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The 7 Best Holiday Shows in New York City

Big and small, there's something theatrical for all this holiday season.

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New Yorkers love going to the theater around the holidays. There are several fine productions playing the city to help get you in the holiday mood, but which one to choose? TheaterMania has selected the seven best options for 2015. Encompassing an eclectic mix of sensibilities and ticket prices, there's something in here for everyone:

John Kevin Jones performs a solo version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, directed by Rhonda Dodd, at the Merchant's House Museum.
(Courtesy of Summoners Ensemble Theatre)

1. A Christmas Carol at the Merchant's House
John Kevin Jones and the Summoners Ensemble Theatre bring their one-man version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol back to the Merchant's House Museum, a meticulously preserved 19th-century townhouse still occupied by the original furniture (and some say, ghosts) of the family who lived there. Jones performs the story from his own adaptation of the version Dickens used in a series of sold-out readings. In the Victorian surroundings on the Merchant's House, it feels like traveling back in time to see Dickens give a command performance in someone's living room. Now in its third year, this intimate performance is fast becoming a beloved holiday tradition.


New York City Ballet performs George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at the David H. Koch Theater.
(© Paul Kolnik)

2. George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at New York City Ballet
A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker are the twin pillars of holiday entertainment. While the former tells a timeless story of Christmas redemption, the latter stops in its tracks during the second act (in typical Tchaikovsky fashion) for a dance celebration of international sweets. This seems appropriate, considering indulgence and redemption are the two major themes of the holidays. If you prefer the sugary goodness of The Nutcracker, you can do no better than New York City Ballet's production. Choreographed by the legendary George Balanchine, the show features 200 performers and a one-ton Christmas tree.


The Schlep Sisters star in The 9th Annual Menorah Horah! at the Hall at MP.
(© Ben Trivett)

3. The 9th Annual Menorah Horah! at the Hall at MP
Celebrate the festival of lights with this titillating burlesque show from the Schlep Sisters (Minnie Tonka and Darlinda Just Darlinda). Special guests include Little Brooklyn, Fancy Feat, and the Great Dubini. Drag superstar Sherry Vine hosts. While Hanukkah is eight crazy nights, this event is one night only (December 12), so be sure not to miss it. The Sisters promise, "It will keep your dreidel spinning all night long!"


Steven Reineke conducts the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall.
(© Richard Termine)

4. The New York Pops: A Charlie Brown Christmas at Carnegie Hall
Maestro Steven Reineke conducts the New York Pops in this live presentation of the Peanuts' classic holiday TV special. The show features special guests from New York Theatre Ballet and TADA! Youth Theater. John Bolton of Dames at Sea narrates. Oh yes, there will be a sing-along.


A scene from Die Fledermaus, directed by Jeremy Sams, at the Metropolitan Opera.
(© Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera)

5. Die Fledermaus at The Metropolitan Opera
For opera fans, the holidays are not complete without a viewing of this beloved operetta by Johann Strauss Jr. Centered around a gaggle of Viennese glitterati behaving badly as they count down to New Year's Eve, the whole thing feels like an elaborate excuse for the composer to trot out his irresistible waltzes — and we're fine with that, especially when paired with the Met's typically decadent production. This year, Tony Award winner Paulo Szot (South Pacific) reprises his role as Dr. Falke and Broadway favorite Christopher Fitzgerald (Finian's Rainbow) takes on Frosch. Expect champagne to flow at intermission.


Hunky Santa (Dallas Dehlinger) takes a selfie in Psycho Clan's Santastical at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.
(© Michael Blase)

6. Santastical at the Clemente
Immersive theater troupe Psycho Clan (the team behind the popular "Nightmare" Haunted House) offers a fresh take on the mall Santa. Audiences are taken through a winter wonderland culminating in that all-important photo op with Santa. Instead of a generic St. Nick, however, Santastical offers six unique flavors: Bernie Santas, Sexy Mrs. Claus, Black Santa, Hunky Shirtless Santa, the evil Krampus, and Hanukklaus. "It's as if the gaudiest Midwest Christmas lawn display exponentially exploded," says director Timothy Haskell. The event also features hot apple cider, cocoa, and Christmas karaoke. We recommend wearing your ugliest sweater to complete the mise-en-scène.


The Rockettes star in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, directed by Julie Branam, at Radio City Music Hall.
(© MSG Entertainment)

7. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall
You didn't really think we would leave this off, did you? The Spectacular has been the gold standard of Christmas shows in New York City since 1933. It features an array of lavish production numbers starring the ever-impressive Rockettes, who perform four to six times a day in front of the 6,000-seat auditorium. No other show offers a schedule this flexible. Also, where else can you see live camels (among other animals) in an onstage re-creation of the birth of Christ? This is an unmissable New York City tradition.

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