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A & E
In the Wings: Ur-'Carol'

Friday, December 07, 2001

By Christopher Rawson, Post-Gazette Drama Critic

My review of City Theatre's revival of "The SantaLand Diaries" ends with a jocular suggestion that "Christmas Carol" and "Nutcracker" may have to share the seasonal franchise with this newcomer, but it would have a long way to go.

"Christmas Carol," especially, is as entrenched as ever, with its many adaptations, variant versions and spoofs. Among these is a properly outrageous new farce version at Little Lake (review coming soon).

But you can't have parody without the original, and Dickens' traditional story goes rumbling on, not just in its 10th year at CLO but also in its 11th at Pittsburgh Musical Theater (nee Gargaro), performing in the North Side's intimate Hazlett Theater (through Sunday only).

PMT "Lyrical Christmas Carol" has a new Scrooge this year, Joe Pedula, in place of Jim Critchfield, who's started his own "Christmas Carol" at Hope Academy. Hugh Rial plays Christmas Present (not to be confused with Christmas presents). The rest of the large cast is made up of students from PMT's Richard E. Rauh Conservatory and Young Performer's Institute. Call 412-539-0900 for details.

City blooms

The holidays are good to City Theatre, which has just extended three shows. Squonk Opera's "Burn" has been extended through Dec. 30 on the 272-seat mainstage, which means you can take that unique musical/satirical/mixed-media journey through Dante's Inferno, Centralia's deep coal fire and Squonk's search for itself right up to New Year's.

In the 100-seat Hamburg Studio, "The SantaLand Diaries" has been extended through Jan. 6. And the return of Jilline Ringle's "Mondo Mangia" has been extended before it's even here.

So many people shut out of the original six-week run that ended Nov. 18 have been booking in advance, that the return, to start Jan. 29, has already been extended to nine weeks, ending March 30. I called yesterday for a block of tickets for friends and learned the first Saturday I could get was March 23.

The best news is that City's managing director, David Jobin, says it may soon be time to expand the basic runs of mainstage shows from four weeks to five.

CMU benefit

It seems like I have a CMU musical theater benefit to announce almost every week, but aficionados appreciate a chance to catch a glimpse of the possible stars of tomorrow. This week's show features the junior class, already gathering its war chest for its audition trips as seniors. The cabaret program, "Winter's Spring" -- songs about love in the different seasons -- is set for the busy City Theatre at 6 p.m. Sunday. Directing is Gary Kline with musical direction by Jerry Dantry; admission is $6.

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