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The six best theater shows to see for the holidays

By David Cote

Christmas shows? Already?!? Okay, before you groan and pelt me with crumpled Macy’s and Land’s End holiday catalogues, hear me out. I know Thanksgiving Day isn’t till tomorrow, but if you observe Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanza—or if you simply dig December’s cheery, snow-flaky, gimme-gimme vibe, then check out one of these shows. Family coming to visit? Take them. Girlfriend/boyfriend needs a normal night out—a break from your unrelenting hipness? Take them. Need to hate-watch to say, “I’ve already seen it—never again.” Take yourself. Here’s a quick guide to what’s on and what’s right for you. Most are running or about to run.

For the kiddies
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. Even the grumpiest of holiday haters will crack a smile at this musical adaptation of Dr. Seuss's classic Christmas tale. Or at least the little ones will be distracted so you can get some texting done. Dec 5–28 at Madison Square Garden.

For that retro date
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Going on its 87th year, this is one of New York’s longest Yuletide traditions, and it’s still bizarre. Leggy dancers, Santa Claus in 3-D animation, acres of Christmas kitsch and, finally, a tableau vivant about the birth of Jesus. This mashup of commercialism, sex and pseudo-piety is cray-cray, but somehow totally appropriate. Go in Mad Men style: steak dinner, a couple martinis and then orchestra seats with your husband, wife, mistress or gigolo of choice. Through Dec 31 at Radio City Music Hall.

If you prefer to call it “Campmas”
Christmas with the Crawfords. Gender illusionist par excellence Joey Arias transforms into film diva Joan Crawford for this reprise of his beloved holiday show, based on the infamous Christmas Eve radio broadcast from the Crawford family’s Brentwood mansion. Dec 10–27 at Abrons Arts Center.

For the whisky-sipping traditionalist
A Christmas Memory. Unlike practically every Off Broadway company in this town, Irish Repertory Theatre isn’t afraid to spread the Christmas cheer (possibly alienating the Noël-averse). This musical is adapted from the Truman Capote short story about a young boy in 1933 Alabama celebrating the holidays with his eccentric family. Alice Ripley stars as Miss Sook, Buddy’s simpleminded and pure-hearted cousin. Through Jan 4 at DR2.

Like Dickens, love Broadway
A Christmas Carol: A Radio Drama. Yes, all your TV channels will soon be clogged with every bloody adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic known to man. But here’s a live alternative: The mercurial marvel Jefferson Mays (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) plays all the ghosts in this live radio broadcast, written and directed by Arthur Yorinks. Mark Linn-Baker (currently in You Can’t Take It with You) plays the skinflint Scrooge. Dec 8 at the Greene Space.

Spike your eggnog
Nutcracker Rouge. This burlesque twist on the beloved ballet (pictured above) is definitely not for the kids. But it makes for a saucy and juicy romantic night out. And since it runs till the end of January, you don’t have to see it right away. After all the wrapping paper has been recycled and the tree’s been bagged and curbed, take yourself and that special someone out for a night of kinky jingles. Through Jan 31 at XIV.


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