Featured NYC events in December 2018
It’s the most wonderful time of the year—and by “it” we mean Christmas. New York lights up into a winter wonderland each year with Christmas trees, holiday window displays and Christmas lights. Even the most tourist-averse New Yorkers have to admit that it’s a pretty spectacular sight. Get the most out of the holidays with our guide to the best holiday sales and holiday gift ideas, Christmas movies to watch with the family and plenty of festive things to do including Bryant Park ice skating, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and more.
Gear up for eight days of celebration! Time to nosh on latkes (and other delicious fried food), which you can sample at the annual latke festival. Or you can say l’chaim and warm up with winter cocktails. Check out our events celebrating the Festival of Lights.
Not only is there free ice-skating on Bryant Park’s 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink (bring your own skates!), but also more than 120 holiday shops, including a bunch of new kiosks and eateries. And after you shop and skate, you can warm up at spacious rinkside restaurant Celsius. FYI: The vendors are only there until the first week of January, but If you want to practice your lutzes and axels with ample spinning room, try visiting during off-peak hours (open through the beginning of March).
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular celebrates its 89th year of precision dancing and high kicks this holiday season. Along with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker from the New York City Ballet, the Spectacular has become one of NYC’s most hallowed holiday traditions, drawing tourists and locals alike. Unlike The Nutcracker, however, there’s nothing highbrow about Radio City Music Hall’s pageant of glitz. It celebrates classic holiday values—peace! Love! Consumer confidence!—by deploying a flying Santa, a massive LED screen, and the sea of legs known as the Rockettes, all kicking in fabulous unison.
Lost in New York? Every Christmas, thousands of New Yorkers (and tourists) find their way to the bright and brilliant nexus of town, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Whether you’re stopping by the tree for ice-skating, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, or to see the Lighting Ceremony, you’re certain to feel the magic when you witness the wonder of the Norway Spruce illuminated with more than 45,000 LED lights.
Half the fun of holiday shopping in New York is ogling the tricked-out window displays along Fifth Avenue that pop up to coincide with the merriest, spendiest time of the year. In between picking out sweaters and great presents from our holiday gift guide, stop outside Macy’s, Barneys and other classic department stores to take in holiday windows that feature famous cartoonists, iconic New York attractions and more.
The pressure is always immense to have a good time on New Year’s Eve—and have a good time you will. Ring in 2019 with an all-night party, a raucous concert, dinner and a show, an open bar with a champagne toast, or a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. You’ll find these celebrations and more with our essential guide to New Year’s Eve in New York. Keep checking back for ticket announcements—we’ll be updating this page with new events from now through December 31.
Music events in December 2018
Hamilton: Theater review by David Cote What is left to say? After Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s prodigious quill scratched out 12 volumes of nation-building fiscal and military policy; after Lin-Manuel Miranda turned that titanic achievement (via Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography) into the greatest American musical in decades; after every critic in town (including me) praised the Public Theater world premiere to high heaven; and after seeing this language-drunk, rhyme-crazy dynamo a second time, I can only marvel: We've used up all the damn words. Wait, here are three stragglers, straight from the heart: I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right. A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda’s uniquely personal focus as a first-generation Puerto Rican and inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard. No wonder the show was anointed a sensation before even opening. Assuming you don’t know the basics, Hamilton is a (mostly) rapped-through biomusical about an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean who came to New York, served as secretary to General Washington, fought against the redcoats, authored most of the Federalist Papers defending the Constitution, founded the Treasury and the New York Post and even made time for an extramarital affair that he damage-controlled in a scandal-stanching pamp
In this captivating original musical, Hello, Dolly! scene-stealer Taylor Trensch now plays the title role of a high school student thrust into social relevance after a classmate's suicide. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's score combines well-crafted lyrics with an exciting pop sound, and Steven Levenson’s book gives all the characters shaded motives. Read the full review.
