“A Christmas Carol” – Actors Theatre and “Times Square Angel” – Nearly Naked Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ December 15, 2008


Center State, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ
Nearly Naked Theatre, The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

There’s nothing better at this time of year than Actors Theatre’s glorious “A Christmas Carol” production. After 17 seasons, it gets better, more endearing, and more joyously festive each year. Watching wealthy Ebenezer Scrooge’s magical transformation into a caring and believing man seems to have special relevance during this economically challenging period. It’s this community’s most fabulous holiday show.

In addition to this traditional chestnut, this season also brought Nearly Naked Theatre’s non-traditional “Times Square Angel.” It’s a silly and irreverent hoot of a drag show that spoofs old Hollywood movies and pushy, money-grubbing stars. While at opposite extremes, both shows stress the critical holiday message that giving is better than receiving.


Matthew Wiener’s warmly touching “A Christmas Carol” is strong because of a wonderful cast that remains almost constant each season. Initially, the production stresses the foreboding part of Charles Dickens tale as Scrooge’s dour and uncaring nature haunts him. This production’s charm is in how these heavy scenes are so well blended with festive holiday joy in the story’s promising parts. The warmth of Bob Cratchit’s poor family who knows how to count its blessings is uplifting here. The production is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes, just as it has for me all the years this tale has been presented in Weiner’s endearing staging. You can’t go wrong with this holiday gem that plays through December 24. For tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or go online at www.actorstheatrePHX.org.

Grade: A


Charles Busch’s “Times Square Angel” allows Nearly Naked Theatre’s artistic director Damon Dering a chance to take center stage as he transforms himself into Irish O’Flannagan, an opportunistic nightclub singer who uses every chance she gets to extend her stage career and increase her wealth. But, like Scrooge, Irish has a fateful Christmas Eve dream. Irish is called on the carpet for stepping on so many people to get ahead. Like Scrooge, she dreams her end will come if she doesn’t turn over a new leaf and respect those around her.

Dering is deliciously droll playing Irish. He flounces around in a series of outlandishly garish gowns. Put Dering in a dress and hilarity results.

Tim Shawver’s production is fast and loose as it turns this parody into a delightful spoof. The rest of the cast gets in on the fun and milks the malarkey with the same hilarious abandon as Dering. “Times Square Angel” is not for holiday traditionalists but if you want to laugh and still be reminded that this season is about caring and sharing, this show will do it with entertaining delight. It plays through December 20. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or go online at www.nearlynakedtheatre.org.

Grade: A