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Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004 08:11 pm

backstage pass 12-9-04


If you're looking for an alternative to Christmas-show overload, check out the Portuguese Rodeo Clown Company, which features three actors performing improvisations and other comic antics onstage for one night at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

The "clown company" includes Andy Lee and Johnny Molson, co-hosts of a show on WMAY (970 AM), and Detroit actor Mark C. Holden. The show is presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10. Tickets, which cost $10, are available at the box office. For more information, call 217-523-2787 or go to www.therodeoclowns.com.

In the mood for something classic? You have a couple of choices.

• Drive to Bloomington for the Illinois State University theater department's production of The Seagull. Anton Chekhov's classic is considered a vehicle for great acting, and the theater program at ISU always delivers. The Seagull runs through this weekend. Call 309-438-2535 for ticket information.

• At Decatur's Millikin University, a favorite Shakespeare comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, runs through Sunday, Dec. 12. For ticket info and times, call 217-424-6318.

But back to the holidays . . .

• At 7 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 12, Dale Rogers and company present Christmas Revels, a pageant with drama, music, and dance, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 533 S. Walnut St. This could very well be the holiday performance not to miss. The Christmas revel is a 200-year-old American tradition of song, dance, readings, and pageantry. A revels production has been running in Cambridge, Mass., for years.

The theme of the Westminster program goes along with the opening number, "Make We Merry on This Fest!" The focus is holiday customs from around the world, and the show features carols from Italy, Germany, England, and Norway; Native American songs; music composed in the 15th century; and contemporary works by composers Andrew Carter and John Rutter, among others.

Among other holiday shows of note:

• Scrooge: The Musical opens this weekend at the Center for the Arts. This is a stage adaptation of the Leslie Bricusse movie that turned Dickens' A Christmas Carol into a musical. Roger Streu is Ebenezer Scrooge, Ed Smith is Marley's ghost, and Leigh Ann Smith directs. "One nice thing about the Center for the Arts stage," says Smith, "is the ability to fly scenery, and in this show, we're flying several pieces." Smith was the director responsible for bringing all the magic to life in Springfield Muni's Wizard of Oz a couple of years ago, so this production of Scrooge, the first time this new version has been staged in the area, should be exciting. The show runs Friday-Sunday, Dec. 10-12 and 17-19. For tickets, call 217-523-2787.

• The Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan is staging a holiday show titled It's Always Time for Christmas. It's yet another of the holiday extravaganza-type shows we're seeing more and more of each year, but at least on the small Sullivan stage, it's an intimate extravaganza, and the professional performers are worth the price of the ticket. The show continues Thursday-Sunday, Dec. 9-12, and also Tuesday-Sunday, Dec. 14-19. For tickets and times, call 217-728-7375.

• Next week, Gordon Productions brings back its popular Christmas Songbook show, which played for several seasons in the indoor theater at New Salem. This year, the show is at the Center for the Arts for five performances, Friday-Sunday, Dec. 17-19. It's a fun Lawrence Welk-Andy Williams kind of show, with great performers such as Steve Williams, Mary Jo Curry, Ann Collins, and Greg Floyd belting out a long list of holiday numbers. For tickets and times, call 217-523-2787.

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