Pulling an even lustier all-nighter is the Scrooge-based anti-heroine of Gold Dust Orphans' Mrs. Grinchley's Christmas Carol (at Machine through December 19), a collision of Dr. Seuss and Dickens that finds the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come visiting the mean-spirited, merchandizing widow of the Christmas-swiping Grinch. Freewheeling author/performer Ryan Landry stars as Mrs. Grinchley, who fries her impoverished clerk's fingers in a waffle iron when she's not harrumphing about the surplus population. She's all green-hued glower until those spirits, announced by a giant, impressively billowing Ghost of the Grinch, turn up.

You'd think the old broad would be ready for anything: the street scene before her place of business features a grown-up Jesus in his crown of thorns and the Christmas-cheery relative who turns up to wish her merry is a bumptious Liza Minnelli. But Mrs. G's scrawny heart melts when, accompanied by her hook nose and perpetual grimace, it's whisked among visions that include a Cratchit hearth presided over by a staggering-drunk matriarch, Tiny Tim as an uncannily impassive pup with one leg in a splint, and her own tombstone set amid those of Lassie and Liberace.

Mrs. Grinchley lacks the sacrilegious brilliance of Landry's holiday mash-up of the Nativity story and Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of the Virgin Mary. A sequel to the Orphans' very first Boston show, How Mrs. Grinchley Swiped Christmas, it feels a little slammed together, with fewer ingenious twists in the Dickens road map than you might expect. But there are some spirited production numbers, cruelly clever gags, and cheekily sumptuous costumes. And as usual, the Orphans' unstoppable energy and bawdy good cheer prove infectious. Moreover, this is a troupe that truly knows itself: the centerpiece of Mrs. Grinchley's redemption is not a prize turkey but a big fat ham.

For those hankering after more conventional holiday entertainments, there are the usual suspects. Grinchless adaptations of A Christmas Carol are recidivists at North Shore Music Theatre and Trinity Repertory Company. Boston Playwrights' Theatre and Boston Children's Theatre team up on Burgess Clark's adaptation of Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales. And the Rockettes tap their way into Bethlehem in Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Wang. But there are also a couple of more offbeat Yule-themed entertainments making their area debuts.

Beasley's Christmas Party (at Merrimack Repertory Theatre through December 19) is to Ryan Landry what Jimmy Stewart is to Elton John. But C.W. Munger's adaptation of a 1909 tale by The Magnificent Ambersons author Booth Tarkington is a novelty whose charm lies in its unerring quaintness. Not a drop of modern-day snarkiness rains on this quirky tale, as told by the journalist next door, of an amiable politician of few words who is suddenly spied talking to animals and people who are not there. The eventual explanation for this apparent display of plumb loco-ness is like two sticks rubbed together under the cockles of the audience's collective heart. But under Carl Forsman's direction, the peculiar period piece, too eccentric to be cloying, is gamely put across by three skilled performers — Joey Collins, Crystal Finn, and Tony Ward — who paint with broad strokes a whole Midwestern town's worth of kindly if opinionated folk unaware until the end that there's a Tiny Tim in their midst.

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  Topics: Theater , Arsenal Center for the Arts, Terrence McNally, New Repertory Theatre,  More more >
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