Curtain Calls: Scrooge’s annual redemption returning to Lesher stage

Nothing says the holidays like “A Christmas Carol” — and East Bay audiences have a spectacular production performing at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center beginning Thursday and running through Dec. 21.

This is not only an annual tradition for audiences, but many of the cast return year after year to play their iconic characters.

“Being part of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is like going home for Christmas,” said Michael Ray Wisely, who plays Scrooge for the eighth year. “One of the great joys is watching children actually grow up in the cast, go off to college and return to see the show.”

Wisely looks forward to the challenge of creating the miserly curmudgeon each year.

“Playing Scrooge is an honor — and just like old Ebenezer, you get another chance at redemption,” Wisely said. “It’s also a challenge to keep it fresh and inventive as well as a physical challenge when doing 8-10 shows per week.”

Others who return every year include director Scott Denison, who has been involved with the show for 25 years; Kerri Shawn, a magical Ghost of Christmas Past for over 20 years; and Jeanine Perasso, a very jolly Mrs. Fezziwig for 25 years.

“I love doing this production because of its message,” Perasso said. “You watch this show and realize no matter what challenges you have in life you can always find hope and joy if you take the time to see it. It’s there when you bring a smile to someone’s face. I believe everyone is capable of that spark of magic. Sometimes daily obligations tamp it down, but we get to remind people it’s still there waiting to warm our souls.”

A relative newbie to the cast is Michael Austin, who plays Scrooge’s nephew Fred for only the third time.

“From heartfelt moments to goofy characters to some scary special effects, it’s a really lovely version of everyone’s favorite Christmas ghost story,” Austin said.

For tickets, call 925-943-SHOW or go to lesherartscenter.com.

El Cerrito: Contra Costa Civic Theatre brings back its popular “Home for the Holidays” concert Friday-Dec. 17. The fundraiser for CCCT features Lamont Ridgell, with special guest Anita Viramontes and backed by a swinging three-piece combo led by Dean Starnes.

The celebration includes familiar and not-so-familiar songs of the season in this salute to the holidays. An online silent auction begins Friday with lots of electronics and a week-long stay at a private flat in London to bid on.

For tickets, go to ccct.org.

Castro Valley: Chanticleers and East Bay Children’s Theatre combine forces to present “The Man Who Saved Christmas,” running through Dec. 17.

Directed by Ron Lytle, the very merry musical is loosely based on the true story of toy maker A.C. Gilbert, who invented the Erector Set. Taking place in 1917, this new, old-fashioned musical focuses on Gilbert’s battle with the U.S. government as it attempts to ban toy sales during the holiday season. Adding to the fun is an all-business secretary and a visiting reporter determined to distract her, the nefarious toy factory’s Mister Dixon, Gilbert’s loving wife and the Gilberts’ precocious niece, who untangles the myriad of complications to produce a happy ending.

Suitable for the entire family, “The Man Who Saved Christmas” takes place at the Chanticleers Theatre, 3683 Quail Ave., Castro Valley. Call 510-SEE-LIVE or go to chanticleers.org.

Oakley: The young theatergoers in your family might also enjoy Ghostlight Theatre Ensemble’s “Elf Jr.” Presented by Ghostlight’s youth program, the musical takes place Saturday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Freedom High School, 1050 Neroly Road, Oakley.

The heartwarming story follows Buddy, a young orphan who accidentally ends up in Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole. Raised as an elf, the human boy’s size and poor toy-making abilities force the North Pole inhabitants to admit Buddy isn’t really an elf. Lots of adventure as Buddy travels to New York City to find his birth family.

For tickets, go to ghostlightte.org.

Martinez: Onstage Theatre and Star Quest present a slightly different fairytale with “Happily Never After” Saturday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Martinez’s Campbell Theatre, 636 Ward St.

Full of upbeat songs, the musical follows Cinderella and her fairytale friends as they try to find a happier place to live. The show is performed by a cast of 5- to 18-year-olds.

Children under 12 receive a gift from Santa, with those dressed in costume eligible to win a special prize.

Also at the Campbell: The Lowell Ensemble presents its annual holiday concert Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Consisting of musicians from the SF Opera and Ballet orchestras, the group will play an assortment of classical, holiday, pop and folk favorites.

Go to campbelltheater.com for information on both events.

Reach Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com, and read more of her reviews online at eastbaytimes.com/author/sally-hogarty.

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Author: Sally Hogarty

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