Capsule Reviews

A Christmas Carol This season, the Alley Theatre has cobbled together a new version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, and it is as darkly funny and as sweetly tender as Dickens can be. The production features the same script, which was adapted by Michael Wilson, that the Alley used five years ago, but Tony Straiges's set is brand-new, as are many other elements of this surprisingly moving production. After a long hiatus, James Black returns to the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. And he brings a warm complexity and depth to the gray-haired grump. A lot of the power of this production comes from the ghosts who lead Scrooge through his spiritual awakening. The Spirit of Christmas Past is played with rich, grandmotherly grace by Bettye Fitzpatrick. And David Rainey plays the Spirit of Christmas Present with great booming generosity. Wilson, who also directs, makes the most of this new incarnation of Dickens's old tale. It might not be quite as funny as the one the Alley has put on in recent years, but in many ways it's truer to the wonderfully traditional story about the joys of generosity, gratitude and grace at this time of year. Through December 28. 615 Texas, 713-228-8421.

A Pure Gospel Christmas: Coming Home Now running at the Ensemble Theatre, A Pure Gospel Christmas: Coming Home is a frenetic burst of energetic song celebrating the holiday season. Conceived and directed by David A. Tobin and Leslie Dockery, the show is built around a thin little story (written by Tobin) about a choir full of cartoonlike characters who fuss and fight as they learn to appreciate how important they are to one another. The denizens of this world include an old woman who cooks sky-high pineapple upside-down cakes, an old man who pulls out his flask at inappropriate times, and a hip-hop-loving youngster who spouts off to his elders whenever he can get away with it. There is absolutely nothing new here. And at times, one can't help wishing the creators would just do away with the story, as it's really nothing more than a lame excuse to get to the music. Happily, when the performers (led by a terrifically appealing Anthony "Boggess" Glover) are busy singing and dancing, the frenzy of energy that spins across the stage keeps the two-and-a-half-hour production moving quickly. And by the show's end, when everyone in the audience is clapping and nodding along with the singers, only a Scrooge wouldn't find himself in good cheer. Through December 31. 3535 Main, 713-520-0055.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover
Lee Williams