A twist on the holiday show

By Lavanya Ramanathan
Friday, November 19, 2010

If you've done "A Christmas Carol" or "The Nutcracker" so many times that you're feeling like a windup toy yourself, it's probably time for a new holiday tradition.

This year, there are a handful of warm-and-fuzzy family shows that also boast a sense of humor or an ability to turn Christmas on its head (literally). Or you could forgo a holiday show altogether and see a classic that - gasp! - places emphasis on the kinds of gifts that money can't buy.

For the youngest in your brood, Imagination Stage has tapped into the treasure chest that is Barbara Park's "Junie B. Jones" series for the holidays (and, as a bonus, is offering extra matinees next week, when the kids are home from school). Allison Gregory's "Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" cribs from three Park tales to tell the story of Junie B's big Christmas dilemma about what to gift arch-enemy May: coal or kindness? A Squeeze-a-Burp hangs in the balance.

Wednesday-Jan. 9. Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda. 301-280-1660. www.imaginationstage.org. $10-$22; a $10 preview is Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

No kid can resist the plucky orphan Annie, who can transform a tightfisted Daddy Warbucks with only mop-top charm and catchy songs. And in this economy, couldn't we all use a dose of those orphans' eternal optimism? Olney Theatre Center's revival of the classic musical "Annie" - starring powerhouse Caitlin Deerin - should top your list of family outings this winter.

Through Jan. 2. Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. 301-924-3400. www.olneytheatre.org. $26-$54.

It's the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm that inspired the jingle-bells-free "Snow White, Rose Red (and Fred)," a new Kennedy Center family musical by Marcy Heisler with music by Zina Goldrich. The show, aimed at kids 9 and older, brings the adult conceit of a musical-within-a-musical to the kiddies. In it, a school vying to win the Fairy Tale Finals with a production of "Snow White, Rose Red" hits a bump in the road, otherwise known as a cute boy named Fred. The musical premieres the day after Thanksgiving.

Nov. 26-Dec. 19. Kennedy Center Family Theater, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600. www.kennedy-center.org. $18.

The tinsel whirlwind that is Cirque Dreams' "Holidaze" may look on the surface like "The Nutcracker," but after that ballet, you probably don't have to tell the kids not to juggle presents in the house. The show (which is not connected to Cirque du Soleil) revels in over-the-top Christmas-ness, with flipping gingerbread men, acrobatic tinsel, hula-hooping ice fairies - all performed not under a big top, but on the Kennedy Center stage. Since death-defying tricks can inspire vertigo in even kids-at-heart, save this spectacle for older children.

Dec. 7-12. Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600. www.kennedy-center.org. $31-$82.

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