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Performances to put you in the spirit of the season—even in 2020
Even Santa Claus can't grant our wish to make the holidays look the way they usually do. But there are new ways for us to enjoy old holiday traditions, including seeing seasonal spectaculars. Forget those gloomy Zooms. We've rounded up 14 uplifting performances, including eye-popping reinventions of beloved classics, holiday concerts with big Broadway stars and a few Christmas comedies that should even amuse Scrooge.
Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist
Streams Friday, November 27 to Sunday, January 3, 2021. Tickets start at $25.
A tuneful, modern-day take on the old Christmas chestnut, this new holiday musical comes from John Caird and Paul Gordon, the team behind Broadway's Jane Eyre, and incorporates popular characters and plot lines from multiple Charles Dickens' novels. Betsy Wolfe (Waitress) is the title character, a ruthless real estate mogul, who heads to her hometown for the holidays to foreclose on a hotel for the homeless run by her childhood sweetheart, Philip "Pip" Nickleby (Clifton Duncan). But soon three spirits arrive to scare her sweet. Broadway favorites Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill), Patrick Page (Hadestown), Carolee Carmello (Parade) and Danny Burstein (Moulin Rouge!) costar. Although the two dozen cast members were filmed individually, as you can see from the trailer, they're brought together via digital magic for a production that's a high-tech hybrid of stage and cinema.
San Francisco Ballet: Nutcracker Online
Streams Friday, November 27 at 3 p.m. ET to Thursday, December 31. Tickets are $50.
Experience this holiday staple on stage and backstage with this interactive program from San Francisco Ballet. In addition to streaming a high-definition 2008 recording of choreographer Helgi Tomasson's Nutcracker, audiences can take a virtual tour of the troupe's glorious opera house home and enjoy digital activities like taking seasonal selfies and learning dance steps. A great way to introduce youngsters to Tchaikovsky's enchanting ballet.
Brickman for Broadway Christmas Live
Streams Saturday, November 28 at 8 p.m. ET. Tickets start at $20 and proceeds go to The Actors Fund.
Grammy-nominated pianist and songwriter Jim Brickman enlists some of his Broadway BFFs for Brickman for Broadway Christmas, his new holiday album and live concert. Kelli O'Hara, Megan Hilty, Santino Fontana, Adrienne Warren, Sierra Boggess and Norm Lewis are just some of the singers who croon Christmas classics on the CD, and they'll also join Brickman for a one-night-only live concert the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Singing along is encouraged and inevitable. Proceeds from this project benefit The Actors Fund.
Jefferson Mays in A Christmas Carol
Streams Saturday, November 28 at 9 p.m. ET to Sunday, January 3, 2021. Tickets are $50 and a portion of the proceeds goes to TDF!
Jefferson Mays is a master at playing multiple characters in the same show. He won a Tony Award for doing just that in I Am My Own Wife (40 different roles!), and earned a nomination for portraying eight members of the ill-fated D'Ysquith family in A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder. He's at it again in this solo adaptation of A Christmas Carol in which he plays everyone from Scrooge to Tiny Tim. Originally mounted at LA's Geffen Playhouse in 2018, the production was reimagined for digital consumption by director Michael Arden and costume and set designer Dane Laffrey, who restaged and recorded it during quarantine at the stunning United Palace theatre in Washington Heights. The result is a fresh and intimate take on Dickens' timeless tale featuring Mays in a tour-de-force performance—make that performances.
Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes — At Home Holiday Special
Streams Wednesday, December 2 to Thursday December 31 on NBC's online service Peacock, which is FREE to join.
For the first time since its 1933 debut, Radio City Music Hall's annual Christmas Spectacular is not going on... not on stage at least. Instead, NBC is airing an hour-long special featuring archival recordings of the show's most beloved segments starring the legendary, leggy Radio City Rockettes. In between numbers such as the "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," Whoopi Goldberg, Josh Groban, John Legend and other celebrities will share personal season's greetings.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Ailey Forward
Streams Wednesday, December 2 to Thursday, December 31, different programs available on specific dates. FREE though donations are encouraged.
The lauded dance troupe's annual holiday run goes virtual this year, with a rich lineup of performances, family programming and conversations. Highlights include the Opening Night Virtual Benefit featuring Revelations Reimagined, a reinvention of an Ailey classic (viewable December 2 to 9); a tribute to dancers Glenn Allen Sims and Linda Celeste Sims featuring excerpts from Love Songs, Memoria, Night Creature, Polish Pieces, Revelations and The Winter in Lisbon (viewable December 9 to 16); and the world premiere of Jamar Roberts's A Jam Session for Troubling Times (viewable December 14 to 21). The full schedule is on Ailey's website.
Folksbiene Chanukah Spectacular
Streams Tuesday, December 8 at 7 p.m. ET to Saturday, December 12. Reservations are required to receive the FREE viewing link but donations are encouraged.
Why is tonight different from all other nights? Because the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene is throwing an early Hanukkah extravaganza! The troupe welcomes stars of stage and screen for seasonal greetings, stories and songs, including Carol Burnett, Mayim Bialik, Billy Crystal, Tovah Feldshuh, Beanie Feldstein, Joel Grey, Jackie Hoffman, Carol Kane, Barry Manilow, Mandy Patinkin, Itzhak Perlman, Neil Sedaka, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Jerry Zaks, though we expect Folksbiene regulars to do most of the entertaining. If you saw Yiddish Fiddler, Amerike – The Golden Land or any of the company's other glorious musicals, you know that's a mitzvah!
