This Week in Arts: Weekly Roundup (12/8)

Some beloved Christmas traditions return this week, including a fearsome Santa, an anonymous cast, and a new iteration of The Harlem Nutcracker. Plus, loads more holiday shows for any mood, and a few non-holiday ones as well. 

Ticketing links for most shows can be found on the Performance Calendar page here.  


‘Tis the Season   

18th & Union: Emmett Montgomery presents Sugar Plum Gary 

An up-close encounter with the guy in red   
Runs 12/9 through 12/24. In Seattle (Central District).

Sugar Plum Gary answers questions about Christmas, December 9-24 at 18th & Union.

Does anybody have a question about Christmas? 

That question is a staple of the night, as Sugar Plum Gary — the only one to survive a visit from the mysterious Santa Claus — invites gatherers to ask questions about the holiday. You can ask just about anything you’d like, but you’re not likely to get an answer you’d expect.

Talking with Sugar Plum Gary has become something of an annual tradition for us weirdos who prefer to gather our Christmas warmth from quirky humor, community, and chosen families. Speaking of families — while the show isn’t exactly not-kid-friendly, it’s definitely oriented more toward adults than the younger Santa enthusiasts.

Tickets are $12-34 (sliding scale available to all), here. Streaming option also available for most show dates.

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The 14/48 Projects: Theater Anonymous, It’s a Wonderful Livestream  

No one knows the cast — not even the cast
Streams 12/11 online. On your screen.

In this Seattle tradition, Theater Anonymous reveals its mystery cast on December 11.

In a typical year, for one night only, the local theatre community would all dress up and converge in one large room to have drinks, decorate cookies, leap on Santa, and guess the cast in a rather strange but oh so Wonderful holiday tradition — watching a play that has never been rehearsed in full, and in which the many cast members might not even know each other until the big show.

And even cast mates who know each other well likely still don’t know they’re cast mates — per the “sworn to secrecy” rules, each cast member can only tell one person on earth that they’re in the performance. My favorite memory of this show — back in its live audience days — featured a married couple in which both were cast, but (it became clear) only one partner had revealed their secret to the other. When the (stealth) cast member rose to enter, the other shrieked audibly, sending a cascade of laughter through the hundreds in the audience. You can’t make this stuff up, and you can’t replicate it — outside the unique experience that is the Theater Anonymous tradition.

While the pandemic has changed things, it requires even more ingenuity and faith that the theatre magic will prevail. Last year, Theater Anonymous had to pivot to a fully online version, in which both performing and viewing all took place online. This year, they present a hybrid version, in which the actors will show up in the same place at (roughly) the same time, but audiences will view from afar. Keeping the cast unknown to each other when there’s no live audience to shroud them in secrecy has required a whole choreographed map of bunkers and entrance timing.

Grab a drink, a festive outfit (are there Christmas sweats?), and your favorite humans or pets, and tune in for the big reveals in this unique local theatre tradition.

Tickets are $14, or pay what you choose (sliding scale available to all), here.

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Spectrum Dance Theater: Donald Byrd’s The Harlem Nutcracker 

The Christmas dance tradition, reimagined  
Opens 12/9, closes 12/12. At Seattle Center.

Donald Byrd’s ‘The Harlem Nutcracker’ returns for its third workshop performance December 9-12, at Seattle Children’s Theatre.

For years, The Harlem Nutcracker — conceptualized and choreographed by Donald Byrd, who was then based in New York — enthralled New York audiences and toured the country. Now, long established in Seattle at Spectrum Dance Theater, Byrd has slowly developed and reinvented the show for Seattle audiences and responsive to modern events.

The story centers on a Black family, presented in distinct segments with the family matriarch at the center: hosting a party at the family home, reckoning with visions of explosive violence, and reuniting with her love.

The show blends festive costuming and staging, a jazz score, and Byrd’s signature modern ballet. It remains a workshop performance, but has been unveiled in pieces over the past two years: first at On the Boards, then on video during pandemic times.

