Season’s Greetings from the Theatre Capital of the World! Where else but in New York City can you celebrate the holidays by seeing a different Broadway show every night? Or have the opportunity to watch a favorite celebrity from film or TV performing live on stage? It’s December in the Big Apple—a treasure trove of hits awaits!
Image: MSG Entertainment.
Whether you’re a repeat visitor to the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes or a first-timer, New York’s favorite holiday extravaganza is better than ever—with fabulous immersive numbers featuring digital projections (and in “Dance of the Frost Fairies,” fluttering fairy-drones) that bring the excitement onstage into the audience. Also on the program are two classics that have been a Christmas Spectacular staple since 1933: “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “The Living Nativity.” But don’t hesitate to reserve your seats as it only runs through January 4th! Meanwhile, the Theater at Madison Square Garden is serving up Cirque du Soliel’s unforgettable take on the poem “A Visit from Saint Nicolas” in ‘Twas the Night Before…Filled with fun characters, acrobatics, and yuletide music, the show runs 12/7 through 12/28.
If you’ve got your eye on Broadway’s sparkling array of the latest arrivals, here’s the rundown:
Allison Semmes as Josephine Baker and the company of Harmony. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
From none other than A-List singer/songwriter Barry Manilow and his long-time collaborator Bruce Sussman comes the spellbinding musical Harmony, about a group of amazing singers who come together in 1927 Berlin and go on to become an international sensation as the Comedian Harmonists. With voices that meld into one perfect sound, and a penchant for on-stage shenanigans, these six guys went from street performers to superstars just as the political tide was turning and a fascist mindset morphed into the Nazi party. The linchpin character of the production is embodied by veteran stage actor Chip Zien in a tour-de-force performance as “Rabbi”—a senior version of one of the Harmonists. A powerhouse production that captivates from beginning to end.
Other Broadway newcomers include:
Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman.
…SPAMALOT. The first Broadway revival of the Eric Idle/Juan Du Prez musical featuring Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin), Tony nominees Christopher Fitzgerald (Waitress), and Ethan Slater (SpongeBob SquarePants), plus Michael Urie (Torch Song; Ugly Betty), Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer (Beetlejuice), and, as the Voice of God, Steve Martin.
…I Need That. A new comedy by Theresa Rebeck starring Danny DeVito (Taxi; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Get Shorty), alongside his daughter Lucy DeVito in her Broadway debut, and Anthony Thomas (American Buffalo).
…Appropriate. A “darkly comic American family drama” featuring Sarah Paulson (Ratched; American Horror Story) and Elle Fanning (The Great; The Girl From Plainville); and
…How to Dance in Ohio. A groundbreaking musical about seven autistic young adults preparing for a spring dance inspired by Alexandra Shiva’s Peabody Award-winning documentary.
If you were to take a Broadway poll, you can bet most people will tell you there’s a musical they A) Have seen, loved, and want to see again; or B) Are dying to see. Perhaps this is why long-running musicals are so popular, and why positive OMG buzz continues humming long after opening night.
Take for example The Book of Mormon, a show that hasn’t shed a scintilla of its opening night luster even as it inches up on its 13th birthday at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. A cult favorite, its devotees return again and again to bask in this deliciously irreverent Tony-winning show about a couple of innocent Mormon missionaries assigned to a remote Ugandan village. Audacious, cheeky, and hilarious—no surprise, since it’s from Matt Stone and Trey Parker, a.k.a. the audacious, cheeky, hilarious dudes who created South Park.
Another not-be-missed Tony winner is Moulin Rouge! The Musical, a show that’s revamped the concept of the jukebox musical to embrace genres ranging from pop to classical, plus the thrills of visual homage to an iconic Parisian venue and its denizens. The current cast stars a luminous Courney Reed (Aladdin) as the legendary nightspot’s “Sparkling Diamond”/main attraction, Satine. Her love interest is Christian, played by Casey Cott (Riverdale) and their chemistry onstage is beyond striking.
Scooping up standing ovations at the Broadhurst Theatre is A Beautiful Noise, the Neil Diamond Musical, currently starring 2015 American Idol winner Nick Fradiani as Neil-Then (above). The role takes audiences from Diamond’s early songwriting days through a legendary career that soared to the stratosphere during the 1970s and ‘80s thanks to his staggering ability to produce hit after glorious hit. It’s a musical bio that moves from exuberant to poignant and beyond, with a structure that bookends the performer’s younger self with Neil-Now, played by Broadway veteran Mark Jacoby. And get ready to vocalize during the curtain call…just saying.
Fresh off a blockbuster celebration of 20 years on Broadway, it appears that Wicked is poised to Defy Gravity for another couple of decades. One of Broadway’s most sought-after tickets, this prequel to The Wizard of Oz, based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, serves up a backstory involving the witches Elphaba and Glinda during their first year at Shiz University. Studious Elphaba, an outcast due to her green skin, and way-popular fashionista Glinda, seem ill-matched, and yet…It’s a story laced with fantastical Ozmopolitan twists, turns, complications, and revelations. And it speaks to the outsider—and insider—in all of us.
FOR THE FAMILY
December + family vacations equal the perfect time to escort your favorite tyke, tween, or teen to an afternoon or evening of splendiferous theatre.
Arabian Nights Men. Photo by Deen van Meer.
Disney’s Aladdin is a funny, enchanted jaunt in and around the mythical city of Agrabah. Here, the title hero of this tale, plucked from “One Thousand and One Nights” and played by handsome Michael Maliakel, is getting into trouble with his three best buds when things start to change, big time. He finds himself romantically smitten with the lovely Princess Jasmine (Sonya Balsara), caught in the villainous crosshairs of the grand vizier Jafar (Dennis Stowe), and razzle-dazzled by Genie (Michael James Scott). It’s a whole new world, for sure, best reached by flying carpet…or taxi.
