David Cerda (center) as Joan Crawford in Hell in a Handbag's Christmas Dearest Credit: Rick Aguilar Studios

Hell in a Handbag Productions’ campy spoof of A Christmas Carol replaces miserly moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge with hard-hearted Hollywood icon Joan Crawford, played by author (and Hell in a Handbag artistic director) David Cerda. In Cerda’s reworking of Charles Dickens’s behavior-modification fable, Joan—a tyrannical, tough-as-nails diva who abuses everyone around her, including her loyal personal assistant (Ed Jones) and her talentless adoptive daughter Christina (Mark Barty)—is filming an MGM musical about the mother of Jesus (Oh, Mary!) when she is visited one drunken Christmas Eve by the real BVM (Sydney Genco) and warned to change her wicked ways. The supernatural intervention continues with appearances by the ghosts of Christmas Past (Tyler Anthony Smith as a Betty Boop-like 1920s starlet), Present (Danne W. Taylor as studio boss Louis B. Mayer), and Future (Caitlin Jackson in a delicious Bette Davis/Baby Jane Hudson caricature). Where Dickens’s Scrooge was terrified by the thought of a lonely death, Cerda’s gorgon-esque Joan is transformed by the prospect of a much worse fate: late-career stardom in C-grade sci-fi flicks and being played by Faye Dunaway in a screen version of Christina’s tell-all memoir.

Christmas Dearest
Through 12/31: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 4 PM; Sun 12/19, 7:30 PM only; no performances 12/24-12/26, Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 W. Foster, handbagproductions.org, $32 advanced, $35 door, $50 VIP/reserved seating (includes drink ticket and goodie bag).

Directed by Derek Van Barham and performed in an upstairs assembly hall at Andersonville’s Ebenezer Lutheran Church, this scrappy, gender-bending musical (with songs by Cerda and composer Scott Lamberty) has the handmade, good-natured feel of a church-school holiday pageant. The flying special effects by puppeteer Lolly Extract and the Jabberwocky Marionettes are especially fun.