Tickets are $25, or pay what you choose (sliding scale available to all), here.

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More Openings & Short Runs: 

Verlaine & McCann @ The Triple Door: Land of the Sweets – The Burlesque Nutcracker  (opening 12/8, closing 12/29). Ballet meets burlesque in this long-running, slightly more risque spin on the holiday classic dance. In Seattle (Downtown).

ACT Theatre: A Christmas Carol  (opening 12/9, closing 12/26). The classic returns for its 46th season. In Seattle (Downtown).

Macha Theatre Works: Holiday Celebration  (12/10 only). The theatre company hosts a free evening of short new works and celebration. Online.

Twelfth Night Productions: It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play  (opens 12/10, closing 12/19). An old-time radio show brings to life this Christmas classic. In West Seattle.

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Want to know more about all the It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol productions around town? Visit NWT’s guide here.

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Continuing Runs: 

Jet City Improv @ West of Lenin: Uncle Mike Ruins Christmas  (closing 12/18). You write down a heartwarming holiday memory. They re-enact it. Then Uncle Mike ruins it in ways no sane human should be able to imagine. In Seattle (Fremont).

Kitten N’ Lou @ OddFellows Hall: Jingle All the Gay!  (closing 12/18). Jingle All the Gay invites you into a chosen family of fabulous fruitcakes in a joyful and triumphant celebration of song, dance, burlesque, and holiday hilarity. Light your menorah, stuff your stockings, and revel in the power of live theatre with this deliciously queer and delectably extravagant holiday confection. In Seattle (Capitol Hill).

Renton Civic Theatre: It’s a Wonderful Life  (closing 12/18). George Bailey has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all — and it’s Christmas! As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence — who then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds over the years. In Renton.

Edmonds Driftwood Players: It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play  (closing 12/19). This beloved American holiday classic comes to captivating life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. With the help of a small ensemble that brings a few dozen characters to the stage, the story of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. In Edmonds.

Lakewood Playhouse: A Christmas Carol … More or Less  (closing 12/19). A couple on the verge of breaking up discovers their entire cast and crew are snowed out, and they’re snowed in. They undertake to perform the entire thing themselves; and as the show goes on, their personal story invades the Dickens tale and informs it with dual levels of meaning. In Lakewood (south of Tacoma).

Phoenix Theatre: Inspecting Carol  (closing 12/19). Behind the scenes of a struggling theatre’s annual clumsy production of A Christmas Carol, this laugh-out-loud spoof makes for a night at the theatre that is anything but show business as usual. In Edmonds.

Red Curtain Foundation for the Arts: The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’  (closing 12/19). A small theatre troupe tries to get through a production of A Christmas Carol, and it’s disaster-prone from the start — from broken-down transportation to collapsing scenery, line mix-ups to infighting. But they carry on, having a jolly good time along the way and bringing the audience along with them, with improvisational audience participation throughout. In Marysville.

Valley Center Stage: A Christmas Carol  (closing 12/19). Dickens’s holiday classic tells a story of second chances, transformation, forgiveness, and compassion. In North Bend.

Unexpected Productions: A(n Improvised) ‘Christmas Carol’  (closing 12/23). Based on audience suggestions, improvisers will weave Dickens’s tale in all sorts of hilarious ways. Each show is different, merging this literary classic with over 30 audience suggestions: Where does Scrooge work? What ails Tiny Tim? Does Scrooge even get reformed? It’s all up to you in this wild, hilarious, holiday ride. In Seattle (Pike Place Market).

Seattle Public Theater: Christmastown  (closing 12/24). In Seattle (Green Lake). In this film noir-inspired holiday thriller, hard-boiled detective Nick Holiday investigates some un-holiday-like shenanigans taking place in Christmastown, which send him on a search for the truth about Big Red. A glamorous elf, a used-Christmas-tree salesman, a muckraking reporter, and a quick-thinking cab driver round out this modern Seattle holiday tradition.

