The holiday show tradition in New York ranges way beyond Radio City Music Hall and family entertainment, to include shows that are offbeat and others that are decidedly not for children.
Let’s start with the two best known annual family holiday shows in the city:
Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Radio City Music Hall)
Now through January 1, 2018
This 90-minute show starring the Radio City Rockettes has been an annual tradition since 1933, helping to define the holiday season.
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater)
November 24 – December 31, 2017
An annual tradition since 1954, New York City Ballet employs all of its 90 dancers, as well as 62 musicians, 32 stagehands and two casts of 50 young students each from the School of American Ballet to present this Tchaikovsky-scored ballet about a brave young girl who “turns the tide in a battle between toy soldiers and mischievous mice.” There’s also an onstage blizzard and a Christmas tree that grows to 40 feet.
There are alternative annual Nutcrackers, not all of them G-rated:
Nutcracker Rouge (383 Troutman Theatre Space)
November 23 – January 14, 2018
Austin McCormick and his erotic dance-theater group present the Burlesque version of the Nutcracker Suite, strictly for ages 18 and over. First performed in Greenwich Village in 2013, it continues its holiday tradition in a new theater in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
The Yorkville Nutcracker (Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College)
December 7 – 10
An annual tradition for some two decades by Dances Patrelles, this version is set in the New York City neighborhood of Yorkville in 1895.
The Hip-Hop Nutcracker (3 local venues)
Breakdancing to Tchaikovsky’s music, this troupe tours annually for one or two shows in each venue. This year, these include:
United Palace in Washington Heights on December 14, NJPAC in Newark on December 15, and Kings Theater, Brooklyn on December 16. (They will also be performing at the Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland on December 12 and 13)
Similarly, there are many versions of A Christmas Carol – for example at the Players Theater (seen above)in the Village for the ninth year (November 26 through December 30) and
at Theatre Row by Mod Company (November 24 – December 17) for the third. For the fifth year, the Merchant House Museum (November 30 – January 31, 2018) will re-create the time in 1867, when Charles Dickens traveled to New York to perform his story.
The Magic Flute (The Metropolitan Opera House)
November 25 – December 9, 2017
Julie Taymor directed this 100-minute English-language version of Mozart’s opera, which debuted a decade ago. She also created the costumes and supplied the puppets.
Peter and the Wolf with Isaac Mizrahi (Guggenheim Museum)
December 2-3, then 8-10
The fashion designer narrates Sergei Prokofiev’s children’s classic which he first performed at the museum in 2007. Mizrahi also designed the costumes: Peter, for example, has a beanie with a pinwheel on top.
Elf (The Theater at Madison Square Garden.)
December 13 – 29, 2017
A stage adaptation of the movie about a human taken in by Santa who travels to New York to find his real family. This show was launched on Broadway as a holiday show in 2010, but has since become an annual affair at Madison Square Garden. George Wendt (Cheers) plays Santa this year.
It’s a Wonderful Life (Irish Rep)
November 29 – December 31, 2017
A radio play version of Frank Capra’s holiday movie that starred Jimmy Stewart, which is set in a radio station in the 1940s.
Times Square Angel (Theater for the New City)
In Charles Busch’s 19th annual staged reading of his homage to holiday films from the 1940s, he performs as Irish O’Flanagan, a tough-as-nails nightclub chanteuse in 1940’s Manhattan who makes Scrooge look like a sentimental sap.
Who’s Holiday (Westside Theater)
November 20-December 31, 2017
In a take-off of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Lesli Margherita (of Matilda fame) gives a solo star turn in Matthew Lombardo’s play about drunken middle-aged Cindy Lou Who, now residing in a beaten down trailer in the snowy hills of Mount Crumpit. As she prepares to serve as host to a Christmas Eve party for her friends, she recalls that fated night when she first met the Grinch.
Home for the Holidays (August Wilson Theatre)
November 17 – December 30, 2017
The winners of TV talent competitions —Candice Glover (American Idol), Josh Kaufman (The Voice) and Bianca Ryan (America’s Got Talent)—are the stars of this debut holiday concert of some 25 “perennial favorite” songs in a Broadway theater, which also features some YouTube stars and actor Danny Aiello.
The Laurie Beechman Theater, in the basement of the West Bank Café on 42nd Street, has an annual tradition of holiday specials presided over by some of RuPaul’s favorite drag queens. This year, Twizted Sisterz presents Kracked Kristmess on November 24 and December 1; Alaska returns with her fifth annual holiday show, For Heaven’s Snakes, December 13 to 20,;and, from December 27 to 30, Sharon Needles presents The Nightmare After Christmas.