Some people wonder why the same holiday shows are so popular, year after year. Some people just attend them year after year.
Below, see the schedule for Broadway shows both during the week leading up to Christmas (this week) and the week following (next week.)
Above that is a list of holiday shows, which range from Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular, which began in 1933, to the annual drag queen mock Christmas extravaganzas at the Laurie Beechman Theater.
But first, a question: What are the upside and downside of perennial holiday shows?
Holiday Shows, Pro and Con
Theatermania’s critics Hayley Levitt and Zachary Stewart recently debated the question: Is it time to kill A Christmas Carol?
Stewart: There’s a passage in Max Posner’s play Judy, which is set in the year 2040, in which an adult teaches a child what a play is: “They were these events people went to around Christmastime. People recited words to each other in the same order, in the same outfits, night after night…And we would pay a lot of money to go sit.” We may laugh at that description, but for a lot of people who only attend the theater once a year, it’s already a reality. You and I both know that the theater can do more. So why should theaters serve the same nuked leftovers the one time that irregular theatergoers show up?
Levitt: Why do you think they’re showing up at all? Because these theaters are putting on a recognizable title with an accessible story that may inspire theater newbies to become theater regulars. And as theater gateway drugs go, you could do far worse than A Christmas Carol. It’s a piece of literature with a valuable message about generosity and charitable giving.
There is something else to consider, which I first learned when I interviewed Johnny Marks, the composer of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Some people might be surprised that somebody actually wrote Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; it seems like a song that’s just always been there every Christmas. But no, Marks wrote it, and a dozen other Christmas songs, which is how he learned that Christmas cheer is a cut-throat business. The success of his little ditty and others such as Jingle Bells fill the airwaves every December, making it nearly impossible to get airtime for new Christmas songs, including his own.
Could you make the same argument for Christmas theater? Do such 800-pound reindeer as our first two holiday shows listed below crowd out any holiday upstarts?
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.
As the critics’ debate above makes clear, there are many versions of A Christmas Carol – for example at the Players Theater in the Village for the ninth year (November 26 through December 30). 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.
NEW TRADITIONS, OR TRYING TO BE
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.
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. This is a surreal experience, especially when Danny Aiello says things like “If we lived every day of our lives as if it were Christmas, we’d never grow old.” (Some of us would also quickly go broke)
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
ALTERNATIVE HOLIDAY SHOWS
There are alternative annual Nutcrackers, not all of them rated G, several of which are trying to become as perennial as their mainstream cousins.
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.
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
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 presented Kracked Kristmess on November 24 and December 1; Alaska has return 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
Wait Until Next Year
The following shows have finished their run this year, but these happen every year, so worth mentioning.
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
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.
There’s nothing that says you have to spend your holiday watching a holiday show. You can see any show on Broadway, which has a changed schedule over the next two weeks.
Christmas Weeks Schedule
Many Broadway shows have an irregular performance schedule during the week of December 24–30. Notice 11 shows are offering Sunday matinees on Christmas Eve, and 14 shows offering evening performances on Christmas Day, which is a Monday
Bold faced dates= added performance
Italic dates= different curtain time
|SHOW||Sun. Dec. 24||Mon. Dec. 25||Tue. Dec. 26||Wed. Dec. 27||Thu. Dec. 28||Fri. Dec. 29||Sat. Dec. 30|
|Aladdin||1pm,||DARK||7pm||1p, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Anastasia||2pm||DARK||2pm, 7:30pm||2pm, 7:30pm||7:30pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|The Band’s Visit||7pm||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Beautiful – The Carole King Musical||7pm||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|The Book of Mormon||DARK||2pm, 7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|A Bronx Tale The Musical||7pm||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Cats||8pm||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Chicago||8pm||8pm||2:30pm, 8pm||8pm||2:30pm, 8pm||2:30pm, 8pm|
|The Children||2pm||DARK||7pm||2pm, 7pm||8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Come From Away||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Dear Evan Hansen||DARK||8pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Farinelli and the King||DARK||7pm||2pm, 8pm||8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Hamilton||DARK||7pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Hello, Dolly!||2pm||DARK||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Home for the Holidays||1pm, 5pm||7pm||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|John Lithgow: Stories by Heart||DARK||8pm||2pm, 8pm||8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Junk||3pm||DARK||7pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Kinky Boots||8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Latin History for Morons||DARK||7pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|The Lion King||1pm,||DARK||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
closed Dec 17
|Meteor Shower||DARK||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Miss Saigon||8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Once on This Island||3pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm||8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|The Parisian Woman||3pm||DARK||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|The Phantom of the Opera||DARK||8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|The Play That Goes Wrong||2pm||DARK||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2p, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|School of Rock The Musical||7pm||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|SpongeBob SquarePants||3pm,||DARK||7pm||2pm, 8pm||7pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Springsteen on Broadway||DARK||DARK||8pm||8pm||8pm||8pm||8pm|
|Waitress||7pm||2pm, 7pm||7pm||2pm, 7pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm|
|Wicked||8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm||8pm||2pm, 8pm||2pm, 8pm|