Christmas Cabaret Shine Shows mastermind Sarah Mae McElroy promises that this show is as much cabaret as it is Christmas, balancing out the "holiday favorites" her words with "a little Fosse to add some flare to your holidays." That means "Nowadays," stuff from Chicago and "Hey, Big Spender" (that distinctly nonseasonal show-stopper about purchasing a woman's time), all sung by a cast of about 10 and accompanied by a nontraditional violin-cello-bass-drums-guitar combo. There are Christmas songs, too, of course, including "O Holy Night" and "Ave Maria," plus some of the fun numbers. Through Dec. 17 at the Stuart Hall Building (Suite 144), 2121 Central. For tickets, see http://www.shineshows.com.
A Christmas Carol This is redemption you could set your watch by. The Kansas City Rep holds steady with its 25th production of Dickens' invention-of-Christmas classic, which adds up to 75 ghosts and God knows how many pounds of white, graveyardy powder. It's always sumptuously mounted, well-acted and as easy to take as spiked nog. Helping immensely is Gary Neal Johnson, always a wonderfully niggling and petty Scrooge, and one whose transformation comes as much from within as from Dickens' ectoplasmic deus ex machina. Through Dec. 26 at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, 4949 Cherry, 816-235-2700.
A Christmas Conundrum Yet another murder mystery staged by the Mystery Train, ensuring the following: a death aboard a train, which audience members will be charged with solving; a whimsical script with plenty of puns, many of which audience members will be charged with delivering; a bevy of characters with silly names and offbeat histories, several of whom audience members will be charged with becoming; and dinner from the Union Station Café, which audience members will simply be charged with. This one's set in 1952, at Christmastime, so expect a background of Kansas City history taking full advantage of the Union Station surroundings. Reservations are required. Through Jan. 7 at Union Station Café, 2200 Main, 816-813-9654.
Christmas in Song This rousing, savior-centric cabaret revue hatched by director, singer and dryly funny master of ceremonies J. Kent Barnhart is split between a holy first half and a wholly secular second. Both have plenty of highlights and come blessed with sterling arrangements, Barnhart's tasteful accompaniment, a (mostly) fresh crop of songs and Quality Hill Playhouse's reliably spectacular voices: those of elegant Melinda MacDonald, fine tenor Matt Leisy and soprano Stacey Uthe, who sets the air tingling about her. The pre-pop songs stir deeper than the lighter fare, and occasionally the show slumps into pop-classical doldrums. But mostly it's a treat, caroling to thrill to instead of endure. Through Dec. 24 at Quality hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St, 816-421-1700. (Reviewed in our Nov. 17 issue.)
A Christmas Story The title is vague which Christmas story? All available evidence indicates this is the Jean Shepherd show about Ralphie, the Red Ryder gun and the leg lamp that we think of whenever we stumble out of Dave's Stagecoach and get a load of that sexy neon boot aglow in the window of the shoe-repair shop next door. Of all the slightly irreverent Christmas shows in town, this is certainly the most sentimental but even its sugary reminiscence is spiked. Why can't people look this holiday square in the eye anymore? Through Dec. 18 at Blue Springs Civic Center, 2000 N.W. Ashton Drive, Blue Springs. 816-228-0137.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast This version of the old don't-judge-monsters-because-they-might-be-princes story dates back to just 1991, when Disney technicians planed off the rough edges and set the second act all a-clatter with singing flatware. The last Disney musical to achieve any amount of grace whatsoever, this one features the rousing Gaston song, at least four other memorable numbers and a plot point or two cribbed from Measure for Measure. Added plus: One of the heroine's parents actually survives! Through Dec. 11 at the Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 New Hampshire, 785-843-7469.
The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues The reindeer get their scabrous say in this burst of yuletide deviance from the new (and wonderfully named) theater company Sparkle Peanut Productions. Santa, we learn, is a sort of bestial Bob Packwood, who sexually harasses his livestock and is at his jolliest only when engaged in carnal practices that alarm whether you rock the north or south side of the pole. Needless to say, this isn't for the kids. The decade-old script is steeped in O.J. and other '90s ephemera "When the doe says 'No,' it means no" is a typical gag. Let's hope it's still tart. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 17 at the Corinth Dance Center Studio, 4047 Somerset Drive in Prairie Village, 816-679-5514.
