This year’s holiday season in New York was meant as a return to the annual tradition of live in-person Christmas Carols and Nutcracker Suites, as well as the usual mix of family fare, offbeat satires and even off-color burlesque, after last year’s shows were all online, and mostly free. Recently, though, there has been a raft of cancellations on Broadway and elsewhere due to breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among members of the companies. These are often for just a day or two, in what the theaters are calling an abundance of caution. In this season of abundance, theatergoers should exercise that same caution as well — and, of course, proof of full vaccination and mask-wearing are required for attendance at all in-person events. There are a handful of holiday shows in the list below that establish a new tradition begun last year: They are either streaming exclusively online, or both in-person and streaming. (I”ll put an asterisk next to those that you can watch from the safety of your home.)
Any guide to holiday shows in New York must begin with the two oldest and best-known:
Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Radio City Music Hall), now through January 2, 2022. This 90-minute show starring the Radio City Rockettes has been an annual tradition since 1933, helping to define the holiday season.
Update December 19: Radio City has canceled the remaining performances of the Christmas Spectacular because of “increasing challenges from the pandemic.”
*George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater)
Now through January 2, 2022. An annual tradition since 1954, New York City Ballet employs all of its 90 dancers, as well as 62 musicians, 40 stagehands and some 125 children in two different casts 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.
Good news: you can also stream this ballet via Marquee TV.
Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge (Theater XIV, Bushwick) through January 30, 2022. 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
Hiphop Nutcracker 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 NJPAC in Newark on December 18, and Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on December 19.
NJ Ballet’s Nutcracker, 50th anniversary, Dec 19-26 at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, N
Other New York Nutcrackers: The Bang Group’s Nut/Cracked (Dec 16-18), Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory’s Nutcracker Winter Suite (Dec 18), *Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker— Online (through January 3)
For those too young to sit through any of these, *My First Nutcracker, (through January 2) “best for ages three to eight.” — which this season is being streamed online.
A Christmas Carols
Have any scholars tried to analyze why this Dickens tale has become the go-to staple of every kind of theater in December? It’s the story of a thrifty (ok, miserly) businessman named Scrooge, who has no use for Christmas, getting scared into celebrating the holiday, and becoming kind. Many of the annual versions have dropped out this year, but the core remain, with some new ones added:
A Christmas Carol The Musical, (through December 30) celebrating its 13th holiday run at the Players Theater, A Christmas Carol at The Merchant House Museum (through December 31), celebrating its ninth holiday run. * A Christmas Carol, Oy! Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa Happy Ramadan! at Theater for the New City (Dec 22-Jan 2), virtual only. One Christmas Carol at Chain Theater (Dec 17 – 19), A Sherlock Carol at New World Stages (through January 2). *Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist is exclusively online through January 31.
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 18th
Other Annual Holiday Traditions
‘Twas The Night Before , Madison Square Garden through December 27
Cirque du Soleil muscled in on the seasonal holiday show two years ago with this 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.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage, through December 24, at Palladium Times Square. Actors portraying Charles Schultz’s Peanuts characters entertain for 30 minutes, followed by a Christmas carol singalong.
Metropolitan Opera House, December 23 – January 25. 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.
Celebrity Cabaret/Variety Holiday Shows
(There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, at Feinstein’s/54 Below Dec 19-24. For the seventh year, but in a new show, Norm Lewis shares the Christmas spirit.
*Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce…Booster!, through January 2. The latest edition of Mac’s annual variety show is, like last year, a “virtual vaudeville.” This is hugely festive, but not for children.
Oh Come All Ye Hateful, at Laurie Beechman theater, through December 28. Lady Bunny butchers your favorite Christmas carols. Again, definitely not for children.
New (First Annual?) Holiday Shows
*Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas at New Victory through January 2.
Based on the 1977 Muppet movie, this show centers on the poor but loving Emmet Otter and his mother, who both decide to enter a talent contest in the hope of winning prize money to buy each other Christmas gift. This is also available for streaming online.
Tinsel: A Global Holiday Celebration at Lucille Lortel through December 31
This new holiday performance series features different performers throughout the month, including Jelani Remy, Telly Leung, Jared Grimes, Jaime Lozano and The Familia, Everett Bradley’s Holidelic, Latrice Royale, Ronny Dutra, Ilene Reid, Brinda Guha, Cumbé Dance and Pastorela: A Very Merry Immigrant Christmas.