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Center Stage

On holiday at the local theater

12/4/2013

For show folk across Des Moines, there was a great insuck of breath over Thanksgiving weekend. Everyone was gathering for the Christmas season, when a remarkable range of local companies have entertainment on tap.

Up in Ames, for starters, ACTORS has “Free to Be… You and Me,” (previewed in Center Stage last week). Derived from a 1970s TV special, this family-friendly revue features actors ranging in age from 8 to 68 and delivers holiday vibes free of sermonizing.

For the stuff of Gospel, a production children ought to see is “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” A celebrated mini-opera from Gian Carlo Menotti, composed in English and first produced for U.S. television, “Amahl” retells the story of the Wise Men from the East. The music rises to such sublime power and brings more children to classical music than any amount of parental scolding. Hoyt Sherman Theater has the piece for one weekend only, Dec. 6 and 7.

More standard fare would be “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” opening at the Civic Center on Dec. 10. The musical adapts of Bing Crosby’s 1954 movie chestnut, and the dance numbers sound promising, especially “Sisters” in drag. Still, it’s all tinsel around the title song, the world’s best-selling single written years earlier. Berlin pulled an all-nighter to finish the tune — and he did his dreaming in Los Angeles, of all places.

A higher-flying affair, and I do mean “flying,” will be “Peter Pan” at the Des Moines Playhouse. Starting on Dec. 6, a cast of children and adults will pop open J.M. Barrie’s humidor of pixie dust. With songs like “I Can Fly” and Tinker Bell’s “David” going up against Captain Hook’s “Goliath,” on a good night, anyone can see why the musical has been running practically nonstop since 1904 in London.

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More “mature content,” as the disclaimer puts it, comes to Temple Theater. “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” on Dec. 4, as part of its latest national tour. Its title character calls her clientele “hookers” and claims children with three different husbands, all three of them dead. Yet to judge from the reviews, this one-woman party winds up selling as much empowerment as “plastic crap.” Such language is typical; the show’s recommended for those 16 and above.

The richest of our December fare looks to be Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory,” the latest from the Repertory Theater of Iowa (RTI), on stage for just one weekend, starting Dec. 5. Another single-handed piece, Memory explores a troubled yet inspiring family, down in Dixie, and its Buddy is plainly a stand-in for his author, himself troubled, inspired and out of Dixie. At its best, the show kindles a warmth that crackles with resentments, and RTI has pulled off that combination in the past. This year they’ll be at Des Moines OnStage, on Grand Avenue, past Terrace Hill, for the last show before settling into permanent digs at the new Des Moines Social Club.

Speaking of which, the Des Moines Social Club’s New Year’s Eve Bash is a likely bet to catch the show folk wrapping up their season. CV                

John Domini is Cityview’s “Play Mate” theater critic who pens our weekly Center Stage column. He is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.

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