HOLIDAYS : 'Christmas Carol' Alternatives : December without an onstage Scrooge? Live theater this season includes ballet, comedy, light opera and other traditional stories.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Robert Koehler writes frequently about theater for The Times

The Democrats are out of power on Capitol Hill, and Ebenezer Scrooge is out this holiday season.

Of the numerous holiday shows appearing in the Valley in coming weeks, that once-standard staple of Christmas theater, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," is eclipsed by an array of alternatives. The only "Christmas Carol" arrives care of the touring Nebraska Theatre Caravan, camping at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center on Dec. 21 and 22.

The shift to more creative holiday programming may not bring quality along with it, but there are nearly as many choices as there are in the newly opening, post-quake shopping malls. Attention shoppers:

David C. Field's musical fable, "The Legendary Christmas," speculates on what happens when Santa wants to hang it up for good. It opens Sunday at Actors Alley Repertory at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

5220 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21; 6 p.m. Dec 22 and 23. Ends Dec. 23. Tickets are $7 to $10 . Call (818) 508-4200.

Actor's Workout Studio scores something of a coup with its world premiere staging of "Miracle on 34th St.," adapted by Tom Hall and L.L. Young from Valentine Davies' novel. Set in the 1940s, the stage version, which opens Saturday, was authorized by the estate of Davies, who also wrote the original film version.

4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 19 to 22 . Ends Dec. 22. Tickets are $6 to $12. Call (213) 662-7900.

"The Christmas Party and Other Holiday Treats," opening Dec. 3, is the holiday edition of Alliance Repertory Company's weekend Bagel Brunch series. It includes Michael Panes' one-act comedy about two elevator operators during the Christmas rush, and vignettes by Alliance members.

3204 Magnolia Blvd., Burbank ; noon Saturday and Sunday (brunch served at 11:30 a.m.). Ends Dec. 25. Tickets are $10 (includes brunch; reservations essential). Call (818) 566-7935.

Burbank Civic Light Opera's carol-studded Christmas show, "Holiday Homecoming," opens Dec. 6 at Burbank Little Theatre in George Izay Park. It depicts a young couple coming home for the holidays.

1111 W. Olive Ave., Burbank; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Ends Dec. 18. Tickets are $7 to $10. Call (818) 380-3444.

You can be sure that holiday jokes will pour like eggnog at L.A. Connection Comedy Theatre during the season, but the special show is "L.A. Connection New Year's Eve Celebration," on, of course, Dec. 31.

13442 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 8 and 10 p.m. Dec. 31. Tickets are $12 (first show), $15 (second show), $22 (both). Call (818) 784-1868 .

Lancaster Performing Arts Center will serve up "The Nutcracker" ballet.

750 W. Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster; 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 2 p.m. Dec. 11. Tickets are $12 to $25 for evening and $10 to $22 for matinee. Call (805) 723-5950.

Also at Lancaster Performing Arts Center, "A Christmas Carol" receives a hearing care of the Nebraska Theatre Caravan.

750 W. Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster; 8 p.m. Dec. 21 and 22. Tickets are $12 to $22. Call (805) 723-5950.

Trials of the Catholic faith in the inner city at Christmas dominate Douglas Scott Delaney's comedy-drama, ". . . My Last Confession," at the Road Theatre Company.

14141 Covello St. 9D, Van Nuys; 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday. Ends Dec. 11. Tickets are $12.50. Call (818) 785-6175.

Writer-director Marion Gallo unveils the darker, possibly funnier side of Christmas with her black comedy, "Home Fire," opening Dec. 2 at Theatre West.

3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Universal City; 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15. Call (213) 660-8587.

Dickens will get absolutely no respect at The Wild Side Theatre, which presents "Improvised Christmas Carol," featuring a motley crew including Bob Marley's Ghost, 2 Live Scrooge and the Amazing Colossal Tim.

10945 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; 7:30, 9 and 10:30 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17 and Dec. 23 and 24. Tickets are $10; half-price ticket with donated can of food. Call (818) 506-8838.

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