Weekend Best Bets

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2000

Christmas season is upon us.

The Alaska Juneau Public Market heralds the opening of the Christmas season in Juneau, a month of shows, pageants and concerts. Next weekend is Gallery Walk, then "Nutcracker 2000," Juneau Dance Unlimited's own new version of the Tchaikovsky ballet. There's a Christmas contradance, holiday concerts from the Alaska Youth Choir, the Juneau Symphony and the Juneau Lyric Opera chorus, the "Grumpsicle" show and numerous local church pageants.

Next week the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council is sponsoring a Christmas show with singer Glenn Yarbrough. Yarbrough presents "The Forgotten Carols" at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at the JuneauDouglas High School auditorium. It's a Christmas story sung and narrated by Yarbrough, the tale of a 2,000yearold man who recounts the birth of Christ.

Yarbrough portrays a character named John, a witness to the Nativity who wants to credit the unsung participants in the birth of Christ. Not the three wise men, but the shepherds and the innkeeper who turned away Joseph and Mary.

Yarbrough is an Irish tenor who sang with The Limelighters in the 1950s and 1960s. He had a hit in the 1960s with "Baby, The Rain Must Fall," and helped launch poet Rod McKuen's career by recording an album of his songs, "The Lonely Things." This is not a Glenn Yarbrough concert, but a Christmas special.

The arts council will present one performance of "The Forgotten Carols" at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are available in advance at Hearthside and Rainy Day Books, and they're $15, $12 for students and seniors and $50 for an entire family.

"Greater Tuna" opens tonight at the Palace Theatre. I saw a rehearsal and this looks like a great show. Two actors, Bill Hurr and Matthew Turner, portray about 20 different characters. It's fast and funny, with that biting edge of truth that gives depth to good comedy.

The town of Tuna is firmly set in Texas, but the show isn't making fun of Texans. It mocks the small-mindedness that can pervade life in small towns everywhere, and plays on the goofy provinciality that can be unavoidable in little towns. It's satirical, but mostly it's just fun, romping comedy.

"Greater Tuna" will run for four weeks, at 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday through Dec. 16. Tickets are $12.

"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," also opens tonight, at JuneauDouglas High School. This is an easy show to like, with catchy songs and familiar characters we all already know.

I saw a rehearsal last weekend and this is not the same show my high school did 20 years ago. This version has a 20voice chorus added on the opening and closing numbers, a couple new songs, a new character and some new "comic-strip" vignettes added, short scenes that are like live action "Peanuts" comics.

I know theater companies like to get a buzz going early to promote a show, but I have to confess that I'm not a fan of opening night performances. Shows invariably get better as the cast gets to know their parts and as the crew works out the logistical bugs. That can be especially true in a musical with a band and choir added to the mix.

West End Productions, a new Juneau theater group Tim Kelly has launched, will stage "Charlie Brown" six times over the next two weekends. Shows are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sundays. The final show will be Sunday, Dec. 3.

"Desire Under the Elms" is underway at Perseverance. Some of you may have heard that Chip Brookes, one of the main characters, injured his leg last weekend and the Sunday night show was canceled. He's back in action, a little worse for the wear and tear, but the show will go on.

Jerry Harper, the Anchorage actor who plays Cabot in "Desire" is doing a special show next week. It's a one-man performance called "Syd," based on the life of famed early Alaska artist Sydney Laurence. More on that next week. "Syd" will run Dec. 4, 5 and 6.

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