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Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Photograph: Courtesy MSG Entertainment

The best Christmas shows in NYC this holiday season

Here’s a handy guide to holiday stage fun: lots of Nutcrackers and details on the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

By Adam Feldman

Christmas shows are on everyone’s mind as New Yorkers prepare for the holidays. How can you have Christmas in New York without a new edition of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and a whole bunch of Nutcrackers and A Christmas Carols? We scoured our listings to find appropriate Christmas-themed theater and dance shows. Get in the yuletide spirit and find the holiday show that’s right for you.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in NYC

Christmas shows to see in NYC

New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Photograph: Courtesy Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

Dance Ballet

This magical 1954 production, set to Tchaikovsky's incredible score, includes the full New York City Ballet company and two casts of School of American Ballet students, as well as an onstage blizzard and a Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet. In the end, however, Balanchine's choreography is what holds it all together. It's enchanting.

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Photograph: Paul Kolnik for MSG Entertainment

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes

Theater Musicals

You’ll get a kick out of this holiday stalwart, which still features Santa, wooden soldiers and the leggy, dazzlingly precise Rockettes. In recent years, new music, more eye-catching costumes and advanced technology have been introduced to bring audience members closer to the performance.

Ghost of Marley in A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic
Photograph: Courtesy Manuel Harlan

A Christmas Carol

Theater Drama

Campbell Scott plays Scrooge in the latest stage version of Charles Dickens's classic yuletide story about a miser forcibly unclenched by visions of his own grinchiness. Matthew Warchus directs this 2017 adaptation by Jack Thorne. Andrea Martin and LaChanze play two of Scrooge's ghostly guests.

Nutcracker Rouge
Photograph: Courtesy Mark Shelby Perry

Company XIV: Nutcracker Rouge


Austin McCormick and his risqué neo-Baroque dance-theater group Company XIV present a lavish erotic reimagining of the classic holiday tale, complete with circus performers, operatic singers and partial nudity. The word nutcracker has customarily conjured innocent wonder; now be ready to add glitter pasties, stripper poles and comically large stuffed penises to the toys in wonderland. Definitely leave the kids at home.

Eric Peters
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody

Theater Musicals

Increasingly, the world seems polarized into two factions who can barely understand each other, much less find common ground: those who cherish the 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually, and those who recognize it as the extremely terrible garbage that it is. This musical spoof aims to appeal to both camps. 

Christmas Carol Cocktails
Photograph: Courtesy Russ Rowland

The Imbible: Christmas Carol Cocktails

Theater Musicals

The team behind the Imbible spead their cheer to the holidays with another alcohol-informational musical comedy, aimed at expanding your noggin and your noggin'. The show looks at the history and future of Christmas quaffs through a story that imagines Ebenezer Scrooge planning a party the day after his big epiphany. Admission includes three craft cocktails.

Jeffrey Solomon in The Santa Closet
Photograph: Courtesy Bree Michael Warner

The Santa Closet

Theater Comedy

Jeffrey Solomon performs a 10th-anniversary revision of his 2009 solo Santa Claus Is Coming Out, a multicharacter, faux-documentary dissection of the media frenzy that ensues when St. Nick reveals his true sexuality. Joe Brancato directs the show, which has been updated to reflect changes in LGBTQ issues.

A Christmas Carol in Harlem
Photograph: Courtesy Jill Jones

A Christmas Carol in Harlem

Theater Musicals

Scrooge is an uptown New York real-estate vulture in the Classical Theatre of Harlem's contemporary update of Charles Dickens's holiday novella about a miser who gets spooked into accepting the Christmas spirit. Carl Cofield directs Shawn René Graham's adaptation;  modernized carols helps keep the yuletide high.

Cirque du Soleil: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Artwork: Courtesy Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil: 'Twas the Night Before

Theater Circuses & magic

The mammoth Québécois neocirque troupe presents its first holiday-themed production, an extended riff on Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Writer-director James Hadley's show follows a young girl who is yanked, on Christmas Eve, into a magical world where acrobatics and elaborate spectacle take the place of those boring old dancing sugar plums. 

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