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Michelle Creber as Annie.Tim Matheson/Theatre Under the Stars


We love our plucky, Depression-era orphans, especially during the holidays. Annie (1977) was inspired by Harold Gray's comic about an over-confident red-haired foundling who falls in with a grouchy millionaire (an amped-up American answer to Anne of Green Gables). Michelle Creber, 11, is exactly the right age to play Annie this year, though she managed beautifully at nine when she starred at Theatre Under the Stars. She joins a cast of 30 for Gateway Theatre's production. Gateway Theatre, Richmond, to Dec. 31.

Christmas on the Air

Playwright Lucia Frangione is known for her saucy and nuanced dramas ( Espresso, Paradise Garden), but before all that, she delivered a straight-up holiday revue in 1994. Christmas on the Air, which has been remounted by the Midnight Theatre Collective, is a series of well-worn seasonal stories and jingles told in a 1949 radio special. Fair warning: Audience members are treated as a part of the "live broadcast." Pacific Theatre, to Jan. 1.

Cinderella Pantomime

The amusingly brazen performers at Metro Theatre come into their own each year with a holiday pantomime - which has become unabashedly fixed on my calendar. In true pantomime style, the (mostly pre-teen) audience boos and cat-calls at an outlandish Demon (Trent Glukler) as he attempts to thwart some fairy romance or other. This year's Cinderella theme will not get in the way of deep-rooted rituals (sing-alongs, horrid

puns) that inform each performance. Metro Theatre, to Jan. 8 1.

Irving Berlin's White Christmas

The post-war song-and-dance vehicle that Irving Berlin created for a quartet of stars (including Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney) back in 1954 hasn't lost much appeal. The Arts Club production, so popular last year, sold out dozens of performances before opening night. And why not? The whole conceit (four talented lovers decide to put on a show at a Vermont inn) is engineered to deliver as much sugary showmanship as possible. Seeing the thing live, in this faithful production, seems to highlight the work's loving mixture of unabashed romance and extreme camp. Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, to Jan. 2.

The Pavilion

The much-lauded actor Bob Frazer takes a turn in the director's chair this month, delivering Craig Wright's tragicomedy about a high-school reunion where old, broken love gets one final chance. If the clichéd setup puts you in doubt as to the work's emotional depth, consider that Wright is the Emmy-nominated writer behind half a dozen episodes of Six Feet Under (a television program that puts most theatre, and film, to shame). The work, which stars the excellent Craig Erickson, also launches Frazer's new theatre company, Osimous Theatre.

Firehall Arts Centre, Jan. 8-31.

Red Letters

Playwright Alan Bau has delivered the first musical created by the Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre. Red Letters details the dismal reality of the Head Tax and the Exclusion Act that fell on Chinese Vancouverites in the early 20th century. Shen, an immigrant worker, is forced to take drastic actions when harsh laws thwart his dream of bringing his wife Mei over from China. Gateway Theatre, Richmond, to Jan. 8.

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