ALRIGHT, ALREADY: A Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason, and if you're jonesing for it, by all means check out the sturdy, heartfelt version playing at A Contemporary Theatre. There are alternatives, however. We've skipped the companies trying their best to jazz things up with oddball takes on the Dickens tale, but we have taken the time to consider your other options for the season—and candy coated them, Carol-style, to make it easier to swallow what works, what doesn't, and what will make a pleasant evening for your own Tiny Tim.
APPALACHIAN CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING
(Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th, 781-9707. $16-$26. 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Thurs.; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 2 p.m. matinees Sat. Ends Sat., Dec. 29.)
The Carol: Through story and song, Ryan (Howard Stregack) relives how his parents first courted one Christmas Eve in small-town Georgia.
Bah, humbug: Do you think they'll get together?!? I'm on the edge of my seat!
God bless them, every one: Beautiful, plain, and sweet mountain melodies written by Phillip DePoy—brought to stage by Edd Key—forgive a lack of compelling plot.
Can Tiny Tim come along? Even in the midst of a coughing fit, the child seated behind me couldn't stop clapping and singing along. (Molly Rhodes)
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER
(Bathhouse Theater, 7312 W. Greenlake, 325-6500. $5-$12. 7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 2 p.m. matinees Sun. Ends Sun., Dec. 30.)
The Carol: Five "bad" kids take over a town's Christmas pageant, but they (and everyone else) learn the true meaning of the holiday.
Bah, humbug: Did anyone in the audience leave thinking about helping homeless kids, or just about how cute it all was?
God bless them, everyone: At the end, the smallest girl in the play signs along to "Silent Night" and that quiet statement about accommodating difference rang loud and clear.
Can Tiny Tim come along?: The crowd was surprisingly well into puberty, but any kid who can sit still for an hour-long video should enjoy this—there's lots of carefully executed mayhem and a 10-minute intermission in a 70-minute show. (Audrey Van Buskirk)
(Seattle Center, Intiman Theatre, 269-1900. $15-$40. 7:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs.; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 2 p.m. matinees Sat.-Sun. Ends Sun., Dec. 23.)
The Carol: "A Gospel Song Play by Langston Hughes," featuring the Total Experience Gospel Choir and the Black Nativity Choir
Bah, humbug: Goofy modern dance and mime interpretation of narration and songs. Personal issue: uncontrollable mental substitution of "Jeebus" every time the word "Jesus" is spoken or sung (very frequently). Frozen, fanatical grins of some cast members are somewhat terrifying.
God bless them, every one: Awesome groovy jazz combo; great gospel singing, including "This Little Light of Mine" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain"; dignity of male narrator (the Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney) is beautiful to behold; some truly gorgeous cast members.
Can Tiny Tim come along? Baby Jesus wants him to! (Bethany Jean Clement)
(Seattle Center, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 443-2222. $10-$44. 7:30 p.m. Tues.- Sun.; 2 p.m. matinees Sat.-Sun. Ends Sun., Dec. 30.)
The Carol: A doomed, dysfunctional theater troupe hopes to save its hide with an annual staging of A Christmas Carol, hiring a woefully inept performer who may be a grant inspector from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Bah, humbug: There are worse things than subscriber-friendly irreverence, but if you're allergic to that idea, you might want to spend the holidays elsewhere.
God bless them, every one: The show-within-a-show, in which the frazzled company massacres Dickens, is obvious, unsurprising, and, let's admit it, pretty damn funny.
Can Tiny Tim come along? Children won't grasp the theater milieu and lame NEA in-jokes, but the cheery, manic energy will probably be infectious for older kids.
THE TRACHTENBURG FAMILY SLIDESHOW PLAYERS . . . ON ICE!
(On the Boards, 100 W. Roy, 217-9888. $10. 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Ends Sun., Dec. 16.)
The Carol: Musician Jason Trachtenburg, accompanied by his adorably unfazed 7-year-old daughter, Rachel, on drums, sings quirky pop ditties crafted to match the random estate-sale slides that wife Tina displays from a projector. (And there's only dry ice.)
Bah, humbug: The show is not quite the offbeat gem that hip, advance buzz would have you believe; it's a loopy, 20-minute novelty act that's been prodded into an hour.
God bless them, every one: The Trachtenburgs themselves are appealingly low-key, and the evening has a loose charm that feels like goofing with friends in the garage.
Can Tiny Tim come along? Sure—there's nothing offensive here, and the kicky irreverence of the music can be engaging.
A VERY LESBIAN NUTCRACKER AND HUNG BY THE CHIMNEY
(Northwest Asian American Theatre, 409 Seventh S., 340-1049. $10-$12. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 4 p.m. Sun. Ends Sun., Dec. 23.)
The Carol: Pulp Vixens, the noirish queer humor troupe, perform two short spoofs: a salacious, hysterical riff on The Nutcracker, in which a young schoolgirl at a Catholic dance academy fantasizes about "ripe, pungent tutus"; and a hard-boiled, lesbian detective tale concerning the theft of some exotic monkeys.
Bah, humbug: If you want to get fussy, the Christmas connection is perfunctory, at best.
God bless them, every one: Director Burton Curtis and playwright Scot Auguston approach this divine nonsense with disciplined cleverness, and Vixens Keri Healey, Shawn Yates, and—oh, thank you—Jennifer Jasper deftly throw themselves into multiple characterizations without patting themselves on the back for their consistently hilarious tour de force.
Can Tiny Tim come along? Not unless he's ready to hear Headmistress Healey howl, "Paris wasn't ready for my vulva!"
VOICES OF CHRISTMAS
(ArtsWest, 4711 California S.W., 938-0339. $10-$24. Call 938-0339 or 325-6500 for days and times. Ends Mon., Dec. 24.)
The Carol: A "wildly popular holiday classic," now 20 years old and counting, that crams songs, stories, prose, poetry, and skits into a two-hour madrigal performance piece.
Bah, humbug: If you like sing-alongs, this one's for you, but booze also helps.
God bless them, every one: Then again, only the Grinch could frown at ArtsWest's heartfelt (and often funny) renditions of "Sleep, Tiny Little King" and "Wassail, Wassail," plus Christmas tunes from France, Britain, Italy, and beyond.
Can Tiny Tim come along? Hey, every kid loves a sing-along. But the unfamiliar songs might have little Tim more distracted than enchanted. (Erica C. Barnett)