Capsule Reviews

Children of Eden Adam (James Wesley) and Eve (Kia Dawn Fulton) dance around the garden with God (Keith Ferguson) and lots of little children dressed as animals. The Stephen Schwartz musical comes nowhere close to the composer's hits, Wicked and Godspell. It's really more church youth pageant than professional theater. By the time the second act gets all those cute critters to march into Noah's ark, we're flooded with nostalgia for a better Bible musical, The Apple Tree, Bock and Harnick's snappy 1966 take on paradise, based on Mark Twain's "Extracts from Adam's Diary." Eden just isn't all that tempting. Through January 14 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St., 214-871-3300. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

The Winter Wonderettes Addison's WaterTower Theatre plays it light and lively with its new Christmas musical revue. A singing female foursome (Marisa Diotalevi, Stacey Oristano, Mary Gilbreath, Megan Elizabeth Kelly) don gaudy apparel and gigantic wigs to entertain at the hardware store's annual holiday party. In close harmony they do the usual Santa and Rudolph-dominant songs, but throw in some nice oddities such as "Mele Kalikimaka" (sung in Hawaiian, sort of) and the wistful "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day." Audience participation brings three patrons onstage for a little bell-jingling and nerve-jangling. It's a cutesy concept (created by Roger Bean, directed by Cheryl Denson) carried off well by this professional cast of comedians. Watch for Diotalevi's return after intermission. Has her character, the bitter Betty Jean, been nipping at the spiked eggnog? Through December 23 at WaterTower Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, 972-450-6232. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

A Christmas Carol Dallas Theater Center outdoes every previous production of its annual classic with a new musical adaptation by Richard Hellesen and David de Berry. Actor Robin Chadwick is the quintessential Scrooge, made all the more interesting by his well-tempered transition from miserly old grump into charity-minded hero. A cast loaded with local talent--Chamblee Ferguson as Bob Cratchit, Liz Mikel as Ghost of Christmas Present--sings and dances with great merriment. Truly one the whole family will enjoy and remember. Continues through December 24 at Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-522-8999. Reviewed December 8. (E.L.)

A Very FIT Christmas The Festival of Independent Theatres attempts a holiday minifest of new 10-minute plays, short bits of storytelling, musical interludes and other nonsense. The only thing worth seeing is Scott A. Eckert's astonishing one-man musical version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, sung in counterpoint to recorded Christmas carols. Eckert's performance lights up an otherwise unremarkable series of grim Yuletide tributes. Continues through December 18 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive, 214-670-8570. Reviewed December 8. (E.L.)

The Gift of the Magi O. Henry's classic tale of a young couple whose love is larger than their gift budget turns into an elegant and heartwarming Christmas play thanks to a clever adaptation by Dallas writer-actor Lee Trull. Additional words from other stories by O. Henry are woven into the short-short story of Della (Elise Reynard) and James (Steven Walters), newlyweds who live in a sparsely furnished flat in 1907 Manhattan. Directed by Matthew Gray for his Classical Acting Company, this Magi is a revival with the same cast as last year's successful production. At just 65 minutes, the play feels just long enough, and the quiet grace of the two lead actors casts a powerful spell. As Christmas messages go, this one--about unselfishness and the depth of true love--has it all. Add the delight of O. Henry's ironic ending and you have yourself one nice night at the theater. Through December 22 at The Arena Theatre, Fannin Hall, Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road, 214-505-1655. Reviewed December 1. (E.L.)

Jack and the Beanstalk Theatre Britain carries on its annual tradition of staging a "panto," the wildly over-the-top musical comedy built on a favorite fairy tale. As is customary, the leading lady's role is played by a man (Mark Shum, hustling his bustle as Jack's flirty mum), and the leading boy's role is played by a young girl (Kit Givens). All storytelling halts for some audience sing-alongs and lots of ad-libs of a bawdy nature from the drag characters. Sue Birch directs a cute cast and keeps the jokes flying, including some clever visuals during the glow-in-the-dark scene changes. Just 90 minutes long, this production entertains young folk with fast-moving action and silliness, and the grown-ups can count on plenty of nudge-wink-nudge by the inimitable Mr. Shum. Great fun. Through December 18 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180, 972-490-4202. Reviewed December 1. (E.L.)

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