For Disney’s longest running show, Tony-winning The Lion King takes the honor with a life span that began in 1988. This level of longevity is a tribute to its timeless narrative, as Simba discovers the importance of friendship and finds true love, all while growing into his destiny. Set in Africa in The Pride Lands, this coming-of-age tale resonates not only for its portrayal of good versus evil, but also for its visual beauty and puppet creations that fill the stage—and sometimes the aisles—at the Minskoff Theatre. Leading the current cast are Stephen Carlile (Scar); L. Steven Taylor (Mufasa); Vincent Jamal Hooper (adult Simba); and Pearl Khwezi (adult Nala).
Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Perhaps you have a young—or not so young—Potterhead in the family. If so, I strongly recommend scoring tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Picking up 19 years after Harry (Steve Haggard) defeated Lord Voldemort, this compelling sequel to J.K. Rowling’s original book series unfolds just as Harry’s son Albus (Joel Meyers) and Draco Malfoy’s (Aaron Bartz) son Scorpius (Erik Christopher Peterson) head off to Hogwarts as first-years. The boys form an instant bond and eventually become wrapped up in a magical conundrum that takes them back—and forward—in time.
SIX DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
A Christmas Memory & The Thanksgiving Visitor. A double bill of two short plays by Truman Capote. Thru 12/23. (achristmasmemory.com)
Three Dickens Carols…
A Christmas Carol. A wonderfully animated solo performance by Guy Masterson (12/20 thru 12/31). (sohoplayhouse.com)
A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House. Against a 19th-century backdrop, John Kevin Jones embodies Charles Dickens at a yuletide reading of his famous tale. Thru 12/24. (merchantshouse.org)
Neil Gaiman as Charles Dickens: A Dramatic Reading of A Christmas Carol. 12/18 & 12/19. (thetownhall.org)
Four Nimble Nutcrackers…
Photo credit: © Paul Kolnik
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Classic beauty brought to stunning life by the New York City Ballet. Thru 12/31. (nycballet.com)
My First Nutcracker. A charming adaptation of the beloved ballet for young audiences. 12/2 thru 12/21. (nycchildrenstheater.org)
Nutcracker Rouge. Company XIV’s unique take is reserved for those on Santa’s naughty list. Thru 1/27/24. (companyxiv.com)
The Yorkville Nutcracker. Dances Patrelle’s version offers a magical tour of 1895 NYC. 12/14 thru 12/17. (dancespatrelle.org)
Five Family Flings…
The An Axemas Story. A blissfully silly send of Christmas shows plus plenty of tree puns! Thru 12/17. (anaxemasstory.com)
The Magic Flute – Holiday Presentation. The Metropolitan Opera’s annual family-centric romp through Mozart’s glorious fairy tale. 12/8 thru 12/30. (metopera.org)
‘Twas the Night Before… Cirque du Soleil showcases acrobats and holiday tunes in its take on the famous Christmas poem. 12/7 thru 12/28. (msg.com)
Peter and the Wolf. Isaac Mizrahi is narrator, director, and costume designer for Prokofiev’s children’s classic, 12/8 thru 12/10. Third Bird. Mizrahi’s uniquely personal homage to Peter and the Wolf, 12/15 & 12/16. Both productions feature Dance Heginbotham and Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect. (worksandprocess.org)
And a Family Classic in a Pear Tree…!
Seven in One Blow, or The Brave Little Kid. Axis Theatre Company’s annual interactive holiday play with music is a fun and funny trek for ages 4 and up! (axiscompany.org)
STAR POWER OFF-BROADWAY
It’s no secret that many Broadway shows—including Hadestown, Hamilton, and Merrily We Roll Along—started out Off-Broadway. As did most Broadway stars. And during the month of December, a number of prominent celebrities have opted for Off-Broadway venues.
Over at The Shed’s Griffin Theatre Here We Are, the new Stephen Sondheim-David Ives musical based on two Luis Buñuel films, boasts a quartet of Tony-winning actors: David Hyde Pierce (Curtains; Frasier), Bobby Cannavale (The Motherf**ker with the Hat), Rachel Bay Jones (Dear Evan Hansen) and Denis O’Hare (Take Me Out).
Photo by Emilio Madrid.
Generating buzz at the Lucille Lortel Theatre are Aubrey Plaza (The White Lotus; Parks and Recreation) and Christopher Abbott (Catch-22), who are costarring in a revival of John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.
Finally, the Tennessee Williams’ classic The Night of the Iguana’s all-star line up includes Tim Daly (Madame Secretary; Wings); Tony winner Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent) Lea DeLaria (Orange Is the New Black), and Tony nominee Austin Pendleton (Between Riverside and Crazy; The Minutes). You can catch it at the Pershing Square Signature Center from December 6th.
A PERFECT THEATRE GIFT FROM BLUE MAN GROUP
Blue Man Group’s first-ever holiday album, “Overjoy to the World,” is ready to rock your season! In addition to the title songs, the 9-track revamp of holiday classics includes “PVC Dreidel Mashup,” “Hall Chant,” and “Jingle Bones.”
“One of the things that makes holiday music so memorable is that a lot of the songs have common traits, in theme of course, but also in musical structure,” says Jeff Turlick, Blue Man Group contributing director and music composer. “The Blue Men, being musical beings, pick up on these similarities to collaborate on a mashup of the popular classics and see what kind of response they get from the audience.”
Access streaming links at blueman.com/holidayep, along with YouTube/other social media, where you can check out the group’s “PVC Dreidel Mashup” video.