Theater Scene

Tuna Christmas: It's back: that better-than-most holiday sequel to Greater Tuna, this one about Christmas in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas. The good news is that the script for this Yuletide comedy is full of dark, cynical jabs at both the holidays and small-town life. It starts out like any warm-hearted play about small-town life on the day before Christmas, but a few minutes with the oddball residents of this fictional town as they attempt to cope with several personal traumas — big-deal things, like the town's super-competitive annual yard-decorating contest — and you realize that this is a good-natured but still mocking salute to this stressful time of year. The show's creators, Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, performed the original on Broadway and in its pre-Broadway run, but we're obviously not getting those guys at Greyhound Park. Still, the script is so tight it's nearly foolproof. Through Dec. 31 at Copperstate Dinner Theatre at Phoenix Greyhound Park, 3801 E. Washington St. in Phoenix. Call 602-279-3129 for meal times and curtain times.

Seussical: This cheerful tuner based on the much-loved books of Dr. Seuss screams to be seen by — dare we say it? — kids of all ages, even those who haven't yet met Horton (who heard a Who) or visited the Jungle of Nool. Childsplay's version, which has become its annual holiday offering, has been adapted especially for kids by the show's creators. All the fun and most of the songs are still here, with perhaps fewer asides intended for adults and a lighter, less-political overtone. Narrated by the Cat in the Hat himself (played marvelously by Jon Gentry), the stories center on Horton the elephant (D. Scott Withers), who sings and snozzles with a long, colorful parade of familiar characters including Mayzie LaBird (portrayed joyfully by Childsplay fave Katie McFadzen), tailless Gertrude McFuzz, and Sour Kangaroo. You'll have more fun than the kids at this one — and the kids will be having a blast. Saturday, Dec. 2, through Dec. 24 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. 2nd St. in Scottsdale. Call 480-994-2787 for times and ticket prices.

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge: Originally commissioned by City Theatre in Pittsburgh and successfully presented during the 2002 holiday season, Christopher Durang's profoundly irreverent play is a demented version of the perennial Dickens Christmas classic. This time, nasty old Ebenezer Scrooge finds that a visitation from three dead friends can change everything. Durang's giddy take on Dickens includes bumbling ghosts who, for example, turn up at the Cratchits' house far too early, where they find Mrs. Cratchit sneaking quaffs of hooch and plotting her own demise. Southwest Shakespeare is to be commended in advance for not just trotting out the original, as so many theaters do each season. Continues through Saturday, Dec. 2, at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. in Mesa. Call 480-641-7039 for ticket and performance information.

South Pacific: Some enchanted evening between now and the first week in January, you may see a celebrated Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, but only if you head to Arizona Broadway Theatre, which is forgoing traditional holiday fare and mounting instead this popular tuner. Set in an island paradise during World War II, this dual love story based on James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific won multiple Tony Awards when it first debuted and features a score that has yielded such classics as "Bali Ha'i," "Younger Than Springtime," and, of course, "Some Enchanted Evening." Through Jan. 7 at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 W. Paradise Lane in Peoria. Call 623-776-8400 for more information.

Suds: Local critics haven't much liked this goofball extravaganza of tunes from the 1960s, and who can blame them? Of the innumerable inane musical revues that attempt to wrap era-specific pop songs around a slim story, this one's the hokiest. To sell its silly tale of a Laundromat owner who attempts suicide and is cornered by a trio of guardian angels, a troupe really needs talented singers with a wide range of singing styles. Reportedly, Desert Stages has chosen a different route. But there are always audiences who don't care who's crooning "Please Mr. Postman," "You Can't Hurry Love," or "Wishing and Hoping"; they just want their big slice of '60s pie. This one may be mincemeat, but it'll be playing for months on end: Desert Stages has extended Suds, and plans to keep it afloat until Feb. 2007 in its Theatre's Actor's Cafe at 4720 N. Scottsdale Rd. in Scottsdale. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; tickets are $20 to $25. Call 480-483-1664 for reservations.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela