It’s beginning to look a lot like … well, you know. Pictured, from left: “Christmas Canteen” with Caroline and Nick Arapoglou (Aurora Theatre); “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” (Theatrical Outfit); and “The Snow Queen” (Serenbe Playhouse). Photo/illustrations by Chris Bartelski, Daryl Fazio, BreeAnne Clowdus.

** Indicates an Encore Atlanta fall/winter season top pick. 

Recommended

Stephen Ruffin (from left), Ashley Anderson, Isake Akanke, Rob Demery. Photo: Studio 7 Photography

** Cardboard Piano. CLOSES SUNDAY. New Year’s Eve, 1999, in a remote Ugandan village. Two girls — one a villager (Isake Akanke), the other from a missionary family (Ashley Anderson) — sneak into a church to wed. A boy soldier (Stephen Ruffin) interrupts and lives are changed forever. Also in the cast: Rob Demery. The script is by South Korea-born playwright Hansol Jung. Kennesaw State’s Karen Robinson directs. The drama, intense and provocative, debuted at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, where Express artistic director Freddie Ashley has found fertile ground. 8 tonight-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. At the King Plow Arts Center, 887 West Marietta St. NW. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.607.7469. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

Christmas Canteen. THROUGH DEC. 23. A holiday favorite (of mine). Aurora Theatre’s annual revue, one of its three seasonal shows, turns 22. The jolly variety show is schmaltzy, fun and moving in all the right ways. Think of “The Ed Sullivan Show” or Andy Williams’ Christmas specials, spin the time machine forward a bit, and you’ll know what to expect: songs, dances, novelty numbers and a few not-so-sly references to businesses that support Aurora. New this year: Nick and Caroline Arapoglou as co-hosts. Get tickets soon; this show sells out fast. $30-$65. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2:30 + 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Already sold out: Dec. 3; Dec. 5 (both shows); Dec. 9 (both shows); Dec. 10 (2:30 p.m. show); Dec. 12 (both shows); 8 p.m. Dec. 16 (both shows); and Dec. 17 (10 a.m.); and Dec. 19 (10 a.m.) Watch the website for updates. 128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville. Free, covered, attached parking in city deck at 153 E. Crogan St. Details, tickets HERE or at 678.226.6222. 

Lauren Gunderson is the most-produced playwright in America this season.

** Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. IN PREVIEWS | OPENS SATURDAY. An Encore Atlanta fall/winter top pick. Theatrical Outfit presents the Southeastern premiere of this piece from Decatur-born, San Francisco-based playwright Lauren Gunderson (Silent Sky, I and You, The Taming) and colleague Margot Melcon. The drama, based on characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, takes us to 1815 England and into the life of middle Bennet sister Mary, her hopes for independence, intellectual rigor and perhaps even love. Atlanta actor/director Carolyn Cook leads a strong cast featuring Amelia Fischer as Mary, with Galen CrawleyDevon HalesJonathan HorneLee OsorioMaria Rodriguez-SagerJulissa Sabino and Juan Carlos Unzueta. $20.50-$49. Through Dec. 24. 84 Luckie St. NW. Details, tickets HERE or at 678.528.1500. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

 Opening this weekend

Christmas at Sweet Apple. BEGINS FRIDAY. At Stage Door Players. A feel-good, hometown celebration told through story and song and based on the writings of celebrated Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Celestine Sibley (1914-1999). Sibley’s sharp but folksy take on life and people remains timeless. Atlanta playwright Phillip DePoy wrote the script. The cast includes Scott E. DePoy, Karen Howell, Kate Johnson, Paige Mattox and Jeremy Wood. $15-$33. Through Dec. 17. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. 5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.396.1726.

The Snow Queen. OPENS TONIGHT. Serenbe Playhouse takes the Hans Christian Andersen tale into the woods once again, emphasizing the wintry nature of the tale, as young Gerda fights fear on a journey to save her brother from the icy lady’s evil magic. Performed outdoors in a staging that travels (without seating); request chairs through the box office at 770.463.1110. $15 + $20. Through Dec. 30. 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (expands to Tuesday-Sunday on Dec. 19); 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday (Tuesdays added as of Dec. 19). 10950 Hutchesons Ferry Road, Chattahoochee Hills. Directions, parking info HERE. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.463.1110. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

This week only

Love Never Dies. THROUGH SUNDAY. Broadway in Atlanta presents this sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. The year is 1907, and it has been a decade since the Phantom vanished from the Paris Opera House. He has made a new life for himself among the screaming joy rides and freak shows of Coney Island — but has never stopped yearning for his musical protégée, Christine Daaé. $44-$144. 7:30 tonight; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 + 8 p.m. Saturday; and 1 + 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE. Details, tickets HERE or at 855.285.8499.

[READ: BROADWAY’S KAREN MASON PLAYS THE DEVOTED MADAME GIRY]

One night only

From Opera to Opry: Liquor, Love and the Lord. TUESDAY. The Atlanta Opera mixes arias with twang in its second annual holiday concert at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse. Opera singers (tenor Jonathan Burton, baritones Corey Crider and Michael Mayes, soprano Leah Partridge) mix it up with Cletus McHatfield and the McHatfield Fambly Singers, performing everything from Mozart, Puccini and Verdi to Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and George Jones. $35. 7:30 p.m. All seats general admission. The Tavern opens at 6:15 p.m. for early drinks and dinner. 499 Peachtree St. NE (across from Emory University Hospital Midtown). Parking in the hospital deck is recommended. Tickets, details HERE or at 404.881.8885.

Select holiday

Black Nativity. THROUGH DEC. 17. This African-American telling of the Christmas story was written in 1961 by acclaimed poet/playwright Langston Hughes (1902-1967). This one-act version, produced by Dominion Entertainment Group, takes audiences from a traditional black church to an Africanized Jerusalem through dance, spirituals, anthems and toe-tapping gospel numbers (“My Way Is Cloudy,” “Poor Baby Jesus,” “Mary Did You Know,” “What Child Is This” and many others). $25-$50. Runs Wednesday-Sunday, but curtain times vary, so please check HERESouthwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road SW. Details, tickets HERE. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

OTHER HOLIDAY SHOWS WORTH A LOOK:

Coming up

Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker. OPENS DEC. 8. Atlanta Ballet dances its John McFall-choreographed Nut for the 23rd and final time. A new version debuts in 2018. McFall, the company’s artistic director from 1994 to 2016, slipped out of retirement and into his ballet slippers to lead the company one more time. You know the story. A nutcracker doll comes to life, turns into a prince and takes young Marya on a fantastical adventure. $21.25-$125.25. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 2 + 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2 + 7 p.m. Sunday. Also at 2 p.m. Dec. 21-22, 26 + 28; and 1 p.m. Dec. 24. No show on Christmas. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE. Details, tickets HERE or at 855.285.8499. Tickets also at the Fox and Atlanta Ballet box offices. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

[MORE: McFALL ‘NUT’ KNOWN FOR ITS MAGIC, STORYTELLING]

David de Vries returns as Scrooge for a fourth season. Photo: Greg Mooney

A Christmas Carol. OPENS DEC. 8. Alliance Theatre. Scrooge & Co. take their musical, multicultural story to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre this season while magic, in the form of renovations, consumes their Midtown mainstage. David de Vries returns as ol’ Ebenezer for a fourth season, ably assisted by such longtime cohorts as Cynthia D. Barker (Mrs. Cratchit); Andrew Benator (Marley); Lowrey Brown (Young Scrooge); Je Nie Fleming (Mrs. Fezziwig, Mrs. Dilber); Neal A. Ghant (Bob Cratchit); Bart Hansard (Mr. Fezziwig, Ghost of Christmas Present); Joe Knezevich (Fred); and Courtney Patterson (Ghost of Christmas Past). Marco Schittone plays Tiny Tim for a second season. Rosemary Newcott again directs. $20-$60. Through Dec. 24. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2:30 + 7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. No shows Dec. 9. 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. Details, tickets HERE or at 800.745.3000. Also at Bank of North Georgia and Cobb Energy Centre box offices.

[MORE: FOR LONGTIME DIRECTOR, EVERY YEAR IS A NEW YEAR]

Photo: True Colors Theatre Company

The First Noel. OPENS DEC. 8. True Colors Theatre Company. This musical, set in 1980s Harlem, follows three generations of a family faced with loss. The score reimagines traditional holiday favorites in jazz, gospel and pop styles. Good for all ages. The cast includes Terry Henry, Brittany L. Inge, Margo Moorer and Brad Raymond. Jasmine Guy directs. $16 + $28 including fees (selling well). Through Dec. 24. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Also at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 12; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19; 11 a.m. Dec. 20; and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 23. Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus, 349 Ferst Drive NW. Free parking. Details, tickets HERE or at 877.725.8849 (Ticket Alternative).

Jessenia Ingram is Heidi. Photo: Jerry Siegel

Heidi. OPENS DEC. 8. At Synchronicity Theatre. Johanna Spyri’s 19th-century children’s novel becomes a family-friendly musical in this staging for ages 3 and up. Heidi brings joy to everyone she meets, whether it’s her crusty grandfather in the Swiss Alps or a wheelchair-bound friend in the city. Even the goats sing. The score is by Joan Cushing (Junie B. Jones, Miss Nelson, Petite Rouge). Note: Every Friday is PJs & Play. Kids can wear pajamas and get milk, cookies and — for this show only — chocolates. Julie Skrzypek (Fancy Nancy, The One and Only Ivan) directs. $20-$22; $15-$17 children. Through Dec. 31. 7 p.m. Friday; 1 + 4 p.m. Saturday; and 2 + 5 p.m. Sunday. Also at 2 p.m. Dec. 19-21, 26-28 and 11 a.m. Dec. 24. No show Christmas Day. KidNight Countdown, with a kid-friendly toast and a treat, follows 5 p.m. show Dec. 31. Synchronicity is in the One Peachtreee Pointe complex at 1545 Peachtree St. NE. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.484.8636.

Libby Whittemore

Ho, Ho, Home for the Holidays. DEC. 9-17. Visit Actor’s Express for a slice of Christmas fruitcake unlike any other. Singer Libby Whittemore and alter ego Connie Sue Day (the 31st Lady of Country Music) serenade you with holiday favorites (“Santa Baby,” “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree,” “Christmas in Dixie”) and novelty numbers (“The 12 Days of a White Trash Christmas”) in this two-act celebration of tinsel, jingle bells and just a titch too much eggnog. $40. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9-10, 15-17. At the King Plow Arts Center, 887 West Marietta St. NW. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.607.7469.

Photo: Ballethnic Dance Company

Urban Nutcracker. DEC. 9-10. Ballethnic Dance Company’s soulful celebration takes place on Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Avenue in the 1940s. See the smooth Chocolatier sweep Brown Sugar off to a magical land filled with leaping Reggae Rag Dolls and the spinning Black Russian. This take — also featuring Mother Spice and her tumbling Spice Drops and the bubbly Coca-Cola Pas de Six — mixes the classical ballet with modern, jazz and tap dance. $30-$60 (a Dec. 8 dress rehearsal/preview is $15). 8 nightly. Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College, 830 Westview Drive SW. Details, tickets HERE.

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About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich, Encore Atlanta’s editor, is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project.

View all posts by Kathy Janich