If theater is your religion and the Broadway musical your sect, you've been woefully faith-challenged of late. Venturesome, boundary-pushing works such as Spring Awakening, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Next to Normal closed too soon. American Idiot was shamefully ignored at the Tonys and will be gone in three weeks. Meanwhile, that airborne infection Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark dominates headlines and rakes in millions, without even opening. Celebrities and corporate brands sell poor material, innovation gets shown the door, and crap floats to the top. It's enough to turn you heretic, to sing along with The Book of Mormon's Ugandan villagers: "Fuck you God in the ass, mouth and cunt-a, fuck you in the eye." Such deeply penetrating lyrics offer a smidgen of the manifold scato-theological joys to be had at this viciously hilarious treat crafted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame, and composer-lyricist Robert Lopez, who cowrote Avenue Q. As you laugh your head off at perky Latter-day Saints tap-dancing while fiercely repressing gay tendencies deep in the African bush, you will be transported back ten years, when The Producers and Urinetown resurrected American musical comedy, imbuing time-tested conventions with metatheatrical irreverence and a healthy dose of bad-taste humor. Brimming with cheerful obscenity, sharp satire and catchy tunes, The Book of Mormon is a sick mystic revelation, the most exuberantly entertaining Broadway musical in years. The high
Theater review by Adam Feldman The world of Harry Potter has arrived on Broadway, Hogwarts and all, and it is a triumph of theatrical magic. Set two decades after the final chapters of J.K. Rowling’s world-shaking kid-lit heptalogy, the two-part epic Harry Potter and the Cursed Child combines grand storytelling with stagecraft on a scale heretofore unimagined. Richly elaborated by director John Tiffany, the show looks like a million bucks (or, in this case, a reported $68 million); the Lyric Theatre has been transfigured from top to bottom to immerse us in the narrative. It works: The experience is transporting. Jack Thorne’s play, based on a story he wrote with Rowling and Tiffany, extends the Potter narrative while remaining true to its core concerns. Love and friendship and kindness are its central values, but they don’t come easily: They are bound up in guilt, loneliness and fear. Harry (Jamie Parker) is weighted with trauma dating back to his childhood, which hinders his ability to communicate with his troubled middle son, Albus (Sam Clemmett); it doesn’t help that Albus’s only friend is the bookish outcast Scorpius Malfoy (the exceptional Anthony Boyle), son of Harry’s erstwhile enemy, Draco (Alex Price). Despite the best intentions of Harry’s solid wife, Ginny (Poppy Miller), and his friends Hermione (Noma Dumezweni) and Ron (Paul Thornley), things turn dark very fast. Set designer Christine Jones and lighting designer Neil Austin keep much of the stage shrouded in
Theater review by Adam Feldman “I'm no hero, that’s understood,” sings Bruce Springsteen in “Thunder Road,” self-effacingly but also with the knowledge that a cardinal rule of heroism is denying it. He's got the dirty hood, sure, but it’s a hoodwink of a kind, and in the extraordinary concert show Springsteen on Broadway he is candid about that: Rock stardom, he says, is partly “a magic trick.” He's the young man without a driver’s license writing songs about the road; the artist costumed in the “factory clothes” of his emotionally withholding father; the working man who is also always the Boss. For more than four decades, Springsteen has maintained a sturdy performance of authenticity. He writes unforgettable character songs and sings them, essentially, as an actor; between them, he recites eloquently plain-spoken monologues—full of lists that touch on joy and sex and pain—that he writes for the character of Bruce. So Springsteen on Broadway is less of a contradiction in terms than it may seem. Dressed in simple black with no band (though his wife, Patti Scialfa, joins him for two duets), he performs what amounts to a two-hour solo musical about himself, a rock-star cabaret act. The hits are here, including “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark,” but stripped down and edged with wistfulness; “Born in the U.S.A.” is pared into a skeletal, nearly a cappella blues. It’s an intimate show and a generous one, not just to past friends and collaborators but also to the audience,
[Note: The review below is for a 2014 version of this show, which was then titled The Imbible. A revised version now plays at New World Stages. A different, brunch-theater edition, titled Day Drinking, plays on weekend matinees.] Remember Bill Nye the Science Guy? Great! Now imagine him as a bartender who is deeply interested in the history of ethanol alcohol, really likes wigs and costumes, and just joined a coed barbershop quartet. That description of Anthony Caporale’s The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking may sound far-out, but the show is both educational and entertaining. (It's also a fine showcase for a cappella classics arranged by Josh Ehrlich and performed by a gifted ensemble that includes the show's director, soprano Nicole DiMattei.) Mixing whimsy and information, Caporale makes the story of our relationship with alcohol remarkably compelling. And the show's lessons—on subjects like the drinks served at Prohibition-era speakeasies, the origin of the gin and tonic, and the difference between a cocktail and a mixed drink—can be washed down with complimentary, thematically appropriate beverages. As Caporale says, “Trust me, I get funnier with every sip.” That makes the show a must-see for anyone who enjoys free booze, which is probably nearly everyone.—Amelia Bienstock
Theater review by Helen Shaw When you walk into Say Something Bunny!, you enter another time. You might not notice that at first, because the brick office space where it takes place is so determinedly ordinary-looking. The small audience sits around a doughnut-shaped conference table, and as Alison S.M. Kobayashi begins her multimedia docuplay, some spectators are already paging through the scripts that have been placed in front of each chair. The text turns out to be the full transcript of a real, unlabeled 65-year-old recording that Kobayashi found hidden in an antique wire recorder: the audio relic of a teenage boy in Woodmere, Queens, enthusiastically taping two dozen family members and neighbors. Kobayashi has listened to the recording hundreds of times and has a seemingly boundless interest in the people whose voices it preserves, including amateur recordist David, mother Juliette and neighbor Bunny. She conducts us through a pair of after-dinner conversations, the first in 1952—she deduced the date from song lyrics mentioned on the wire—and the second in 1954. Aided by coauthor Christopher Allen, she pursues hints and half-heard jokes to determine who these people were and what befell them; she shows us the census records she used to find their old houses. The play unspools unhurriedly, leaving space for Kobayashi to make jokes, play short films and highlight points of historical interest. It takes a while for it to sink in that—of course—many of these vibrant people
This musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz addresses surprisingly complex themes, such as standards of beauty, morality and, believe it or not, fighting fascism. Thanks to Winnie Holzman’s witty book and Stephen Schwartz’s pop-inflected score, Wicked soars. The current cast includes Jackie Burns as Elphaba and Amanda Jane Cooper as Glinda.
