10...9...8...Ringing In The New Year With Theatre

10...9...8...Ringing In The New Year With Theatre Of course, New Year's Eve is basically worthless without Dick Clark, but if you absolutely must go out that night, and if watching the football bowl games the following afternoon could destroy your marriage, consider the theatre-oriented ways to begin 1997.

Of course, New Year's Eve is basically worthless without Dick Clark, but if you absolutely must go out that night, and if watching the football bowl games the following afternoon could destroy your marriage, consider the theatre-oriented ways to begin 1997.

Texans can catch Best Musical Actress Tony-winner Jennifer Holliday (Dreamgirls) in a concert performance at the Alley Theatre in Houston. Gold level seats are $500 and come with dinner and a private hotel room at the Four Seasons, but $75 silver level seats still come with a post-concert buffet and party.

Some shows, such as Westchester Broadway Theatre's Phantom, will offer special Tuesday night performances, capped by a champagne, music and dancing. Broadway's Victor/Victoria will celebrate its New Year a bit early, with a 3 PM performance Tuesday Dec. 31. According to production spokesperson Alice Herrick, at intermission, the cast and audience will toast the new year, imbibe champagne, and scarf down chocolate-covered strawberries and fancy cookies.

Other venues, such Baltimore's Center Stage, will offer special New Year's presentations. They'll serve as host to the satirical troupe, The Capitol Steps, twice on Dec. 31, at 7 and 10 PM. Skewering the government, the Steps will offer such numbers as "For He's A Jolly Good Felon," "Fools On The Hill" and the D'Amato tune, "Al In The Family." For tickets ($32-$40) and information call (410) 481-6500.

Folks on the West Coast can have their own laughs with The Groundlings, doing a "Best Of" show at their own theatre on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. Beginning at 9:30 PM and continuing through the night, The Best Of The Groundlings will offer a feast of fine foods, champagne, music, dancing and, naturally, comedy. At 10 PM, the troupe will present their most popular sketches from the past two decades. For tickets ($70) and information call (213) 934-9700. If Groundlings aren't your style, perhaps you'd prefer Fools. Or, to be precise, Moliere's The Fools, staged at the Santa Monica Playhouse Dec. 27-Dec. 31. A zany, romantic musical comedy with liberal doses of intrigue and swordplay (the L.A. Times called it "Barnum & Bailey spiced with Monty Python"), The Fools will offer two performances Dec. 31 at 7 and 9:45 PM. Throughout the run, wandering mimes and jesters will begin the evening, which includes a buffet supper, champagne and "special surprises." On New Year's Eve, guests will also be treated to hats, party favors, noise makers and a post-performance midnight countdown with the cast.

If you'd rather spend an old-fashioned New Year with an old-fashioned play, Summit, IL's Candlelight Dinner Playhouse has two choices available: A Wonderful Life and Season's Greetings. Life, a musicalization of the holiday favorite at the Dinner Playhouse, offers shows at 2 PM and 7 PM, with the latter including (for $165) a five-course dinner, champagne toast, dancing, party favors and midnight countdown. Season's Greetings, the Alan Ayckbourn comedy at the Candlelight Forum Theatre, begins at 8 PM, bracketed by a dinner at 7 or a dinner at 10 PM. The latter includes champagne, party favors and countdown in its $70 package price.

Oh, and before you ask, the dinner for both shows is a choice of Chicken Portofino, medallions of sirloin bordelaise, Poached norwegian salmon with lemon dill buerre blanc, and my favorite, scallop and black angus Surf & Turf. For information, call (708) 496-3000.

Another option is to make a full two-day affair of the holiday, such as the one offered for the Columbus, OH, stop on the Smokey Joe's Cafe tour. Their Dec. 31 show will be followed by a post-performance party and champagne toast, with overnight stays available through the nearby Hyatt Hotel on Capitol Square. Call (614) 228-1234 for package details.

Folks eager to hear what one-third of Broadway's upcoming Jekyll & Hyde will look and sound like can catch a concert by Linda Eder at the Pheasant Run Resort Theatre in St. Charles, IL. Accompanied by a five-piece band, Eder will offer a 90-minute concert, followed by four live entertainment parties with live bands and open bar until 2:30 AM. For information on how to see this "elegant, sultry, powerhouse" performer, call (630) 584-6342.

Though many theatres will be dark New Year's Day, it's worth checking your listings to see what shows might have special matinee performances (after all, Jan. 1 is a Wednesday). On Broadway, Present Laughter will offer a special Dec. 31 2 PM matinee, Cats will have a show that day at 3 PM, and Show Boat and An Ideal Husband will offer a 2 PM matinee Jan. 3. Bring In `Da Noise, Bring In `Da Funk and Les Miz will have a 2 PM matinee Jan. 2. Miss Saigon will start the holiday ball rolling with a 2 PM matinee Dec. 30.

-- By David Lefkowitz