Holiday shows are busting out all over. Here are our views on several irreverent seasonal bonbons, and one reliably rousing gospel musical. See the listings for detailed ticket...

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Holiday shows are busting out all over. Here are our views on several irreverent seasonal bonbons, and one reliably rousing gospel musical.

See the listings for detailed ticket information.

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“The Santaland Diaries”


Humorist David Sedaris tickled a nerve, clearly, with his public radio commentary (and subsequent book) about toiling as an elf at Macy’s flagship Manhattan store during the Christmas shopping rush.

His wry descriptions of hustling little ones onto Santa’s lap for photo ops, fending off their pushy, harried and loutish parents, and sizing up his inspiring and pathetic colleagues were shaped into an amusing one-man play awhile ago by Joe Mantello.

It’s been taken up by many regional theaters (as a kind of darkly comic antidote to “A Christmas Carol”), and you can catch it now in a Seattle Public Theater production starring Shawn Law.

Law (in cahoots with director Daniel Wilson) has chosen to deliver this arch running diary with the high, pixie timbre and coy vocal mannerisms well-known to fans of Sedaris’ radio readings.

PAUL BESTOCK
Shawn Law plays a store elf in “The Santaland Diaries.”

The actor’s a good mimic. And he nicely captures the droll cynicism of a grown man who has to cavort in green tights, in a synthetic holiday fantasy world he doesn’t believe in, in order to make a living.

At the preview I attended, Law needed to pep up the pace a notch and cut down on the facial mugging.

But the bittersweet ironies and caustic charm of Sedaris’ only partly ironic Yuletide tale still came through.

Plays various dates through Dec. 24 at the Bathhouse Theatre (206-524-1300 or www.seattlepublictheater.org).


— Misha Berson, Seattle Times theater critic


“Black Nativity”


I previously saw Intiman Theatre’s annual African-American holiday jamboree way back in 2000.

It’s a delight to report, four years later, what was weak in the show then (the sincere but amateurish dancing) has been strengthened by director Jacqueline Moscou and choreographer Kabby Mitchell III. And what was always right — the fortifying gospel music led by indefatigable Patrinell Wright and her Total Experience Gospel Choir — is as exhilarating as ever.

There’s plenty of preaching, teaching and testifying going on in “Black Nativity,” a Langston Hughes retelling of Christ’s birth followed by a shout-it-out concert. The choir fires up many familiar songs they’d love you to clap or sing along with, from a Caribbean-style “Joy to the World” to a thundering “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

But what makes the show such an upper is its inclusive warmth. Exuberant and welcoming, “Black Nativity” is truly a unifier, not a divider. Baptist, Buddhist or atheist, we all could use more of that right now.

Runs Tuesdays-Sundays through Dec. 26 at Intiman Theatre, Seattle (206-269-1900 or www.intiman.org).


— Misha Berson


“Déjà Vu Xmas: Eight Beautiful Reindeer & One Ugly One”


Recipe for middling holiday cabaret, from the cookbook of local writer/actor Bob DeDea and the Crêpe de Paris Cabaret:

Start with one basic mold for cabaret structure (notable for its snappy musical vignettes and intermingling of song ‘n’ dance with stand-up comedy).

Gather the following ingredients: a small cast of strong, lusty-voiced cabaret singers; a desire to ridicule Santa Claus, Christmas and other icons of pop culture through song; and an eagerness to entertain.

Percolate in a vat of mildly naughty irreverence.

Throw in three or four obvious sources of surefire comedy (redneck jokes make an excellent addition here, as do jabs at Martha Stewart and Tony Soprano).

Sprinkle with randomly chosen bits of humor (silly pirate jokes, silly charades involving reindeer), adding vague holiday sentiments.

Rely on occasionally inspired comedy (Bobbi Kotula’s take on Ethel Merman) and astounding vocal work (Carolyn Magoon channeling Betty Boop) to hold otherwise flimsy mixture together. Serve over expensive dinner. Enjoy!

(Note: This dish may have been inspired by another Seattle holiday entree: Richard Gray’s “Forbidden Xmas,” a holiday predecessor at Crêpe de Paris now on hiatus.)

Runs Tuesdays-Sundays through Dec. 30 at Crêpe de Paris Cabaret, Seattle (206-623-4111).


— Leah B. Green


“The Dina Martina Christmas Show”


What does one say about a weirdly lovable lunk of a diva who wears spangly frocks that won’t zip up all the way, slaps on enough makeup to make Tammy Faye Bakker blush and sings so far off-key that neighborhood dogs run into safe rooms to escape?

Well, maybe a nice “thank you, Dina” would do. Or make that a thank you to Grady West — the obviously demented male performer who has turned his stage alter ego Dina Martina, the paradigm of a cheerfully self-deluded wannabe, into a Seattle cult diva with fans who hang on her every malapropism and double-entendre.

If you’ve never been “Dina”-ed before, Yuletide is a good time to make her nutty acquaintance. In addition to regaling her audiences at Re-bar with tortured versions of obscure and hackneyed Christmas songs, Ms. Martina hands out gifts to lucky ducks in the crowd. Here’s your chance to get that Cheetos-flavored lip gloss you’ve been longing for, or that Vanilla Ice action doll.

Runs Thursdays-Sundays through Dec. 31 at Re-bar, Seattle (206-233-9873).


— Misha Berson