If this is truly the season to be jolly, nothing can slap a smile on your face and put a little holiday warmth in your heart faster than the magic of a live Christmas show. Around the world, theaters are putting a new spin on holiday classics or staging original and innovative Christmas shows that will dazzle your family's imagination and rekindle your holiday spirit. Check out these top Christmas shows to brighten the holiday season.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
City sidewalk, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. The classic holiday song, “Silver Bells,” may describe NYC at Christmastime, but the season is defined by the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and their nearly 80-year-running production of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Tradition remains, but it is viewed through a 21st-century production. This year’s cinema-style special effects will immerse the audience in the show as part of a live 3D video game adventure. The show’s scenery actually leaves the stage, making the entire theater a magical canvas. “This 2011 edition will raise the bar for live entertainment,” says Don Simpson, executive vice president of productions for Madison Square Garden Entertainment. “Our audiences will feel immersed in the warmth and magic of Christmas in a way that only Radio City can deliver.”
Joffrey Ballet Nutcracker
Tchaikovsky’s Christmas classic, The Nutcracker, is routinely performed by everyone from grade schoolers to world-famous ballet companies, but few ballet interpretations are as inspiring as the one showcased by the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Robert Joffrey’s innovative choreography mixes tradition with modern costumes, as well as special effects with incredibly athletic dancers.
Moscow Ballet Nutcracker
What would the Christmas season be without The Nutcracker performed by the world-famous Moscow Ballet? The company’s contemporary interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet holds your attention even if you’re not a ballet aficionado. The tour stops in more than 60 cities in the United States and Canada this holiday season.
A Christmas Carol
One of America’s most famous theaters presents one of the world’s most enduring Christmas shows for the 2011 holiday season. Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC, presents an ideal setting for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future mill about in a thoroughly modern production. It all takes place in a historic theater with a few ghosts of its own. (President Lincoln was fatally shot here on April 14, 1865.) Edward Gero plays the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge in a production adapted by Michael Wilson and directed by Michael Baron.
There’s nothing quite like a good children’s story brought to life on stage at Christmas time. For the 14th consecutive year the Peacock Theatre in London revives The Snowman, the classic story about a young boy’s snowman coming to life. The 2 go on a magical Christmas journey, flying to the North Pole. Like the book, the theater production tells the story without words, deferring to mime, dance and music. The pinnacle of the score by Howard Blake is the hauntingly beautiful "Walking in the Air," the lyrics to which are the only words in the evening performance.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze
It’s a nice, quiet holiday evening. The tree is trimmed, the house is dark, everyone is asleep. Then the Christmas ornaments magically come to life and take you on an amazing Christmas journey of outrageous acrobatic stunts. This is Cirque Dreams Holidaze (not affiliated with Cirque du Soleil), which tours the US this Christmas season. The show features an international cast of performers in spectacular costumes performing even more spectacular stunts, all played out to an original score with some holiday favorites mixed in. Gingerbread men flip in mid-air, toy soldiers juggle on high wires and reindeer soar high above the audience. If you thought Frosty the Snowman coming to life was great, Cirque Dreams Holidaze will show you that’s just silly kids’ stuff.
Jeff Thoreson is a Washington, DC-based travel writer who has been known to sneak in a theater show wherever he travels.