The Portland Phoenix

On Stage: Yuletide stagings are right around the corner

Northbound conduct the St. Lucia Day Procession in 2021

Northbound conduct the St. Lucia's Day Procession at Mayo Street Arts in 2021. (Photo courtesy of Mayo Street Arts/Nicole Byrne)

The holidays are nigh, and our theatrical and musical festivities will once again be back live and on stages. Here are a few highlights of the season’s offerings.

One of my favorite treats last year was Fenix Theatre Company’s scintillating holiday-themed (and musical!) adaptation of “Twelfth Night.” I’m thrilled to report that the show returns to Stevens Square Community Center for another run of free (donations suggested)
Shakespearean antics and absolution (Dec. 7-18).

Portland Stage rings in the holiday season with satire: “A Tuna Christmas” (Nov. 30-Dec. 24) is the Yuletide edition of the “Tuna” plays, a series of bitterly comic sendups of the life and values of Tuna, Texas (and America at large). These plays arose in reaction against the Moral Majority and the Republican Party of the 1990s; 30 years later, perhaps we can again stand a dose of that darkly cathartic laughter — especially after the midterms.

On the side of more classical cheer, Merrill Auditorium presents favorite holiday fare in its
stately edifice. A triptych of offerings kicks off with Maine State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
(Nov. 15-Dec. 4), followed by the time-honored “The Magic of Christmas” concert (Dec. 9-19), and finally concluding Portland Ballet’s “A Victorian Nutcracker” (Dec. 22-23).

If you’re looking for something a little racier in the dance department to bring your in-laws to, you’ll rejoice to hear that Vivid Motion is up and at ‘em again, at the St. Lawrence Arts Center. In “’Twas the Night Before…Burlesque” (Dec. 9-11 and 14-18), the reindeer that should appear before the speaker’s wondering eyes are the “frisky” ones.

Perhaps you’re already eager to re-encounter George Bailey’s life-affirming seasonal
epiphanies, and you can enjoy them onstage as well as in black-and-white. The Footlights
Theater, in Falmouth, presents the adaptation “It Was a Wonderful Life,” a holiday show
inspired by the Frank Capra jewel and adapted by Michael J. Tobin (Dec. 8-27).

And another classic adapted by Tobin, this time “A Christmas Carol,” comes to the Players’ Ring in Portsmouth (Dec. 2-22). The show is being billed as leaning on action rather than exposition and as including over 100 costume pieces and wigs, so I can only imagine the frightfulness of Jacob Marley rattling his chains.

Just how many times has that Dickens novella been re-iterated, and re-re-iterated? An
adaptation of a film adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” takes the stage at Lyric Music Theater, which mounts “Scrooge! The Musical” (Dec. 2-18). You might be thinking that the film source for this is the 1990s Bill Murray vehicle — but nope, that’s “Scrooged,” with the title character turned past participle. Rather, Lyric’s show revisits the 1970 film in which Albert Finney plays the famous grinch.

Finally, for a luminous holiday ritual with music, head to Mayo Street Arts to celebrate the
Scandinavian festival of lights, St. Lucia’s Day, with the vocal group Northbound (Dec. 10-11). A candlelight Lucia procession kicks off the evening, before the all-women group’s ethereal five-part harmonies remind us of the light to be found in the dark.

Megan Grumbling is a writer, editor, and teacher who lives in Portland. Find her at

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