Theatre Off Jackson & Shoes and Pants Productions: Scott Shoemaker’s War on Christmas!  (closing 12/24). A cast of Seattle luminaries tries to figure out who’s fighting a war on Christmas, and what for? A night of comedy, songs, dance numbers, delightful videos, and partial nudity, featuring Adé, Waxie Moon, Mandy Price, and Faggedy Randy. In Seattle (International District).

Seattle Public Theater & The Habit: A Very Die Hard Christmas  (closing 12/26). Sketch writers from The Habit team up with SPT to create this holiday comedy perfect for those who like their Christmas entertainment with lots of action, ’80s jokes, smooth soft rock jams, and snarky German terrorists. In Seattle (Green Lake).

Village Theatre: Welcome Home: A Holiday Concert  (closing 12/26). Vocalists Andi Alhadeff, Kyle Nicholas Anderson, Jordon Bolden, Kataka Corn, and Shaunyce Omar sing Christmas songs and selections from musicals with a four-piece band. In Issaquah.

Pacific Northwest Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker  (closing 12/28). Ready to celebrate the holidays with renewed gusto? With its classic score, thrilling dance, resplendent costumes and scenery, and magical story, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is the perfect centerpiece of holiday cheer in the beautifully decked McCaw Hall. Read NWT’s review of the 2019 (most recent) production here. In Seattle (Seattle Center); streaming also available, beginning 12/20. 

Taproot Theatre: Babette’s Feast  (closing 12/30). Babette finds safety in a tiny mountain village, but petty squabbles and personal slights render the pious villagers as frigid and unforgiving as their surroundings. On one snowy December night, in an act of radical generosity, Babette prepares a feast so lavish that it awakens and transforms the brittle hearts in the village. In Seattle (Greenwood); streaming also available, beginning 12/3.

Harlequin Productions: A Christmas Carol  (closing 12/31). Hailed as the greatest ghost story ever told, this classic packs a healthy dose of cheer and family-friendly, ghostly special effects. With its first production of A Christmas Carol, Harlequin begins a new South Sound holiday tradition with a fresh adaptation of Charles Dickens’s timeless story of transformation, absolution, and grace. In Olympia.

Can Can Culinary Cabaret: Wonderland  (closing 1/9/2022). Celebrate the holidays with performers swinging from the chandeliers in a carnival of merriment, full of classic beauty and flirtatious artistry. The Can Can’s new, more spacious cabaret is transformed into a whimsical winter chalet, with a variety of food, wine, and spirit menus carefully crafted with local market-fresh winter ingredients, prepared to tantalize even the most refined palates. In Seattle (Pike Place Market).


Non-Holiday Fare 

The Shattered Glass Project, Ghosts: A Festival of Original One-Act Plays  (runs 12/10 & 11). Two days feature two separate lineups of original one-act plays about our personal ghosts, written and directed by the members of the TSGP Incubator/Mentor cohort. Online.

Dacha Theatre, Much Ado About Nothing  (opening 12/11, closing 12/19). In this production, the streets of Messina look very much like your favorite public access TV station. You’ll find quarreling lovers in front of the camera, scheming villains in the control booth, and inept heads of security trying to warm up the crowd. Enjoy a rollicking good time as you listen to the house band, settle into your seats, and get ready for hijinks on set as we cue “audience applause” for Much Ado About Nothing! In Seattle (Georgetown).

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Continuing Runs: 

Cafe Nordo, Curiouser and Curiouser: Down the Rabbit Hole and Feast of the Queens  (closing 12/19). Two separate shows form a food-centric theatrical experience, inspired by Alice in Wonderland. In Seattle (Pioneer Square).

Tacoma Musical Playhouse: Cinderella – Enchanted Edition  (closing 12/19). Inspired by the acclaimed 1997 teleplay starring Brandy and Whitney Houston, this version of the magical fairy tale is reborn with the Rodgers & Hammerstein hallmarks of originality, charm, and elegance. In Tacoma (west side/6th Ave.).

