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A buffet of holiday numbers

It wouldn't be Christmas in Ashland without a holiday show at Oregon Cabaret Theatre. 'Tis the season for "Cabaret Christmas," a festive revue of new and old original holiday songs, along with hilarious parodies and sketches. It's a blend of traditional and unexpected, sentiment and spoof.

The holidays are a time for family and friends to reconnect, even though ways we stay in touch have changed since the yuletide days of yore. One of the new tunes written for the show, "750 Friends," is about a social-network Christmas.

"You don't even have to leave your house," says Jim Giancarlo, who co-wrote the song with Eric Nordin. Giancarlo and Nordin co-wrote last year's "The Wizard of Panto-Land."

The show opens Friday, Nov. 18, and runs through Dec. 31 at OCT, at Third and Hargadine streets. Performances are set for 8 p.m. nightly, except Nov. 21, 24, 28 and 29, and Dec. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 24 and 25. Matinees are set for 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, except Dec. 25.

The show also features songs on the same topic by Seattle composer Richard Gray.

"One is Gray's 'Holiday Letters,' " Giancarlo says. "There's a section of the show that deals with how we relate with each other nowadays."

Gray's work garnered national attention in 2005 and 2006 when he was named as a finalist for the Fred Ebb Foundation Award honoring up-and-coming new musical theatre writers. His musical, "Cold Turkey," — for which he wrote book, music and lyrics — was featured at the 2004 Village Theatre New Works Festival and received a workshop at the Village in 2006. His holiday revue, "Forbidden Xmas," was a fixture on the Seattle holiday scene from 1991 to 2005.

Of the funny sketches in "Cabaret Christmas," one is about Peggy and Patty, two Minnesota gals whose radio show is called "The Party Planners."

"That one is about throwing politically correct holiday parties," Giancarlo says.

Some of the material for the show comes from cast members' holiday memories. Christopher Patterson, who just finished directing OCT's run of "What a Glorious Feeling," recalls a Christmas that combines a sweet memory of a family trying to be together with a hilarious horror story about airline travel.

Look for a "swinging Santa section in the revue that features '40s-esque, jazzy Christmas tunes," Giancarlo says. "Patterson's a fantastic tap-dancer, and he'll be doing a big number with Natasha Harris. There's also a crazy, novelty song we found, called 'Never Do a Tango With an Eskimo.' "

"Cabaret Christmas" is a buffet of holiday numbers performed by such OCT favorites as Patterson, Kymberli Colbourne and Meagan Iverson, along with newcomers Harris and Paul Wrona.

Giancarlo and Colbourne co-direct, musical direction is by Iverson and choreography is by Patterson. Set design is by Michael Halderman, costumes by Kerri Lea Robbins, lighting by Bart Grady and sound by Tom Freeman.

Tickets cost $19 for the preview, $35 for Friday and Saturday evenings, $29 for Saturday and Sunday matinees, $25 for Sunday evenings, $31 for weeknights and $16 for bistro seating. Tickets can be purchased at the box office and www.oregoncabaret.com or by calling 541-488-2902.

Paul Wrona, Natasha Harris, Christopher George Patterson and Kymberli Colbourne appear in 'Cabaret Christmas.' - Photo by Judith Pavlik