The big-ticket shows include the inimitable Radio City Christmas Spectacular (through December 30), which has been updated and made even more spectacular, and the Broadway musical Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical with Patrick Page as the big green monster and Tony Award winner John Cullum and Rusty Ross both playing his put-upon pet, Max (through January 7).
This year's seasonal production at Madison Square Garden is the beloved Tony Award-winning musical Annie (December 6-30). Former talk show queen Kathie Lee Gifford stars as the evil Miss Hannigan, Conrad John Schuck is the kindly Daddy Warbucks, and adorable Marissa O'Donnell is the red-headed orphan. Other appealing options include Dibble Does Christmas in New York (December 9-30) , a live production of the popular XM radio show at the Michael Weller Theater, and Poko Puppet's Jack Frost Holiday Revue which returns to the Queensborough Performing Arts Center with its peculiar takes on "Little Red Rocket Hood," "Three Little Pigs," and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (December 1-2).
As always, theatergoers can choose between multiple productions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The 13th Street Repertory Theatre presents Sandra Nordgren's respectful adaptation (December 7-January 7). Manhattan Children's Theatre continues its musical adaptation, which features both traditional and original tunes and modern movement (through December 31). The Times Square Arts Center's A Twisted Carol: A Musical (December 5-20) introduces a new character into the saga: Scrooge's housekeeper and love interest "Effie."
There are many choices for offbeat, multicultural, and nondenominational holiday happenings. The Christmas Revels -- based on a Russian folktale -- celebrates the Winter Solstice through the story of a young man who rides throughout Eastern Europe to win the love of a Czar's daughter (December 8-10). Ground Up Productions fries up the season Southern-style with its Hot Damn Holiday! at Manhattan TheatreSource (December 6-16). At the Fashion Institute of Technology, various festivities get their due in Holiday Tales (December 21), which includes stories about Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. TheatreWorks conjures up a Seasons Greetings Magic Show (December 17).
In addition, there a plenty of alternatives to New York City Ballet's always wonderful production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center (through December 30). For example, Abrons Arts Center's Nutcracker in the Lower (through December 2) demonstrates how to tell the classic story below Houston Street -- with flamenco, hip-hop, and martial arts. At The Kaye Playhouse, The Yorkville Nutcracker injects some 19th-century New York history into the old tale, with such characters as former Mayor William L. Strong and Teddy Roosevelt (December 8-10). Finally, in Brooklyn, A Winter Fairy Tale (Based on The Nutcracker) tells the story of the animated toys that young Marie finds brawling in her living room (December 16).
Not every theater has its sights set on the season. Urban Stages calls forth a terrible witch in the renowned Russian folktale The Magical Forest of Baba Yaga (December 14-January 7). Other types of boogeymen are explored in the highly political Bread and Puppet Theater's family-friendly Everything is Fine Circus at Theater for the New City (through December 17). Meanwhile, TheatreworksUSA produces Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk's musical adaptation of Cynthia Rylant's picture book Henry and Mudge (December 13-January 20) at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.
Out in Long Island at Theatre Three, Santa's little elf thwarts a plot of stuff up the world's chimneys in Barnaby Saves Christmas (December 2-30); Patchogue Theatre presents Ovations Dance Repertory Company's updated production of The Nutcracker Suite (December 7-10); and BroadHollow Theatre presents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at BayWay Arts Center (December 2-23).