Wawarsing Wassail celebration.

Regular ticket prices are $39 for evening performances and $34 for matinées. Special $20 discount tickets will be available for Ulster County residents (with ID) for three performances: on Saturday, December 5 at 2 p.m. and Thursdays, December 10 and 17 at 8 p.m. More information is available at the box office at 157 Canal Street in Ellenville, by phone at (845) 647-5511 and online at


Scrooge and Son: A Catskills Christmas Carol in Tannersville

In early December, quite a few stages in our region are graced with performances of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet The Nutcracker, others with Dickens’ spirits-laced A Christmas Carol. But there appears to be only one venue doing a mashup of both, with some post-Civil War local history tossed into the mix: the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Orpheum Film & Performing Arts Center in Tannersville, where this weekend the Kaaterskill Actors’ Theater and the Petite Productions Academy present their second annual production of Scrooge and Son: A Catskills Christmas Carol. And yes, there’s some ballet in it.

“Can a handful of orphan ballet dancers, armed only with The Nutcracker, bring down Ebenezer Scrooge and his evil cohorts before they destroy the beautiful Catskill forests? Join us at Scrooge & Son to find out,” says the official synopsis.

Where in the source material the poison comes from, or the orphans or the threatened trees, the PR materials don’t specify; but we do know that there’s “a cast of 30 (young and old),” with the ubiquitous Phillip X Levine in the role of “everyone’s favorite Mean Old Man.” Director Jim Milton did the adaptation.

Curtain time is 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, December 4 and 5 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 6. Tickets at the door cost $10 general admission, $5 for children, cash only (“Scrooge does not accept credit cards”). For reservations, e-mail [email protected] or visit The Orpheum is located at 6050 Main Street (Route 23A) in Tannersville.


Half Moon Theatre performs “streamlined” Christmas Carol at CIA

Photo of Darrell James as Scrooge by Jennifer Kiaba

For three weeks in December, Half Moon Theatre (HMT) is bringing some holiday sparkle to its new home at the Marriott Pavilion at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park. The Poughkeepsie-based troupe will present what it describes as a “streamlined, highly theatrical,” “funny, dynamic and fast-paced new adaptation” of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. There will be 12 performances from December 4 to 19.

“We were delighted to discover this exciting adaptation by Patrick Barlow, which premiered at the Delaware Theatre Company in 2012,” says HMT managing director Kristy Grimes. Barlow, creator of the Tony award-winning The 39 Steps, “highlights the humor and spookiness of the tale – with lots of physicality, as the actors have to continually ‘transform’ into different characters – but without losing the heart of the story.” A cast of five plays all the characters, including Darrell James as Scrooge along with Wayne Pyle, Maria Silverman, Shona Tucker and Ryan Walter. Michael Schiralli directs.

Performances of A Christmas Carol begin at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19; at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, December 5, 6, 12, 13 and 19; and at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16. Ticket prices range from $22 to $50, with a special meet-the-cast reception following the December 5 evening show and a talkback after the December 13 matinée. Call (800) 838-3006 or visit to purchase tickets.

The CIA’s Bocuse Restaurant, American Bounty and Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici are offering special dining options for theatre patrons preceding some of the shows. For details and reservations, call (945) 905-4533 or e-mail [email protected].


Ulster Ballet Company’s Christmas Carol at UPAC in Kingston

It’s that time of year again: Countless stage productions of A Christmas Carol and ballet companies dancing Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker will soon be competing for a piece of your holiday ticket-buying budget. But for two decades now, the Ulster Ballet Company (UBC) has been presenting its own version of Dickens’ seasonal classic, choreographed and directed by Sara Miot, formerly of the New York City Ballet. Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge gets his comeuppance from the three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come in his nightshirt, not a tutu, but it’s still a gas to see these iconic characters have to get up and dance. And it’s tempting to imagine the ghost of tap phenomenon/local hero Peg Leg Bates smiling down from the balcony upon the hoofing efforts of Tiny Tim with his crutch.

UBC’s 21st annual spectacular presentation of A Christmas Carol returns to the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston this weekend, with performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 4, at 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 5 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 6. Tickets cost $22 general admission, $18 for seniors and Bardavon members and $15 for children aged 12 and under. UBC is offering a $15 discounted ticket price to employees of HealthQuest, Health Alliance, the Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center, Marist, Bard and Vassar Colleges, the City of Kingston and County of Ulster, as well and YMCA members with employee/student ID or membership card. Tickets can be purchased at the UPAC box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088 or via Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or For more info, visit or


NYCA performs A Charlie Brown Christmas live at Woodstock Playhouse

In its initial incarnation as an animated TV special, first airing in 1965 and going on to become a perennial holiday tradition, A Charlie Brown Christmas introduced two iconic cultural memes. One is the unwanted little evergreen that the title character rescues from a Christmas tree lot, practically bare of needles and so flimsy that its top droops way over from the weight of a single ornament. It’s unusual to go tree-shopping without spotting some hapless candidate for the title of “Charlie Brown’s tree.” The other is Vince Guaraldi’s irresistible piano instrumental “Linus and Lucy,” which quickly became a jazz standard, the default Peanuts theme song and eventually even wakeup music for astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle.

The sales of aluminum Christmas trees (a horrific memory of many Baby Boomers) plummeted to nearly nothing within two years of the first airing of the Peanuts special, in which such glitzy substitutes for real conifers are treated as emblematic of the commercialization of Christmas. Another fun factoid: When the original cast was recording the voices for A Charlie Brown Christmas, the members of Jefferson Airplane were cutting a record in the studio next door and stopped in to ask the child actors for their autographs.

A Charlie Brown Christmas made the leap to the stage with live actors a while back, and the Woodstock Playhouse will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the TV special by presenting the theatrical version this weekend, performed by the youth ensemble from the New York Conservatory for the Arts. Also on the bill will be a production of Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester.

A Charlie Brown Christmas live onstage at the Woodstock Playhouse begins at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, December 4 and 5, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 6. Tickets cost $21 general admission, $18 for seniors, students and children, and can be purchased by calling the box office at (845) 679-6900 or online at



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