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Pericles

One of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works, an exotic adventure story titled “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” is on stage at Gamut Theatre in downtown Harrisburg through Nov. 25.

William Shakespeare tried his hand at a swashbuckling adventure in “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” an often-amusing tale that features ocean storms, a treacherous tyrant, a dangerous riddle, romance, combat, exotic locales — and even a band of pirates.

Or did he?

There’s a long-standing debate about authorship of “Pericles,” which Gamut Theatre Group is currently staging. Some scholars contend Shakespeare did not write the play because it is not included in the First Folio, a supposedly comprehensive collection of his plays published in 1623. That’s seven years after Shakespeare’s death.

But others are just as certain that Shakespeare indeed wrote all or some of the play. The current consensus is that he wrote about half of it, with the remainder being completed by a collaborator, possibly an unsavory English dramatist and innkeeper named George Wilkins.

Although the play is rarely produced, “Pericles” certainly has the feel of the Bard’s work, with beautiful language and a twisty plot that includes incest, narrow escapes, separated loved ones and unlikely coincidences. It follows the travels of a young Phoenician prince who runs afoul of a king’s incestuous secret and is forced to flee for his life.

“This story is a little bit like ‘Lost’ meets ‘The Princess Bride,’” Gamut cast member Ross Carmichael said. “I think this story is something that will resonate with everyone.”

The production runs through Nov. 25 at Gamut Theatre, 15 N. Fourth St., in downtown Harrisburg. It is directed by Thomas Weaver, who promises an updated take on the play, and stars Matt Romain as the title character.

Christmas season

Ready or not, it’s almost time to put on your holiday face and smile for Santa.

Two local theaters will launch relatively new Christmas productions this month, one a biographical look at an important toymaker, the other a fairly recent effort by an award-winning playwright born in central Pennsylvania.

First up is “The Man Who Saved Christmas,” a holiday musical from 2006, which opens at Allenberry Playhouse on Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving. If you don’t feel like fighting Black Friday crowds, try a recess at Allenberry with this crowd-pleaser loosely based on the life of A.C. Gilbert, inventor of the Erector Set.

Set during World War I, “The Man Who Saved Christmas” follows Gilbert’s battles with the U.S. government, which attempted to ban toy sales during the holiday season. The show, promoted as a “new old-fashioned musical,” features music and lyrics by Ron Lytle. It runs through Dec. 16.

A week later, Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg will stage York County native Ken Ludwig’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which is only tangentially related to the famous 19th century poem by Clement Clarke Moore.

Ludwig said Moore’s work served as inspiration for his work, which premiered a few years ago at Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo, Maryland. “We use it as a springboard to tell the story of a mouse, an elf and a little girl who get together and save Christmas,” Ludwig said in an interview with DC Theatre Scene.

“A lot of it came from the bedtime stories I made up for my kids through the years,” he said. “Doing that is the joy of being a parent.”

“’Twas the Night Before Christmas” is the first children’s play from Ludwig, well known for Broadway hits such as “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” LTM’s production also runs through Dec. 16.

Musical

Theatre Harrisburg takes to the stage at Whitaker Center for a production of “Newsies,” the 2012 Disney musical about newspapers and the under-appreciated youngsters who delivered them in turn-of-the-century New York City.

Based on the 1992 movie of the same name, “Newsies” tells the story of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy, or “newsie” as they were known then, who rallies the troops and fights back when the titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsies’ expense.

Disney’s creative team for “Newsies” was first rate, with a Tony-winning score by Alan Menken (whose many credits include “Beauty and the Beast,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Sister Act”) and a book by Tony winner Harvey Fierstein (“Kinky Boots”). Well-known songs from the show include “Seize the Day” and “Santa Fe.”

Theatre Harrisburg’s production, now on stage, runs through Nov. 18.

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