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Curtain Rises: Civic Theatre of Allentown, Pennsylvania Playhouse stage Christmas classics

The holiday season is upon us with two community theaters presenting familiar Christmas plays that are sure to charm audiences:

Civic Theatre of Allentown present its 32nd edition of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 1 - 16, Nineteenth Street Theater, Allentown, and

The Pennsylvania Playhouse is staging the beloved “Miracle on 34th Street,” Dec. 1 - 17 in the Bethlehem theater.

Civic brings back its yearly production of “A Christmas Carol,” the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption that has inspired thousands of Lehigh Valley children and adults to travel with Scrooge as “fellow passengers” on the road to humanity.

Join this year’s cast in the adaptation by Civic Theatre of Allentown Managing Artistic Director William Sanders and Sharon Lee Glassman, Civic Theatre Board President Emeritus, on a journey through the past, present and future of Scrooge’s Victorian London as Dickens spins his magical tale of the true spirit of Christmas.

Sanders directs the production which features a new Scrooge. Jarrod Yuskauskas is a familiar face on Civic’s stage, but this is his first time playing Dickens’ “covetous, old sinner.”

“I’ve long wanted to be part of this Civic tradition,” Yuskauskas says of playing Scrooge. “Slipping into his robe and cap for the first time legitimately made me ‘giddy like a drunken man.’

“Thinking of the actors I’ve watched on this stage breathe life into him, and others over the years on other stages and screens. I know the big shoulders it takes to fill this robe. I hope to honor them, and the many people who’ve told this story for the 30 ‘Carols’ before.”

Yuskauskas, on the Adjunct Faculty at Muhlenberg College and Lafayette College’s theater programs, was Director of Theatre Arts at Moravian Academy for 12 years.

At Civic, Yuskauskas starred in the one-man stage adaptation of David Sedaris’s “The Santa Land Diaries” for two years in a row and most recently appeared as Rooster Hannigan in “Annie.” He played Dr. Frankenstein in “Young Frankenstein,” Gomez Addams in “The Addams Family - The Musical,” and John Wilkes Booth in Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins.”

Yuskauskas has performed with the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre and Northampton Community College Summer Theatre.

New this year, Civic Theatre is holding a fundraising holiday party, “A Dickens of A Holiday Party,” 3 p.m. Dec. 13, Americus Hotel Ballroom, Allentown.

The two-hour event will feature performances by Civic performers, music by Craig Thatcher and an appearance by a Charles Dickens’ impersonator. There will be an open bar, raffle and Dickens’ themed holiday fun, including a high tea.

“A Christmas Carol,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 6, 8, 14, 15; 2 p.m. Dec. 3, 10; 2, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, 16, Civic Theatre of Allentown, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown. 610-432-8943; https://civictheatre.com/

Pennsylvania Playhouse brings the classic holiday story, “Miracle on 34th Street,” to its stage.

Kris Kringle (Paul Kodiak), is an “old man” in a retirement home, when he gets a job working as Santa Claus for Macy’s Department Store in 1940s’ New York City.

Kringle unleashes waves of goodwill for Macy’s customers and upends the market economy of the store by referring parents to other stores. Kringle is seen as deluded and dangerous by Macy’s vocational counselor who plots to have him committed to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital.

Kringle ends up in a court competency hearing, where the stakes are high for a little girl who believes in Santa, her mother whose faith is wavering and the man who loves them both.

“Miracle on 34th Street” was a 1947 film based on a story by Valentine Davies and starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. The film won three Academy Awards and became a perennial Christmas favorite. In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Davies’ story was adapted into a stage play by Will Severin, Patricia Di Benedetto Snyder and John Vreeke in 2000.

The Playhouse production features Luci Schneck (Susan Walker), Moriah Wilt (Doris Walker) and Gregory J. Wintle (Fred Gayley).

The cast includes Matthew Contakes, Stephen Simone, Daniel VanArsdale, Gary Boyer, John Corl, Denise Shelton, Cara Padilla Jensen, Katie MacMillan, Johny Bertone, Kayli Silimperi, Dominick Dinzey, Hannah Zarate, Riley Marto, Laila Asghar and Audrey Seely.

Carrie Beleno directs, set design is by Oliveira and the 1940s era costumes are by Todd Burkel.

The Playhouse is offering a pay-what-you-are-able performance Dec. 16.

The wearing of face masks is not required but strongly encouraged.

“Miracle on 34th Street,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16; 3 p.m. Dec. 3, 10, 17, Pennsylvania Playhouse, 390 Illick’s Mill Road, Bethlehem. 610-865-6665, http://www.paplayhouse.org/

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Jarrod Yuskauskas (Scrooge), “A Christmas Carol,” Civic Theatre of Allentown.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY COREY MULLIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY Lucy Schneck (Susan Walker), Paul Kodiak (Kris Kringle), “Miracle on 34th Street,” Pennsylvania Playhouse.