13 Christmassy Shows to See This Season
Get yourself and your family out of the house and into the holiday spirit.
The holiday season is upon us once again, and New York stages are full of Christmastime shows brimming with yuletide cheer — and agita. So here are 13 suggestions for plays, musicals, and spectacles that will help make your holidays bright, or at least bearable.
1) The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
The one true New York holiday tradition is the Christmas Spectacular, starring the Radio City Rockettes, who have been kicking their heels onstage since 1933. This year's production is filled with classic numbers like "Rag Doll," and features a brand-new finale in which 100 drones fly across the auditorium to create a one-of-a-kind magical holiday light show. And yes, the camels are back, too.
2) Holiday Inn
For audiences willing to take a quick trip to New Jersey, check out Holiday Inn at Paper Mill Playhouse. Paper Mill is re-creating the recent Broadway production of the Irving Berlin musical, complete with the same candy-colored sets and costumes and Denis Jones's effervescent, Tony-nominated choreography. In "Holiday Inn'', not only do you get to celebrate Christmas, but Easter, July Fourth, and Presidents' Day, too.
3) Christmas in Hell
Nothing screams "demented" more than the York Theatre Company's latest production, which features an 8-year-old child mistakenly taken to the underworld on Christmas Eve, only to return "devilishly changed." This new musical features a book and score by Gary Apple, a TV writer and producer best known for penning the Simpsons episode where Homer has bypass surgery. So this should have your heart racing between laughs.
This holiday season, Playwrights Horizons gives audiences a sense of how they did Christmas in Mosul — before the city was overrun by Islamic State in 2014. Noura and her family are Iraqi Christian refugees celebrating their first Christmas as American citizens. But just because they have new passports, do they automatically give up their old lives? Heather Raffo asks this and other crucial questions in this new drama, loosely inspired by Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.
5) All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914
It's not a musical in the traditional sense, but this 90-minute show is the most musical show on this list: It takes the real words of World War I veterans and lays them over popular songs of the day, along with several Christmas carols. The 10-man cast never stops singing, often in gorgeous and complex harmony, while recounting how British and German soldiers crawled out of their respective trenches on Christmas morning to meet in peace on "no man's land." This heartwarming story is a feast for the eyes and ears.
6) A Child's Christmas in Wales
Irish Repertory Theatre brings back one of its Christmastime staples, a musical adaptation of the beloved Dylan Thomas story, staged by artistic director Charlotte Moore. Featuring classic and contemporary holiday songs, the cast this year includes She Loves Me scene-stealer Nicholas Barasch.
7) Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
If the recent Grinch movie wasn't theatrical enough for you, head to the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, where 2018 SpongeBob SquarePants Tony nominee Gavin Lee has traded his tentacle tap shoes for green fur and a Santa hat. Your hearts will also grow three sizes when you see your children's eyes light up with joy.
8) Ruben & Clay's First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show
American Idols Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken square off in their new concert at the Imperial Theatre, created by the team behind last year's Home for the Holidays. Expect some soulful Christmas tunes from the Velvet Teddy Bear, high belting from Aiken, and a whole lot of jokes about how Aiken got 134,000 fewer votes.
9) A Christmas Carol
John Kevin Jones returns to the Merchant's House Museum to perform his hauntingly good one-man rendition of A Christmas Carol, adapted from the script Charles Dickens actually used in his readings of the text. Performing in the intimate and exquisitely preserved Victorian parlor of the old Treadwell house on East 4th Street, Jones transports his audience back to the 19th century to hear how the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge learned the true meaning of Christmas. Over the past six years, this has become a must-see New York City Christmas tradition.
10) The Dead, 1904
Returning for its third holiday season run at the American Irish Historical Society, this immersive production invites audiences into a Fifth Avenue townhouse, provides a full Christmas dinner, and brings James Joyce's short story to life around you. For the second year in a row, Melissa Gilbert of Little House on the Prairie leads the company.
11) The Illusionists — Magic of the Holidays
Broadway's yearly wintertime magic show is back at the Marquis Theatre, and though the show doesn't provide illusions inspired by the holiday season, it does deliver two hours of eye-popping trickery. Performers for this engagement include Shin Lim, who won the 2018 edition of America's Got Talent with his impressive sleight-of-hand card tricks, and the Ukrainian troupe Light Balance, who thrill the youngsters among us with their synchronized light-dance segments.
12) The Imbible: Christmas Carol Cocktails
"This is New York's holiday show for grownups," the press notes say, and this boozy adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol comes with three craft cocktails per ticket. Master bartender Anthony Caporale, who also penned the show, is there to be your guide as you taste frozen Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon made using liquid nitrogen, and beverages from holidays still to come.
13) The 11th Annual Joe Iconis Christmas Extravaganza
While tickets are sold out for Joe Iconis's fan-favorite Christmas concert at Feinstein's/54 Below, there is always the wait list (and a Christmas miracle day of show or at the door). As in every year, you'll find an inebriated Santa Claus, the Sweet Baby J, and holiday hits like "Fairytale of New York" and "Hard Candy Christmas". Be More Chill stars Will Roland and George Salazar are among the 60-plus-member company. For theater insiders and fans, it's the most fun Christmas show in New York.