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Out in the Crowd: Theaters bring spirit of holiday season to stage

Special Photo. From left to right, Kenya Hamilton, Natasha Drena, Brandon O'Dell, Jevares Myrick, Justin McGough and Stacey Stone, members of Aurora Theatre's "Christmas Canteen" cast, perform an ensemble number.

Special Photo. From left to right, Kenya Hamilton, Natasha Drena, Brandon O'Dell, Jevares Myrick, Justin McGough and Stacey Stone, members of Aurora Theatre's "Christmas Canteen" cast, perform an ensemble number.

Leftover Thanksgiving turkey may have just gone into the fridge, but that's not discouraging two Gwinnett theaters from ushering in the Christmas season.

Aurora Theatre's "Christmas Canteen," the longest-running theatrical holiday show in Gwinnett, is in its opening weekend, offering up a holiday hodgepodge of the season's best songs, from "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to "Santa Baby," with some "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" added in.

The Lawrenceville theater venue welcomes back last year's "Canteen" cast, including Brandon O'Dell and Stacey Stone, two longtime ensemble members, as well as Natasha Drena, who played the lead in the Aurora's 2009 season opening production "Kiss Me, Kate."

During its production of "Christmas Canteen," which is in its 14th season, the Aurora Theatre will be collecting donations of new, unwrapped toys for the Atlanta Toys for Tots drive, as well as hosting the third annual Festival of Trees. More than two dozen holiday trees decorated by local businesses and organizations will be on display in the theater lobby through Dec. 20. Theater patrons can cast votes for their favorites by placing their donated toys or nonperishable food items underneath.

"'Christmas Canteen' has always been about celebrating the gifts we have been given," said Anthony Rodriguez, Aurora's producing artistic director. "It is our gift to our extended family -- this amazing, supportive community."

While "Christmas Canteen" is making music in Lawrenceville, New London Theatre will be sharing the spirit of the season with an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol."

Ebenezer Scrooge will be set in his miserly ways until he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

For its production of "A Christmas Carol," the Snellville community theater has assembled two casts. Shows at 8 p.m. will feature primarily adults, while children will present what has been dubbed "A Shrunken Christmas Carol" during matinee showings.

For more information on these holiday shows, visit www.auroratheatre.com for "Christmas Canteen" and www.newlondontheatre.org for "A Christmas Carol."