If your Thanksgiving plans include a long visit from your large extended family, you’d be wise to stock up not only on turkey and stuffing but also on ideas to entertain them. After Black Friday shopping and the requisite visits to museums and movies, a rousing night out watching an “American Idol” contestant belt out show tunes could be just the ticket for memorable, mindless holiday fun.
You can find family-friendly musical theater and comedic fare on several area stages this month, whether your guests are fans of such bombastic Broadway musicals as “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Dreamgirls” or prefer the refined fun of a Shakespeare comedy.
Here are four shows to get you started:
Voluptuous singer Effie White, who is all but booted from her own group, is one of musical theater’s richest roles, and there’s perhaps no better local actress to channel Effie’s pathos than Nova Y. Payton. Payton has risen to prominence thanks to her spot-on comic timing and heaven-sent voice in recent Signature Theatre productions of “Xanadu” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Post critic Peter Marks recently called her a performer to watch. “Dreamgirls” chronicles a girl group’s bitter struggle to make it in the cutthroat music industry, while rocking the house with Motown-inspired tunes.
Through Jan. 6 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave. 703-820-9771. www.signature-theater.org. $40-$87. This Tuesday, tickets are $22; to receive the discount, use promotion code TUES online, or order by phone.
“American Idol” alum Constantine Maroulis channels the timid Victorian-era doctor Henry Jekyll and his murderous, sex-crazed alter ego, Mr. Hyde, in this Broadway-bound revival, based on the tale by Robert Louis Stevenson. The show, taking a 25-city national tour before hitting Broadway, is a reboot of the Tony-nominated 1990s Broadway show by Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden. This time around, things are a bit more steamy because of the chemistry between Jekyll and Lucy, a woman of the night played by Canadian R&B singer Deborah Cox, who made waves in the ’90s with her song “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.”
Tuesday-Nov. 25 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600. www.
The Shakespeare Theatre Co. season is certainly edgier than usual: It just opened the National Theatre of Scotland’s “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Heart” in a Dupont Circle bar and, in January, will feature a former “West Wing” star in Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie.” For the holidays, however, the theater returns to Shakespeare’s great crowd-pleaser, the slapstick comedy that turns lovers into strangers and back again with a bit of magic. This production takes a page from “Follies,” setting the whimsical tale in an abandoned theater.
Through Dec. 30 at Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. 202-547-1122. www.shake
Inspired by her grandfather’s experience working on postal trains, playwright Cheryl L. West set out to capture the story of the egregiously low-paid freedmen who worked on passenger trains from the late 1800s through the civil rights era. In this show, blues music played by an onstage band sets the stage for West’s fictional story of the Sykes men, three generations of porters on a train chugging too slowly toward progress. E. Faye Butler, captivating as Aunt Eller in Arena’s popular “Oklahoma!,” plays Sister Juba, a role for which she has already won raves.
Nov. 23-Jan. 6 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. NW. 202-554-9066. www.arenastage.
org. $45-$94 (prices may vary).