It's been true for years: anytime after Halloween is fair game for department stores and shopping malls to put up Christmas decorations. By mid-November, WRAL-FM has replaced evergreens by Aerosmith and Justin Timberlake with a steady stream of holiday classics by Burl Ives and Gene Autry. We're uncertain if this is a good thing, but several local theaters are following suit this year with holiday-themed shows opening Thanksgiving week, before the perennials that run every December.
PlayMakers Repertory Company kicks off the season with Dot (Nov. 22–Dec. 10, Paul Green Theatre, playmakersrep.org), a drama that takes place at a family Christmas gathering in West Philadelphia (see p. 26).
The week before Carolina Ballet opens The Nutcracker (Dec. 2, UNC's Memorial Hall, carolinaballet.com), the company revives its 1999 masterwork, Messiah (Nov. 22–26, Raleigh Memorial Auditorium), a thrilling, panoramic setting of Handel's oratorio that animates religious paintings from the Renaissance, with live music from the North Carolina Master Chorale.
The Women's Theatre Festival continues its embryonic holiday tradition of staging Louisa May Alcott's Little Women as a holiday tea (Nov. 24–Dec. 3, Sonorous Road Theatre, womenstheatrefestival.com).
DPAC follows with Hip Hop Nutcracker (Nov. 24, DPAC, dpacnc.com), a touring take in which old-school rapper Kurtis Blow and DJ Boo remix Tchaikovsky as a young daughter of bickering parents is saved from a gang of rats by a street-nut vendor. The pair is then magically transported back to the club where the girl's parents first met, as b-boys pirouette on their shoulders and heads instead of en pointe.
Broadway Series South brings back its annual tribute to the 1960s Rankin-Bass holiday TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical (Nov. 24–Dec. 24, Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, dukeenergycenterraleigh.com).
And, in the first of two new works added to its Christmas franchise, Theatre in the Park's Scrooge-for-life, Ira David Wood III, reminisces with the theater's longtime Marley, David Henderson, on the forty-three-year history of TIP's production of A Christmas Carol in An Evening with Scrooge and Marley (Nov. 25, Theatre in the Park, theatreinthepark.com).