This holiday season in New York means at least ten Christmas Carols, including one this year on Broadway, and 15 Nutcracker Suites. Holiday shows in the city range from family fare to offbeat satires and even off-color burlesque, many of which return year after year. But any guide must begin with the two oldest and best-known:
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Radio City Musical Hall
Now through January 5, 2020
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)
Now through January 5, 2020
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.
Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge (Theater XIV, Bushwick)
Austin McCormick and his erotic dance-theater group present the Burlesque version of the Nutcracker Suite, strictly for ages 18 and over. This too has been an annual tradition, though only since 2013, and only in the past two years in the company’s new home in Bushwick.
Breakdancing to Tchaikovsky’s music, courtesy of Kurtis Blow, this electric troupe tours annually for one or two shows in each venue. This year, these include Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on December 15 and New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J. December 20-21 (and at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland Dec 17-19)
Other New York Nutcrackers: The Yorkville Nutcracker (December 13-15), New York Theatre Ballet’s Nutcracker (December 13-15), Brooklyn Ballet’s Nutcracker (December 14), National Ballet Theatre of Odessa’s The Nutcracker (Dec 14), Bolshoi Ballet’s Nutcracker (a screening, December 15),Alden Moves Dance Theater’s The Nutcracker (Dec 15), Dorrance Dance’s Nutcracker (Dec 17- Jan 5), The Bang Group’s Nut/Cracked (Dec 20-22), Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory’s Nutcracker Winter Suite (Dec 20-21)
For those too young to sit through any of these, My First Nutcracker, (through December 22) “best for ages three to eight.”
A Christmas Carol , Broadway’s Lyceum Theater
now through January 5
Hoping to start an annual tradition, this Christmas Carol, imported from England and adapted by Jack Thorne (best-known for writing “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and directed by Michael Warchus (Matilda the Musical, Groundhog Day) stars Campbell Scott as Scrooge, with Andrea Martin and LaChanze as Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present. As I pointed out in my review, this production has some can seem almost dangerous, with the audience getting thrown clementines and cookies from the stage before the show even begins. Then we’re pummeled with food items like sausage links, as the cast assembles an elaborate Christmas dinner, and doused with two separate snow storms – which looked and felt like real snow (in contrast to the paper blizzard at Slava’s Snowshow, another holiday show on Broadway.) There are also a dozen Christmas carols, the last of them performed entirely by handbells held by the cast, a very lovely moment.
Other A Christmas Carols:
A Christmas Carol The Musical, (through December 30) celebrating its 11th holiday run, A Christmas Carol at The Merchant House Museum (through January 5), celebrating its seventh holiday run,The Imbible Christmas Carol Cocktails (through December 28), its fifth seasonal run, A Christmas Carol in Harlem (through December 21), its second annual run,
One holiday staple, now in its 16th year, combines both Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol: Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance
“a gay, Latino comedic play” through December 21
The Magic Flute, Metropolitan Opera House
December 15 – January 4
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
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.
Times Square Angel, Theater for the New City
In Charles Busch’s 20th 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.
‘Twas The Night Before , Madison Square Garden
Cirque du Soleil muscles in on the seasonal holiday show with this new, acrobatic take on “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore, and the first thought has to be: Why didn’t they think of this before! The story, as they explain it, is about how Isabella, initially jaded by the hoopla surrounding Christmas, is “whisked away to an upside-down, inside-out world” full of characters “inspired by” the poem (surely Dasher! then, Dancer! then Prancer and Vixen!), and changes her mind.
42 FT – A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels New Victory Theatre
through January 5
Cirque Mechanics brings their own acrobatic circus acts, at a much lower ticket price, to the city’s best theater for young people, New Victory.
A Charlie Brown Special , The Secret Theatre
December 14-December 30
A stage adaptation of the 1965 TV special starring the characters from the old Peanuts comic strip.
RuPaul drag shows
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, The Hells Kitchenettes present Christmas at the Loose Caboose, December 12, Twizted Sisterz once again presents Kracked Kristmess, on December 13, Honey Davenport presents Stocking Stuffer December 13-15 and Jackie Beat presents her 21st annual holiday show, Illuminati or Nice, December 20-22
Every Christmas Story Ever Told….and Then Some Theatre Row
Through December 22
Three actors perform every Christmas story ever told, and sing every carol, and engage in Christmas traditions from around the world, all in 90 minutes.