Centerstage Theatre: Puss in Boots  (closing 12/19). In this holiday pantomime, a fantastical mix-up brings a little luck, a little magic, and a very clever cat. In Federal Way (Dash Point).

ArtsWest: We’ve Battled Monsters Before  (closing 12/26). When you’re the youngest sibling in a family of secret warriors who for generations have protected Seattle from monsters and demons, living up to your Lola’s expectations is, in a word, daunting. Adarna’s mistakes were cute at first, but when they begin to cost her family more than she ever imagined, she must decide what she would sacrifice to save them. Loosely adapted from the 16th century Filipino epic poem  Ibong Adarna, playwright-composer-lyricist Justin Huertas returns to his  Lizard Boy roots with a sweet and intimate actor-musician musical adventure. In West Seattle.


Streaming Now  

A sampling of streaming shows, films, and audio dramas to play at your convenience. 

NW Film Forum: Manifest Destiny Jesus 

A Seattle-based look at colonization 
Streaming through 1/2/2022

‘Manifest Destiny Jesus’ delves into religion and gentrification, and looks to artists (such as Gigi White, shown here) for insight throughout the film.

This new film by theatre-makers Josh Aaseng, Daemond Arrindell & T. Geronimo Johnson (Welcome to Braggsville) is now in its second encore presentation.

Manifest Destiny Jesus — which refers to a specific image, but whose themes are woven throughout — premiered at this year’s Local Sightings film festival. The compelling, efficient 40-minute film looks at colonization through the lenses of religion (White Jesus, iconography, and evangelism) and gentrification, grounded in the history of each.

Avid theatre-goers will spot a lot of familiar faces from the stage — Brace Evans, Nick Edwards, Benjamin Hunter, Sarah Rudinoff, Dimitri Woods — alongside other artists and community leaders. This film brings a welcome opportunity to hear from the humans behind the stage presences, on locally rooted issues that impact us all.

Tickets for the online screening are $5-25 (sliding scale available to all), here.

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Cornish College of the Arts: Streaming Theater Festival  (closing 12/11). Cornish students present several productions, all online: She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms, Pippin, Tiger Beat, Senior Cabaret, and Senior Thesis Productions. Online.

Sound Theatre Company: Changer: A Hand Telling  (streaming now). Released last year as a radio play, renowned Deaf storyteller Howie Seago worked with original adapters Fern Naomi Renville and Roger Fernandes to create this first-of-its-kind, signed film featuring two Deaf Native storytellers. This film takes the original audio and augments it with gorgeous Lower Elwha S’Klallam landscapes and visual-storytelling created for the screen. Online; info here.

Book-It Repertory Theatre: The Three Musketeers  (audio only; streaming now). Spring of 1625 is the perfect time for a young adventurer to seek his fortune. And so, D’Artagnan makes his way from Gascony to Paris to enter the ranks of the King’s musketeers. The three favorites of that old guard — Athos, Porthos, and Aramis — befriend the boy and take his battles on as their own (one for all, and all that), with minor detours into illicit love affairs and palace intrigue. Lamar Legend adapts the classic Alexandre Dumas tale in an audio play, featuring Trick Danneker, Porscha Shaw, Nicholas JaPaul Bernard, Nathaniel Tenenbaum, Kathy Hsieh, Kate Jaeger, and more. Online; info here.

Book-It Repertory Theatre: Zen and the Art of an Android Beatdown (audio only; streaming now). Cecile dreams of falling, but her work on the android keeps her grounded. She works to keep him safe, to improve his speed and stamina so that he can continue boxing with minimal risk. But, this isn’t what he wants. He needs to feel the pain of getting hit to know that he is real, that he is himself and not just a series of recycled chips, code, and battered parts. Gin Hammond adapts Tochi Onyebuchi’s journey to the heart of identity and connection into an audio play, featuring Mandy Rose Nichols, Tim Gouran, Annette Toutonghi, and more. Online; info here.


Want to plan your show schedule further out? See NWT’s Performance Calendar, which aims to list just about every theatre show in town.

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.