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Exploring Kentucky | Theater companies across the Bluegrass add to holiday merriment

By Katherine Tandy Brown

The actors of Hardin County Playhouse, who last year presented the classic "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, this season will perform "The Game's Afoot" at Plum Alley Theater in the State Theater Historic Complex in downtown Elizabethtown.
The actors of Hardin County Playhouse, who last year presented the classic “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, this season will perform “The Game’s Afoot” at Plum Alley Theater in the State Theater Historic Complex in downtown Elizabethtown.

It’s that hurried holiday time of year already. In the midst of shopping for and hiding the perfect gifts, hauling the kids to practice for this or that, baking holiday goodies, volunteering to help the needy, and maybe even stuffing a pillow under your shirt to play Santa, wouldn’t you like to just take an afternoon or evening off, sit back and be entertained, without even having to pick up the remote?

To borrow a line from Shakespeare, “The play’s the thing.” And fortunately, that is indeed the case across Kentucky. All you have to do is pick one, grab a ticket and show up.

‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’

Bowling Green, Dec. 1-4 and 8-11

pykby.org

(270) 781-6233

If you haven’t yet seen “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” the Public Theatre of Kentucky’s musical adaptation of this hilarious, touching play is sure to tickle your funny bone. The worst kids in the history of the world crash Sunday school and – even though they’ve never heard the age-old Bible story – demand parts in the Christmas pageant. Biting and cigar-smoking ensue. But the show must indeed go on, and it’s up to the director and reverend to make that happen.

A take-home bonus…you’ll realize that even full of sugar, your kids aren’t that bad after all!

A Dickens’ Christmas Carol

Lexington, Dec. 2-4 and 9-11

parks.ky.gov/parks/historicsites/waveland/events.aspx

(859) 272-3611

Talk about a perfect setting for A Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Waveland State Historic Site is presenting scenes from this perennial holiday favorite and it turns out that Dickens was actually writing his literary classic (1843) during the same time the stately brick Antebellum home was being built (1844 to 1848). Bring the kids an hour early for a reading and photos with Santa in the barn, then follow the ghostly action room-to-room as the drama plays out in front of you.

An Evening of One-Act Plays

Frankfort, Dec. 1-4

grandtheatrefrankfort.org

(502) 352-7469

Celebrating Christmas is the theme of the Bluegrass Theatre Guild’s An Evening of One-Act Plays. The first is based on O. Henry’s poignant short story, “Gift of the Magi,” about a young couple who deal with the challenge of gift giving without much money. The second, “The Silent Bells,” is the tale of a little girl who hopes to break the mysterious silence that has kept the bells of her church from ringing for 200 years. First, however, the right gift must be given to the church’s Christ in the crèche, one that will make the babe smile and the bells ring.

The venue itself is worth a visit. Opened after an extensive renovation in 2009, the Grand Theatre in the state’s capital of Frankfort is a $5-million, 248-seat, state-of-the-art performing and visual arts theater once home to vaudeville shows, silent movies and finally, “talkies” and plays.

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

Pikeville,

Dec. 1, 2 (a JWT fundraiser auction and dinner theater)

Dec. 6 ($10 Tuesday)

Dec. 8-10, 13, and 15-18

jwtheatre.com

(606) 886-9274

Ensconced in its wintertime home, the Jenny Wylie Theatre (JWT) presents the “aww-inspiring” play “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” starring late cartoonist Charles Schultz’s beloved characters. Smile along with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and the gang as they learn the true meaning of Christmas as they practice and produce the school Christmas pageant.

If the theater company’s name sounds familiar, it should, since the troupe began with a rendition of “South Pacific” in the outdoor summer theater at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in 1964. You may have attended a JWT favorite once featured every few years, “The Legend of Jenny Wylie,” the poignant story of the park’s namesake, a pioneer woman who in the late 1700s escaped from Native American captors who had slain her family.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is but one of JWT’s 2016 offerings.

‘The Game’s Afoot’

Elizabethtown, Dec. 9-11, 15-18

hardincountyplayhouse.com

(270) 351-0577

Another company with history under its belt, the Hardin County Playhouse presents “The Game’s Afoot” at Elizabethtown’s Plum Alley Theater in the State Theater Historic Complex. Now in its 46th season, the troupe is community theater at its best and promises to deliver hilarity along with fun-filled audience participation in this uproarious Christmas farcical whodunit. The time is December 1936 and Broadway star William Gillette, world-renown for his leading role in the play “Sherlock Holmes,” has invited his fellow cast members to his Connecticut castle for a weekend of revelry. But when a guest is stabbed to death, the festivities turn dangerous in this isolated house of tricks and mirrors. It’s up to Gillette himself, as he assumes the persona of his beloved Holmes, to track down the killer before another victim appears.

‘Doctor! Doctor’

Carrollton, Dec. 31

parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/general-butler/

(502) 732-4384

It’s no mystery that a night out to ring in a brand new year can be the ticket for post-holiday fun, especially if you can park your car, celebrate and spend the night. Thanks to Kentucky State Parks, you have options at several properties. One of those is a New Year’s Eve Dinner, Play and Dance at General Butler State Resort Park. As at every park, supper is a treat, and the menu could include catfish, a Kentucky Hot Brown and good old Kentucky country ham. Next comes the play “Doctor! Doctor!,” your prescription for laughter. A small town goes into a tizzy when their long-time physician decides to retire. Expect zany characters, delightful tunes and small-town charm. Bring your dancing shoes, for afterwards, a live band will lure you onto the dance floor. Check the website for budget-friendly packages that include overnights in the park’s hilltop lodge overlooking the Ohio River.


Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]