Along with Christmas Carols and mall Santas, the holiday season brings in a whole crop of theatrical offerings that only come 'round once a year. No matter what corner of the country you're from, there's always a multitude of options for holiday theatergoing. Take a look at what's playing in your regional theater hub to get you into the jovial spirit of the season.
A Christmas Carol (The Goodman Theatre): The Goodman Theatre welcomes back this annual musical production of Charles Dickens' classic Christmas tale. Henry Wishcamper directs Tom Creamer's adaptation of the story, starring Goodman alum Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge. The production is playing now through December 28.
Elf: The Musical (Cadillac Palace Theatre): The Broadway tour of Elf: The Musical, the whimsical stage adaptation of the popular 2003 film about Buddy the Elf, is sitting down in Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theater through December 15. The 2010 musical features a book by Bob Martin and three-time Tony winner Thomas Meehan (Rocky) and a score by Tony nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer). (D.C. residents can also perk up because the tour will be stopping at the Kennedy Center from December 17-January 5.)
The Christmas Schooner (The Mercury Theater): This holiday musical, featuring a book by John Reeger and a score by Julie Shannon, has become a Chicago tradition since enjoying a twelve-year run at Bailiwick Repertory Theatre (debuting in 1995). The production tells the story of the first Christmas tree ship, and the people who risked their lives traveling from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Chicago in 1912 in the midst of a terrible storm. The Mercury Theater is offering performances now through December 29.
We Three Lizas (About Face Theatre): Coming off a 2012 run at the Steppenwolf Garage, We Three Lizas comes to About Face Theatre to offer Chicago audiences a "queer" option for the holiday season with a little extra sparkle. When Liza Minnelli comes knocking with holiday gifts, all hell breaks loose and hilarity ensues. The musical offering features a book and lyrics by Scott Bradley and music and additional lyrics by Alan Schmuckler. The show runs at Stage 773 through January 5, 2014.
Aladdin and His Winter Wish (Pasadena Playhouse): An all-star cast heads to L.A. for an updated Panto twist on the classic Arabian Nights tale. Featuring choreography by Emmy nominee Spencer Liff (So You Think You Can Dance?), the production includes modern musical numbers including "Jai Ho" (Slumdog Millionaire) and "Treasure" (Bruno Mars) and features Tony Award winner Ben Vereen (Pippin) as The Genie, six-time Emmy-winning comedian Bruce Vilanch as Widow Twankey, and Richard Karn (Home Improvement) as The Sultan. Jordan Fisher (Disney's Teen Beach Movie) stars in the title role, alongside fellow young television star Ashley Argota (Nickelodeon's True Jackson VP) as The Princess. The production will run December 11-29.
The Second City's A Christmas Carol: Twise Your Dickens! ReE-Loaded! Re-Twisted! (Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre): The legendary comedy troupe The Second City brings their Charles Dickens sendup to the L.A. theater from December 8-29. The production is filled with satirical sketches, anachronistic characters, and a host of celebrity guest appearances by stars including Casey Affleck, Rhea Perlman, Jane Kaczmarek, and many more scheduled for this season of performances.
The Queen Family's Very Special Holiday Special (The Actors' Gang): Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins' experimental theater group, the Actors' Gang, presents this quirky holiday production, directed by Will Thomas McFadden. This year, the show promises a celebration of diversity, inviting "everyone from Atheists to Amish to join in the Holiday fun." The show runs from December 6-January 4, 2014 at the troupe's Culver City theater.
An Irish Carol (Keegan Theatre): Playwright Matthew Keenan puts an Irish twist on the traditional Charles Dickens Christmas story. David, a wealthy pub owner, becomes the Ebenezer Scrooge of this tale. He is confronted with his past, present, and future over the course of one evening, eventually embracing his lost humanity. The play runs December 13 and December 31.
NSO Pops: Happy Holidays! with Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kennedy Center): Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell (Ragtime, Kiss Me, Kate) headlines the annual concert with the NSO Pops. Conducted by Steven Reineke, Mitchell lends his sultry baritone to numbers from his illustrious Broadway career as well as a few holiday favorites.
Matt Conner Christmas/Holiday Follies 2013 (Signature Theatre, Virginia): Signature Theatre is presenting two one-week shows to fill its holiday slots. A Matt Conner Christmas is up first, offering performances from December 11-15. Composer and Signature alum Matt Conner has put together a musical salute to the holidays, featuring his unique piano arrangements. Holiday Follies will follow, featuring a number of Signature alums performing holiday classics. The show will run December 17-December 23.
The Big Broadcast of 1962: A Byfar Christmas Carol (The Regent Theatre): The Regent Theatre re-creates the experience of an old radio variety show complete with vintage candies and soda in this homage to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The cast of its similarly styled Halloween production The Frank Cyrano Byfar Hour returns for this holiday show, scheduled for only four performances, December 19-21.
Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker (Boston Opera House): Beantown's world-renowned ballet company is mounting its annual production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. Tchaikovsky's famous score will once again accompany a team of dancing mice, toy soldiers, and the famous Sugar Plum Fairy in the company's biggest production of the year. The ballet is currently playing the Boston Opera House and will run through December 29.
Holiday Pops 2013 (Boston Symphony Hall): The Boston Pops Orchestra is getting in the holiday spirit this December with a seasonal concert at Boston's Symphony Hall. In traditional Boston Pops fashion, the group will be performing classical orchestrations of popular holiday favorites, conducted by Keith Lockhart. The concert will include a Pops sing-along as well as an appearance by Santa himself. As an added bonus for parents, the group is offering special family performances with a shortened program designed specifically for its youngest audience members. Performances will run December 4-24.
A Wind in the Willows Christmas (Two River Theater): This family musical premiered at south Jersey's Two River Theater last holiday season and returns for its second run with even more Christmas and brand-new costumes and sets. Based on the novel by Kenneth Grahame, the show offers a Christmas story surrounding the adventures of Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad, and some of their other furry friends. The musical features a book by Mindi Dickstein, music by Mike Reid, and lyrics by Sarah Schlesinger, and is scheduled to run December 7-29.
Oliver! (Paper Mill Playhouse): If you're looking for an alternative Charles Dickens production this Christmas, Paper Mill Playhouse has you covered. It isn't a traditional holiday story, but the classic British musical about young, orphaned Oliver Twist has all the warm family spirit of the holiday season with a Broadway-caliber cast to boot. Performances are running now through December 29.
A Christmas Carol (McCarter Theatre Center): Every corner of the country has got to have at least one rendition of the Dickens tale every holiday season, and Princeton's McCarter Theatre has made it a tradition to bring this holiday classic to New Jersey and Philadelphia residents alike. The production, adapted by David Thompson and directed by Michael Unger, will offer performances December 6-29.