Streams Friday, December 11 at 8 p.m. ET to Tuesday, December 15. FREE but donations to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS are encouraged.
The divine Lesli Margherita stars as a middle-aged Cindy Lou Who in Matthew Lombardo's satirical skewering of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. A hit Off Broadway in 2017, this solo comedy finds the little girl who melted the Grinch's heart all grown up and not doing well. As she prepares her Christmas Eve party in her trailer park, she lets loose with her raunchy and rhyming autobiography. Whatever you do, don't have kids with you, as the show is quite blue!
Irish Repertory Theatre: Meet Me in St. Louis
Streams Friday, December 11 to Saturday, January 2, 2021 at specific times. Select performances have open captions. Reservations are required to receive the FREE viewing link but a $25 donation is suggested.
The intrepid Irish Rep was one of the first theatres in NYC to embrace virtual programming, putting considerable thought and funds into how to best translate its stage shows to the small screen. The results have been acclaimed, and we're particularly excited to see the theatre's holiday offering Meet Me in St. Louis. Last seen at Irish Rep in 2007, this old-fashioned musical is based on the cherished MGM movie of the same name about the growing pains of the tight-knit Smith family as they contemplate major changes in life and love at the turn of the 20th century. Charlotte Moore, who appeared in the 1989 Broadway mounting of the show, directs a cast headlined by Tony nominees Melissa Errico and Max Von Essen, and the classic score includes "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Streams Friday, December 11 at 7 p.m. ET to Sunday, January 3, 2021. Tickets are $25.
New York City Ballet presents its Christmas classic The Nutcracker choreographed by George Balanchine. This legendary version of Tchaikovsky's fantastical ballet was recorded last year during its annual holiday engagement at Lincoln Center and stars NYCB principal dancers Maria Kowroski as the Sugarplum Fairy, Tyler Angle as her Cavalier and Megan Fairchild as Dewdrop, alongside more than 50 dancers. A lavish production with gorgeous sets and costumes, it's a must-see seasonal sight for NYC dance lovers. Now families across the country can enjoy.
Taylor Mac's Holiday Sauce... Pandemic!
Streams live Saturday, December 12 at 2, 7 and 10 p.m. ET, with a recording available until Saturday, January 2, 2021. Tickets are pay-what-you-can.
If you're in need of glitter, guffaws and radical joy, try playwright-performer Taylor Mac's live virtual edition of their annual seasonal extravaganza Holiday Sauce. The MacArthur genius and Pulitzer finalist (A 24-Decade History of Popular Music) blends music, film, burlesque and indescribable fabulousness for a jaw-dropping, NC-17-rated holiday revue. Backed by a full band, Mac will slay songs and welcome special guests, including Thornetta Davis, Steffanie Christi'an, Tigger! Ferguson, Dusty Childers, Sister Rosemary Chicken, Glenn Marla and Timothy White Eagle. The costumes alone—designed by Mac's longtime collaborator Machine Dazzle—are worth tuning in for.
The Old Vic: A Christmas Carol
Streams Saturday, December 12 to Thursday, December 24 at specific times. Tickets start at £20, approximately $27. Closed captions and audio description available.
Another Christmas Carol? Before you say, "Bah humbug," let me assure you, this is a magical mounting of Dickens' redemption tale. Adapted by Tony-winning playwright Jack Thorne and staged by Tony-winning director Matthew Warchus, the show incorporates beautifully sung Christmas carols and insightful humor into the action. The production originated at London's Old Vic in 2017 and has been a holiday staple ever since—it even crossed the pond to play on Broadway last season. Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln headlines this year's edition, which will be performed live on the Old Vic stage to an empty theatre and streamed to an at-home audience. Prepare to believe in Christmas miracles again!
Home for the Holidays
Streams Tuesday, December 15 at 8 p.m. ET to Saturday, December 19. FREE but donations to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS are encouraged.
Ain't Too Proud's Jelani Remy organized and hosts this starry concert, featuring Alan Cumming, André De Shields, Lena Hall, Heather Headley, Ramin Karimloo, Karen Olivo and other Broadway vets singing seasonal favorites and sharing holiday traditions directly from their homes. Bring your own eggnog!
PBS: All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914
Streams Tuesday, December 15 to Thursday, December 31. FREE
A powerful work of docutheatre, All Is Calm commemorates the Christmas Truce of 1914, an unofficial ceasefire that brought troops from opposing sides of World War I together on December 24 for a night of caroling and companionship. Created by Minneapolis' Theater Latté Da, the show interweaves excerpts from letters and journals of soldiers who were there with trench songs and Christmas tunes performed a cappella. I saw this emotional piece at the Sheen Center two years ago and I get misty just thinking about it. It perfectly captures the spirit of the season: peace on earth and good will toward men.
Raven Snook is the Editor of TDF Stages. Follow her at @RavenSnook. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.
Top image: Lesli Margherita in Who's Holiday! at Westside Theatre in 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.