The Halloween decorations have been put away for another year, Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away - and in card shops, book stores, shopping malls and gift boutiques, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Theater companies throughout Utah, too, are gearing up for their Christmas seasons. There are at least five different versions of "A Christmas Carol" (seven if you count the two productions of "Scrooge," the musical adaptation of the Dickens classic). City Rep is dusting off its two annual holiday favorites, "The Other Wise Man" and "Babes in Toyland," and there'll be a variety of Christmas and non-seasonal shows along the Wasatch Front and beyond.Two theaters - Desert Star Playhouse in Murray and Promised Valley Playhouse downtown - are offering shows that are different from much of the traditional holiday-season fare. Desert Star, which has firmly staked its claim to the region's musical-melodrama niche, will open a production of "It's a Wonderful Life or Winging in the Holidays," on Nov. 23. One week later, PVP is staging its new show, "Christmas in the Air," a mainstage potpourri of songs and sketches patterned after the famous extravaganzas that Radio City Music Hall mounts every year - except there won't be any Rockettes.

"Christmas in the Air" will feature the talents of James Arrington, who can be expected to inject a few famous Farley Family touches into the proceedings, and singer Janine Lindsay of Los Altos, Calif. We've watched the show progress over the past few weeks, including a look at the first draft of the script. There's no plot, just an evening of Christmasy vignettes strung together.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is being directed by Shawn Maxfield in his first endeavor at the helm of a major local production. Assisting him is Val David Smithson, Desert Star Playhouse's musical director, who is working a number of familiar tunes into the piece, including "If They Could See Me Now," "As Long As He Needs Me" and "The Brother