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Winter Wonderland

New York City stages are alight with a wide range of holiday entertainments including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Black Nativity, Holiday Wonders, and Kids & Yiddish: Ode to Oy! logo
Patrick Page in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch
Stole Christmas! The Musical

(© Paul Kolnik)
'Tis the season to be jolly, and there's plenty of theater events in the Big Apple to please just about any appetite. From standard Christmas fare to shows celebrating a range of religious traditions -- or none at all -- the city is bursting with holiday spirit.

After a number of canceled performances due to the Broadway stagehand strike, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical (St. James Theater, through January 7) is back in business. This is the second year in a row that the stage version of the beloved book and animated movie has played in New York. Patrick Page returns in the title role, with Ed Dixon as the lovable Max the Dog, who serves as the show's narrator. (For TheaterMania's exclusive video feature of Page getting into make-up and costume, click here.)

The high-kicking Rockettes are prominently featured in the 75th edition of the ever-popular Radio City Christmas Spectacular (through December 30). Meanwhile, Cirque du Soleil presents its new production designed exclusively for the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Wintuk (through January 6), in which acrobats, dancers and talking lampposts fill the stage as a young boy embarks on a quest to see some snow.

The Classical Theatre of Harlem presents an adaptation of Langston Hughes' Black Nativity (Duke on 42nd Street, November 30-December 30), set on 42nd Street in 1973 against a backdrop of lost souls and hustlers. Tony nominee André De Shields stars in this musical that mixes classic and beloved gospel standards with soul, R&B, and hip-hop. At the Beacon Theater, Holiday Wonders (December 18-26) fuses classical Eastern and Western cultures for a multi-denominational celebration that pulls from Buddhism, Taoism, and other sources for a spectacle featuring over 200 dancers and musicians. Irish Rep presents a stage adaptation of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales & Twas The Night Before Christmas (December 5-30) that incorporates both traditional and original songs. Urban Stages presents a multimedia musical version of The Blue Bird (December 14-January 13), about a mysterious Christmas Eve visitor who leads a materialistic city girl on a fantastical journey in search of the "blue bird of happiness."

The Yuletide season is also filled with special performances that benefit charity. Unsung 2007: 'Tis the Season to Be Naughty (Lucille Lortel, December 10), which features Broadway talents such as Spring Awakening's Lea Michele, is a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Michael Cumpsty directs and performs in a reading of W. H. Auden's, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio for two benefit performances at Classic Stage Company on December 9 and Symphony Space December 10. And Charles Busch presents the ninth annual holiday benefit staged reading of his Times Square Angel (Theater for the New City, December 17), an affectionate homage to the holiday/fantasy films of the 1940's.

While numerous holiday shows are appropriate for family audiences, some are geared specifically towards children. The American Girls Holiday Celebration (American Girl Place, through December 22) is the latest entertainment based upon the popular dolls, and features eight friends traveling through time and sharing holiday traditions and classic songs from each character's time period. Vital Children's Theatre Company presents an adaptation of The Littlest Light on the Christmas Tree (McGinn Cazale Theater, December 8-February 6), about an abandoned, discarded Christmas bulb, afraid and alone, and the eight-year-old boy who takes him home. The National Yiddish Theatre -- Folksbienne presents its ninth annual Kids & Yiddish: Ode to Oy! (JCC Manhattan, December 2-30), a multi-media holiday show that mixes Jewish folk traditions with popular culture.

Murray Hill in A Murray Little Christmas
There are also shows that are definitely not recommended for the little ones. The Eight: Reindeer Monologues (Red Room, through December 21) has Santa's reindeer exposing a wide range of scandals and indiscretions. The aptly titled Nutcracker: Rated R (Theater for the New City, through December 23) cracks open the heart of the classic children's ballet to uncover drugs, sex, and family secrets. The Gallery Players in Brooklyn are presenting David Sedaris' hilarious "anti-holiday" cult classic, The Santaland Diaries (December 1-16), which recounts some of the stories from the author's days as a Christmas elf at Macy's. Drag King Murray Hill presents a cocktail-style variety show at the Zipper Factory, A Murray Little Christmas (December 8-15). The Kinsey Sicks return to New York with their parodically titled Oy Vey in a Manger (Gotham Comedy Club, through December 2) that includes such tunes as "God Bless Ye Femmy Lesbians" and "A Lay in a Manger." And the inimitable Kiki & Herb return to Carnegie Hall with Kiki & Herb: The Second Coming - A Christmas Concert (December 12).

Although Madison Square Garden no longer presents an annual edition of A Christmas Carol, there are always numerous local companies ready to take on the task, such as 13th Street Repertory (December 7-January 6) and Personal Space Theatrics (TBG Arts Center, December 7-22). Vortex Theater Company presents a musical adaptation of Dickens' holiday perennial with A Christmas Carol: the new musical (Sanford Meisner Theater, through December 22). This modern-day twist centers around a corporate philanthropist who must examine what it means to do good in a country facing environmental destruction and corporate domination. Auction Block (Baruch Performing Arts Center, December 16-30) is a contemporary hip-hop retelling of the classic Dickens' story. Village Light Opera Group joins the festivities with Scrooge & Gilbert & Sullivan (Fashion Institute of Technology, December 1-9) that recounts Dickens' famed story through 22 songs, adapted from 11 different Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Nosedive Productions remounts its deconstructive parody, A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol (Red Room, December 6-15). Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo (BAAD!, through December 15) gives a gay, Latino spin to both A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.

Also a bit off the beaten track are Innocent Diversions, A Christmas Entertainment with Jane Austen and Friends (Theater Ten Ten, through December 16), which has the titular author presiding over an 1803 holiday party that highlights her own outrageously funny early writings; The Blue Carbuncle with Sherlock Holmes and The Gift of the Magi (WorkShop Theater Company, December 6-22), a pair of holiday-themed stories; and The Baby Jesus One-Act Jubilee: Second Coming (The Brick, December 6-22), a collection of new Yuletide shows by writers Eric Bland, Emily Conbere, Jason Craig, Matthew Freeman, Jason Grote, Jakob Holder, Qui Nguyen, Carolyn Raship, Bob Saietta, Eric Sanders, Aaron Mack Schloff, and Marc Spitz. Finally, there's 500 Clown Christmas (PS 122, December 21-31), which infuses the holiday season with a mix of circus arts, improvisation, and action-based performance.

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