Theater review by Diane Snyder For seven Harry Potter novels, the mediocrities of the Hogwarts house Hufflepuff lived in the shadow of their overachieving schoolmates. Matt Cox’s Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic gives them their due. In this funny and affectionate homage to J.K. Rowling’s world of wiz kids, Harry, Hermione and Ron take a back seat to average American wizard Wayne (Zac Moon), goth gal Megan (Julie Ann Earls) and math genius Oliver (Langston Belton), who is stuck at a school that doesn’t even teach his subject. They may not be at the top of the class, and they’re not wild about Harry, but they persevere through adversity and find power in friendship. A press release asks that the word parody be avoided in describing Puffs, but much of the show’s comedy is clearly aimed at Potterphiles. The 11 cast members play an assortment of characters, from a mumbling potions master to a squeaky house elf, and some of the jokes will be lost on those with no knowledge of the films or books. But even Potter virgins will enjoy the show’s witty wordplay and well-executed physical comedy. At times, the pacing is so frenetic that jokes can’t find a place to land, but there’s heart as well as humor here. In the past two years, Cox and director Kristin McCarthy Parker have shepherded their silly, subversive show from the People’s Improv Theater to Off Broadway’s New World Stages. Like its main characters, Puffs illustrates the heigh
After many years, the sassy and clever puppet musical doesn’t show its age. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s deft Sesame Street–esque novelty tunes about porn and racism still earn their laughs. Avenue Q remains a sly and winning piece of metamusical tomfoolery. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.
Music events in December 2018
Mitski Miyawaki has a talent for swift transformation. Over the past several years, she's rocketed from self-releasing her first two albums and playing DIY gigs to selling out New York's biggest rock venues months in advance. Her latest collection, Be The Cowboy, continues that hunger for growth, veering from her recent penchant for dreamily yearning indie rock in favor of a multi-faceted synth pop that recalls her early-career experimental tendencies.
This indie vet has always seemed inseparable from his trademark electric-guitar supernovas, so it's a pleasant surprise to hear Mascis sounding so comfy on his acoustic solo discs, such as 2011's Several Shades of Why and 2014's LP, Tied to a Star. It turns out that the Dino Jr. frontman's mumbly, achy emoting translates quite well in unplugged mode.
Brothers Max and Andrew Savage, along with their bandmates, are doing the once-a-generation job of stripping rock & roll back to something tight, primal and brilliant. The local outfit quickly sold out its tiny run of album-release shows this summer. This much-larger Manhattan gig offers another crack at hearing the invigorating postpunk bops of its latest, Wide Awake! The enduring, always-captivating space-jazz ensemble Sun Ra Arkestra opens.
Though this atmospheric Canadian indie-rock combo started out making whispery drum machine ditties on its 2001 debut Nightsongs, the crew has since asserted increasingly grandiose aspirations. More than 15 years later, Stars is turning out celestial, big-room synth-pop, as heard on 2017's There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light. Expect to hear selections from both the album and the band's back catalogue at this south-of-the-border gig.
This American band, which is neither from Manchester nor an orchestra, plays swelling rock songs with dramatic shades of Built to Spill. The group hits Brooklyn behind the new A Black Mile to the Surface, which features a nearly total turnover of the group's original members aside from guitarist and singer Andy Hull.