The holiday season in New York is a wonderful time to enjoy saccharine festive treats, like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or a Broadway musical like Elf. It's also a time of year that's ripe for some bawdy satire. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for whichever kind of Christmas show you're interested in. Take Grandma to see the Rockettes, but definitely leave her at home for some of the more risqué productions. Our critics have also weighed in with essential cultural highlights for enlightened audiences, including New York City Ballet's 1954 classic George Balanchine's The Nutcracker and Isaac Mizrahi in Peter and the Wolf at the Guggenheim.
RECOMMENDED: Christmas in New York guide
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
You'll get a kick out of this holiday stalwart, which—after 80 years—still features Santa, wooden soldiers and the leggy, spunky Rockettes. Last year, new music, more eye-catching costumes, and advanced technology were introduced to bring audience members closer to the performance, and you can expect an even more dazzling extravaganza as the precision-dance troupe celebrates its 85th anniversary.
Karen Keeler talks about being a Rockette
Radio City Rockette Karen Keeler talks about being a dancing icon Rockette Karen Keeler talks about the newest version of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular: The Rockettes Celebration, which is at Radio City Music Hall through December 30. Karen Keeler, who serves as a dance captain and assistant to the terrifically talented Linda Haberman, the director and choreographer of the Rockettes Celebration, is celebrating her 13th season with the dance company. Karen Keeler knows that beneath the glitz of any Rockette is a dancer in possession of a rare gift: precision technique. The only company in the world with mastery over this rigorous dance form, the Rockettes show what precision technique is all about when they return to Radio City Music Hall beginning November 9 for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular: The Rockettes Celebration. Keeler, a former ballet dancer who earned a master’s from Tisch before becoming a Rockette—in other words, character heels weren’t in her closet—is currently enjoying her 13th year with the group. A dance captain and assistant to the scintillating, demanding director and choreographer Linda Haberman, Keeler has her hands full. And she loves it. In honor of it being that time of year again, she spoke about her career. Time Out New York: How old were you when you started dancing? Karen Keeler: Six. I grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I started taking ballet initially at a small school, but I had a really wonderful teacher who had come from Scotlan
Photos: The Rockettes rehearsals
See the complete guide and buy tickets
Make plans to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and find out where to eat afterward. Plus, go behind the scenes with the Rockettes.
Popular Christmas shows in New York
If you liked the 2003 Will Ferrell film Elf, then give the holiday comedy a try in this new Broadway incarnation. The story follows Buddy, an orphaned babe who's raised at the North Pole by the big man in red (played by George Wendt) after he crawls into Santa's bag one Christmas Eve. The real winter wonderland, though, is that of New York City—which you'll see as Buddy galavants around town as an adult, making stops at Central Park and Rockefeller Center.
The best Christmas shows in New York
New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
New York City Ballet continues with performances of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, with scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, costumes by Karinska and lighting by Mark Stanley, after Ronald Bates. The production is a magical occasion: Along with a one-ton Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet, there's a snowstorm of blizzard proportions and a nine-foot-wide Mother Ginger (her skirt, that is). The ballet, from 1954, never grows old. Visit the website for casting. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Sept 24 at 10am.
Alternative Christmas shows
Mx. Justin Vivian Bond Presents Snow Angel
JVB’s latest yuletide cabaret show wouldn’t sit well with either Jesus or Santa Claus, but the transgender performance icon radiates a unique brand of holiday magic. At Bond’s December residency at 54 Below, expect radically reinterpreted Christmas classics and tunes from recent records Silver Wells and Dendrophile. There’ll also be plenty of the loving-yet-barbed banter (and, reportedly, “spell casting”) that has helped cement Bond’s status as a downtown legend.
Jackie Beat: Come, They Told Me
It's just not Christmas in New York without a visit from the bitchiest Grinch of all, Jackie Beat. Her acid wit and sacrilegious song parodies are the perfect antidote to seasonal-treacle overload. For more information, go to spincyclenyc.com.
Chris March's Butt-Cracker Suite!
Outrageous designer and gay-TV personality Chris March (Project Runway) puts the cracker in The Nutcracker with this campy trailer-trash take on the holiday perennial. In addition to writing, directing and designing the show, March also appears in the cast of nine.
Santa’s nibbling on more than his pipe stem in EndTime Productions' sixth annual collection of naughty playlets, which shine a cold northern light on weredeer, sexy elves and other Christmas spirit deviations. For more information, go to endtimesproductions.org.
Let's Kill Grandma This Christmas: The Other Fucking Christmas Story
A naughty family plots to off Granny for her money in Brian Gianci's coal-stocking comedy, directed by John Dapolito.