Elves and the Shoemaker Theatre for Young America returns with the sweet old story of the elves who aid the cobbler in the night and wait a second. Is this right? We have to say shoemaker now? Don't kids have dictionaries? Christ, if we're going to update the Grimms willy-nilly, why not make the shoemaker Nike CEO Phil Knight and the elves Indonesian preteens bleeding from their hands? Regardless, much of the original cast about whom we've heard good things is back with a story that TYA promises will teach the whole family gentle lessons about the meaning of the season. Through Dec. 30 at Union Station's City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Rd., 816-460-2020.
Funny Money Ray Cooney's farce, another solid New Theatre show, is about a regular guy making off with illicit cash. This one stars William Christopher, best known as Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H but hardly known at all for his mysterious work as "Additional Voices" on The Smurfs. How did we miss him? Was there some even-tempered blue minister we've forgotten who'd offer consolation whenever Brainy went off about "this smurfing war"? If you know, please write us, care of this paper. Through Feb. 5 at the New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster in Overland Park, 913-649-7469.
Inspecting Carol Theatre Lulu presents a staged reading of Daniel Sullivan's backstage Christmas farce at one time an arch alternative to A Christmas Carol but now almost an institution itself as a benefit for the Kansas City Actors Theatre. The story: A godawful amateur actor auditioning for a beleaguered troupe's A Christmas Carol is mistaken for a National Endowment for the Arts rep with the power to soak up the company's grant money. Everyone approves of all his bad ideas, which results somehow in lots of comic hither and thither and something called the Piñata of Hope. Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. at the Barn Players, 6219 Martway in Mission, 913-432-9100.
A Journey in Songs: The Last Ten Years Just as the summer season is full of big, gaudy musicals, December is dominated by intimate cabaret. This Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City show is at least guaranteed to be Christmas-free. It reprises numbers from recent CenterStage productions, including Into the Woods, Fiddler on the Roof and, well, Cabaret. Come for a peek at the new theater, but if you get the chance, check out the gym and the whirlpool, which we've heard are worth a Reform-level conversion. Dec. 10-11 in the Lewis and Shirley White Theatre on the Jewish Community Center campus, 5801 W. 115th St. in Overland Park, 913-327-8073.
Just Say Yes The TBA Players bring us only a show or so each year, but to their credit, it's always one nobody else is offering. This time it's the American premiere of Jack and Tom Sharkey's comedy Just Say Yes, the story of a self-help author forced to prove that his theories work by going all self-esteem Pygmalion on the biggest loser he can find. Through Dec. 11 at Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Central, 816-444-2459.
Painted Alice After kicking off the 2005 season with a pair of challenging but chilly dramas, the Unicorn lightens up with this William Donnelly comedy about an artist torn between creating for the love of creation and just doing it for the dollars. Then she goes to a wonderland yeah, it's inspired by that Alice, here all grown and played by the talented Alyson Schacherer, whose crackerjack comic timing was the highlight of this summer's Blink Twice for Her. The Unicorn promises a "high-energy, multimedia production"; all we know is that director Joe Price recently brought us The Cripple of Inishmaan, 2005's best show by far, so it's safe to say that, opening weekend, we're on it like a bonnet. Through Dec. 31 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main, 816-531-7529, ext. 10.
Stuart Little E.B. White's other book gets a loving, faithful treatment from the Coterie. Today's entertainment for kids would jeerily snot all over this story of a little mouse crossing this giant country, but it charms even those who aren't so little. Lessons to be learned: Being small doesn't mean you're unimportant, shows for kids can engage grown-ups, cats can kill you. Beverly Cleary's mouse may have a motorcycle, but White's story crushes her book like a grape. Through Dec. 30 at the Coterie Theatre, Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.
Valley of the Dolls More an addled appreciation than a spoof, this drag treatment of Jacqueline Susann's schlock-and-awe classic bolts amusingly through Susann's over-the-top plotting and is peppered with Dionne Warwick songs and a number of bizarrely inventive set pieces. Writer-director Ron Megee's affection for the material results in jokes that are better than the Late Night norm as well as some surprisingly affecting performances. Gary Campbell, in some kind of drag hat trick, plays Patty Duke playing Neely O'Hara, who is herself Susann's monstrous swipe at Judy Garland. Instead of making fun of all the pill-fueled freakouts, the cast relishes them, really acting, gobbling dolls like whales sucking down plankton. Gorgeous gowns, too, of course. Through Dec. 31 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand. 816-235-6222. (Reviewed in our Dec. 1 issue.)