This holiday season in New York means more than a dozen Nutcracker Suites, at least a half A Christmas Carols, including one on Broadway, and other annual traditions in the city that range from family fare to offbeat satires and even off-color burlesque.
Any guide to holiday shows in New York must begin with
The two oldest and best-known holiday shows in NYC (and the country?)
Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Radio City Music Hall)
Now through January 2, 2023
This 90-minute show starring the Radio City Rockettes (36 at each performance, 80 total) has been an annual tradition since 1933, helping to define the holiday season.
Here are the Rockettes at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (their performing in the parade is another annual tradition):
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker NYC Ballet (Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater)
Now through December 31, 2022
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.
Here are Sugar Plum Fairy & Cavalier (Megan Fairchild & Joaquine de Luz) last year:
Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge (Theater XIV, Bushwick)
Through January 29, 2023
An annual tradition since 2013, Austin McCormick and his erotic dance-theater group present the Burlesque version of the Nutcracker Suite in Bushwick, strictly for ages 18 and over.
Other NY (or NJ) Nutcrackers: Jersey City Nutcracker (Dec 9-23), The Yorkville Nutcracker (December 9-11), New York Theatre Ballet’s Nutcracker (December 9-11), Alden Moves Dance Theater’s The Nutcracker (Dec 10), Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s Nutcracker:The Inside/Out Concert (Dec 10), Akjun Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker (Dec 10 – 18), Bang Group’s Nut/Cracked (Dec 15-17), State Ballet Theater of Ukraine’s Nutcracker (Brooklyn, Dec 16), Brooklyn Ballet’s Nutcracker (December 17), Hiphop Nutcracker (NJPAC Newark Dec 17), State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine’s Nutcracker (NJPAC, Dec 18),
For those too young to sit through any of these, My First Nutcracker,at New York City’s Children’s Theater (through December 23) “best for ages three to eight.”
And on December 18, starting at noon, online for free, you can watch twelve hours of different Nutcrackers, including Anthony Williams’ UrbanNutcracker, the Hip Hop Nutcracker, and the Nutcracker and the Mouse King with Alan Cumming, at AllArts
A Christmas Carol on Broadway
Nederlander Theater through January 1, 2023
Jefferson Mays portrays Scrooge and 49 other characters in this adaptation restores Charles Dickens’ original novel in two ways: Both the book’s prose and dialogue are delivered verbatim (with only some editing to keep the performance down to 95 minutes), and, as the novelist subtitled his 1843 tale “A Ghost Story of Christmas,” director Michael Arden makes sure this adaptation is literally dark and scary — perhaps too much so for young children (it’s recommended for eight and above.) My review
Other A Christmas Carols
A Christmas Carol The Musical, (through December 30) celebrating its 14th annual holiday run, A Christmas Carol at The Merchant House Museum (through December 29th), celebrating its tenth holiday run, McCarter Theater’s A Christmas Carol December 7 – 24, A Sherlock Carol, New World Stages through Jan 1
A Nutcracker AND A Christmas Carol
One holiday staple, now in its 19th 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” now through December 17
Other Annual Holiday Shows
Peter and the Wolf (Guggenheim Museum)
Isaac Mizrahi narrates and directs Sergei Prokofiev’s children’s classic, accompanied by live orchestra, and the cast, wearing costumes by Mizrahi, performs choreography by John Heginbotham, bringing the 30-minute story to life
Times Square Angel (Theater for the New City)
The 23rd annual holiday performance written and starring Charles Busch in his homage to holiday films from the 1940s. He portrays Irish O’Flanagan, a tough-as-nails nightclub chanteuse in 1940’s Manhattan who makes Scrooge look like a sentimental sap.
The Magic Flute Holiday Presentation (Metropolitan Opera)
Dec 16 – Jan 06
An abridged, family-friendly version of Mozart’s musical fairy tale. Julie Taymor directed this 100-minute English-language version. She also created the costumes and the puppets.
Alvin Ailey: Revelations (New York City Center)
through December 24
This dance company’s program changes from night to night, but they always make sure to include Revelations, a soulful dance that uses African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues to explore the places of deepest grief and holiest joy.
New Holiday Shows
Amahl and the Night Visitors (On Site Opera)
The Gian Carlo Menotti opera about the shepherd Amahl who offers up his crutch is presented at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, in partnership with Breaking Ground, New York City’s largest provider of permanent supportive housing
Circus Abyssinia: Tulu (New Victory)
Dec 9 – Jan 1, 2023
Aerial acts, juggling and modern day Ethio-pop performed by an African circus inspired by Ethiopian runner Derartu Tulu’s trailblazing 1992 gold medal.
It’s A Wonderful Life (Transport Group at Sheen Center)
A stage adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra movie, with Donna Lynne Champlin in the Jimmy Stewart role as George Bailey, with Maryann Plunkett as Clarence her guardian angel, who points out how much poorer Bedford Falls and the world would be if George had never been born.
Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas
through Dec 31
In this musical for kids adapted from the popular illustrated book, six-year-old Nancy can’t wait to decorate the Christmas tree, but things don’t turn out the way Nancy planned.
Lady Bunny & Jackie Beat: Silver & Gold, Bitter & Old! (Baruch Performing Arts Center)
The two drag icons are joining forces for the first time “to help celebrate the hateful holidays”
A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage (Palladium Times Square)
A thirty-minute stage adaptation of the holiday TV special
For other (non-holiday related) shows opening this month, check out my calendar of December 2022 New York Theater Openings