In classic New York style, there are plenty of festive shows to choose from this holiday season, from classics like the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" and "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker" to new treats like "Peter Pan" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Get all the details on these fun family shows here, including recommended age ranges, running dates, and ticket prices.
Something unexpected and magical is taking place this December in terms of holiday theater: Variety! (Not bygone in the oldfangled TV Christmas specials sense, but rather in a "Wow, that's a sleighful of electrifying choices" kind of way.) So here's a select list -- and don't forget to check it twice, because like all seasonal productions, they're both naughty (limited runs!) and nice (way, way fun!).
George Balanchine's The NutcrackerTM
Who: New York City Ballet
Where: Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theatre, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Avenue at 63rd Street)
When: Running through December 31; visit website for full schedule
What: The revered holiday experience at New York's landmark (and gorgeously renovated) Lincoln Center features "a blizzard of ballerinas across the stage, sweeping you to exotic locales...marching toy soldiers...little Marie, and the valiant Nutcracker who saves her from the villainous Mouse King"-and, of course, Tchaikovsky's bewitching score
Tickets: $55-$225 (the latter for Sweet Seats VIP Package that includes premium orchestra seating, souvenir book, and 15 percent discount). 212-496-0600; www.nycballet.com
FYI: Unique programs, pre- and post-performance activities, holiday special events, children's books, and online games. In short, hit the link to maximize your family's shared experience!
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Who: Radio City RockettesTM
Where: Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue (between 50th and 51st Streets)
When: Running through January 2; visit website for full schedule
What: 2011 marks the 79th year of this classic, starring the world-famous Radio City RockettesTM. This year's version is a must-see with such groundbreaking new additions as a 3-D live scene and many never-before-seen special effects and RockettesTM numbers. Plus, treasured favorites like the "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "The Living Nativity" are still part of the dazzling mix.
Tickets: $45-$250. 866-858-0007; www.radiocitychristmas.com
FYI: The 36 RockettesTM move in perfect harmony at every performance, with the costume count for 2011 at a mind-blowing 1,300-plus.
Super Stocking Stuffers
Angelina Ballerina: The Very Merry Holiday Musical
Who: Vital Theatre Company
Where: 2162 Broadway at 76th Street
When: Currently running through January 2; Saturday-Sunday at 11am and 1pm (visit website for variations in schedule)
What: A custom-made musical for kids ages 3 to 12 in which Angelina Mouseling and her friends' "absolutely positively spectacular holiday dance pageant" hits a snafu, and the plucky mouse heroine and her cohorts have to save the show. Ultimate lesson: The true spirit of the holidays is not about things you receive, but the cheer you share!
Tickets: $29.50 and up. 212-579-0528; www.vitaltheatre.org
FYI: Based on the Angelina Ballerina books created by Katharine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig as well as the CG-animated series Angelina BallerinaTM: The Next Steps on PBS KIDS®
Who: Cirque Shanghai
Where: New Victory Theater, 209 W. 42nd Street (near Broadway)
When: December 2 through January 1; Wednesday-Saturday at 7pm, Sunday at 12pm and 5pm (visit website for special weekend workshops)
What: Throughout the holidays, a group of Cirque Shanghai's gifted contortionists, aerialists, and gymnasts perform daredevil acts and unbelievable feats of derring-do that thrill the entire family. For ages 4 and up.
Tickets: $14-$38. 646-223-3010; www.newvictory.org
FYI: Visit the website for an eye-popping YouTube preview.
Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan
Who: Tony Award-nominee Cathy Rigby in the title role
Where: The Theater at Madison Square Garden, 4 Penn Plaza (between 31st and 33rd Streets)
When: December 14-30; visit website for full schedule
What: J.M. Barrie's children's masterpiece about the boy who wouldn't grow up and his adventures in Never Land is back in the musical version that premiered on Broadway in 1954 and has enchanted children -- and inner children -- ever since.
Tickets: $35-$99. 866-858-0008; www.theateratmsg.com
FYI: New technology ups the ante on this production. For the full review, visit www.nymetroparents.com/peterpan.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Who: Off-Broadway Family Theatre
Where: St. Luke's Theatre, 308 W. 46th Street
When: Open-ended run (the only one!), Saturday at 11am (visit website for variations in schedule)
What: A theatrical adaptation for ages 6 and up of C.S. Lewis's beloved novel from the Chronicles of Narnia, with two actors playing eight characters, including the Pevensie siblings who are transported via wardrobe to Narnia, home of the great lion Aslan and the White Witch. Ultimate Lesson: Love is the deepest magic of all.
Tickets: $35. 212-239-6200; www.telecharge.com or www.narniaoffbroadway.com
FYI: Dramatized by le Clanché du Rand, the show is directed by Julia Beardsley O'Brien.
Seven in One Blow, or The Brave Little Kid
Who: Axis Theatre Company
Where: One Sheridan Square (just off 7th Avenue)
When: Currently running through December 18; Friday at 7pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2pm; bonus performance December 20 at 7pm
What: It's just before the holidays on a snowy day at the start of this interactive play for ages 4 and up that's based on the Brothers Grimm story about a brave youngster who gets seven flies with one swat-and ends up on a phantasmagorical journey filled with fairytale characters. Ultimate Lesson: Parental love and care has no limits.
Tickets: $12; $6 children, students, and seniors
FYI: Proceeds from the December 10 performance will be donated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
A Christmas Carol
(Three this season, but like snowflakes, no two are alike)
Who: Canal Park Playhouse
Where: 508 Canal Street (between Greenwich and West Streets in Tribeca)
When: December 1-24; Thursday and Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 12pm and 2pm
What: The setting is perfect: an intimate backdrop in which the ghost of Charles Dickens spins his fabled story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Filled with holiday magic and classic physical comedy (yes, pratfalls are included!). For ages 7 and up.
Tickets: $18. 866-811-4111; www.canalparkplayhouse.com
FYI: A pre-fixe pre- or post-show brunch at the theater's Waffle Iron Café is available Saturdays for an additional $6.95 in advance or $8.95 at the door.
Who: Manhattan Children's Theatre
Where: Access Theatre, 380 Broadway (Broadway and White Street), 4th Floor
When: November 12 through December 24; Saturday-Sunday and December 23 at 12pm and 2pm
What: Modern movement plus traditional and original music bring this holiday tradition to vibrant life, reminding audiences "to look within ourselves and renew our spirits of compassion and generosity." For ages 5 and up.
Tickets: In advance: $18; $16
children. At the door: All tickets are $20. 212-352-3101; www.mctny.org
FYI: This production marks the beginning of Manhattan Children's Theatre's 2011/2012 season and its first show in its new gallery space.
Who: Henry Street Settlement
Where: Abrons Arts Center,
466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street)
When: December 1-18; Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 4pm
What: A new approach to the Dickens classic in which images from 70 different film versions of the tale are projected on moving screens using a modern-day version of the magic lantern. "Film clips collide and combine with live performers on stage, eerily blurring the distinction between performance and video projection." For older kids and adults.
Tickets: $20; $10 students/seniors. 212-352-3101; www.abronsartscenter.org
FYI: This production is created and directed by media artist and former Wooster Group video designer Reid Farrington.