The beloved annual holiday shows return this year with two distinct differences: All are online, and many are free.
That includes the two oldest and best-known:
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
This show, usually 90 minutes on stage at the Radio City Music Hall, has been an annual tradition since 1933, helping to define the holiday season. This year, it’s 42 minutes, free and online on Peacock, the NBC streaming service, which is free to join. Available through December 31st, it’s now called:
Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes — At Home Holiday Special
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
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.
This year the ballet – which features Maria Kowroski as the Sugarplum Fairy, Tyler Angle as Her Cavalier and Megan Fairchild as Dewdrop — is streaming on Marquee TV for $25 (which includes a 30-day free trial of the streaming service)
Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge
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. This year it’s being streamed and called “…At Home: Signature Acts and Bespoke Cocktails,” and it’s being presented in eight episodes through New Year’s Eve.
Breakdancing to Tchaikovsky’s music, courtesy of Kurtis Blow, this electric troupe tours annually. This year, it’s streaming for $25
Fancy Nut Mix
New this year: James Whiteside, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theater, presents a cast of leading American dance stars in excerpts from Nutcracker on his YouTube channel for free starting on December 20, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. as a benefit for #takethefloor2021 campaign, an initiative to provide portable Harlequin dance mats to more than 100 young dancers so that they can continue their dance training despite COVID closures.
Other New York Nutcrackers: The Yorkville Nutcracker, New York Theatre Ballet’s Nutcracker, Brooklyn Ballet’s Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet’s Nutcracker,, , Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory’s Nutcracker Winter Suite (Most of these have specific dates in December; please check their websites)
For those too young to sit through any of these, My First Nutcracker, (through December 22) “best for ages three to eight.”
For Nutcrackers around the country and around the world (like the Moscow Ballet) check out this list from Playbill.
A Christmas Carols
I won’t call it a silver lining exactly, but one effect of the pandemic is an astonishing proliferation of A Christmas Carols available in your home — many of them annual local traditions elsewhere.
I’ve seen several, one of which I can recommend heartily:
A Christmas Carol with Jefferson Mays
Another of which is charming shadow puppetry (although it loses the fascinating double consciousness of the Manual Cinema’s stage shows)
Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol
and a third that was well-acted, funny, and….busy
Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol that twists like the Dickens
Last year, A Christmas Carol made it to Broadway in a production imported from England’s Old Vic adapted by Jack Thorne (best-known for writing “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and directed by Michael Warchus (Matilda the Musical, Groundhog Day) that was clearly meant to be the first of an annual affair. It’s not back on Broadway this year, but the Old Vic’s version of A Christmas Carol by the same creative team, is being live-streamed through December 24th.
A new Primary Stages’ production of A Christmas Carol adapted and directed by Theresa Rebeck stars Raúl Esparza as Scrooge alongside Krysta Rodriguez and Matthew Saldivar. Friday’s opening night will cost a whopping $100 but a free recording will be viewable Dec 19-22.
A fireside reading of “A Christmas Carol”, (a video whose only visual is logs burning in a fireplace) will replace the annual Christmas Carol The Musical at the Players Theater, but otherwise the New York annual traditions are more or less intact, albeit virtual: A Christmas Carol at The Merchant House Museum (Dec 18-24), celebrating its eighth holiday run (the first virtually),, A Christmas Carol in Harlem , A Christmas Carol, Oy! Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa! (Dec 19-31)
A Christmas Carol AND Nutcracker
One holiday staple, now in its 18th 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….and More
In previous years, the Metropolitan Opera House has filled its tiers for the weeks of the holiday season with Mozart’s festive opera The Magic Flute. This year the Met is offering The Magic Flute only on December 21 — free online. But there is also an online Family Holiday Festival through December 21st, and every day a new festive opera, available for free online:
Dec 22 Massenet’s Cendrillon
Dec 23 Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Dec 24 Puccini’s La Bohème
Dec 25 Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel
Dec 26 Lehár’s The Merry Widow
Dec 27 Verdi’s Falstaff
Other Holiday Show Traditions, Old and New
Broadway Princess Holiday Party
Meet Me in St. Louis
at Irish Rep
‘Twas The Night Before
Last year Cirque du Soleil muscled in on the seasonal holiday with a new, acrobatic take on “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore, at Madison Square Garden. This year, it’s online, for free.
My reaction last year was: 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.
The “Even We Misfits Belong” Holiday Specials
Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce Pandemic!
Jackie Beat: Christmas is Not Canceled
, her 22nd annual holiday show!