2015’s roster of holiday shows for kids--theatrical, musical and whatnot--is nothing short of a windfall (or snowfall, considering the season!). Spanning neighborhoods from midtown to SoHo to Brooklyn and beyond, you can find the perfect, festive stage event to enjoy with your kids--little ones, for sure, but even jaded tweens and teens who roll their eyes initially will hop onto the fa-la-la bandwagon. So get out your list and get ready to mark it twice, because one show is clearly not enough!
Top Holiday Family Shows
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
WHERE: Radio City Music Hall, 1260 6th Ave.(between 50th & 51st St.)
WHEN: Through January 3
TICKETS: $43.10 through $371.55; Official website visit for playing schedule: radiocitychristmas.com/newyork/tickets.html, or call 866-858-0007
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes, no intermission
FYI: Any child under two years old doesn’t require a ticket, if they sit on a parent or guardian's lap.
The most famous holiday confection served up on the planet, New York City’s delectable merry and bright holiday tradition is the star atop Rockefeller Center’s giant Christmas tree! Featuring Santa and starring the Radio City Rockettes in everything from “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” (which has been around since 1933) to the show’s latest addition, “Snow,” in which dance steps and snowflake technology come together for the ultimate seasonal sensation. And, of course, there’s the show’s iconic reenactment of the first Christmas in the "Living Nativity,” whose menagerie of live animals includes veteran camel Ted, who has been with the show longer than many of the high-kicking Rockettes! (Running through 1/3/16)
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
WHERE: Linclon Center ‘s David H. Koch Theater, 70 W. 63rd St.
WHEN: November 27-January 3
TICKETS: $34 to $500+ newyorkcitytheatre.com/theaters/davidhkochtheater/nycb-the-nutcracker, or call 800-513-8720
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes, with intermission
FYI: The ballet debuted at New York City Center on Feb. 2, 1954.
New York City Ballet’s time-honored tradition has been creating family memories for decades and returns annually to charm new generations of theatergoers. The stage of Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater sparkles with a massive Christmas tree, Tschaikovsky’s enchanting score, and nearly 90 dancers bringing to vivid life George Balanchine’s timeless choreography. The story centers on a young heroine whose Christmas fantasy sends ballerina snowflakes soaring, brings toy soldiers to life to battle the Mouse King and his hench-mice, and turns a beloved nutcracker into a handsome hero.
Elf the Musical
WHERE: Theater at Madison Square Garden, 4 Penn Plaza (7th Ave. & 32nd St.)
WHEN: December 9-27
TICKETS: $39 to $160; Official website: theateratmsg.com/events/2015/december/elf-the-musical.html, or call 800-745-3000
FYI: Tickets are required for children 2 and older.
You’ve no doubt seen the hit 2003 film with Will Ferrell, but to truly experience all things Elf the key to the kingdom of New York is live onstage as giant-sized elf Buddy. Buddy’s toy-making skills are nowhere near up to snuff, so he sets out on a Santa-sanctioned journey to the Big Apple to find his real dad, who (sadly) is on The Naughty List! Not to despair, Buddy saves the day for his dad and everyone lacking true spirit... oh yes, and he finds romance along the way!
More Favorites Shows for the Holiday Season
WHERE: Kings Theatre, 1027 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn
WHEN: December 15-27
TICKETS: $35 to $75, kingstheatre.com/shows/annie, or call 800-745-3000
FYI: Regardless of age, all children must have tickets.
Annie is a famous feel-good musical with substantial appeal for the whole family. The kids identify with the orphans (who never tire of making fun of the hateful Miss Hannigan, who runs the orphanage), but especially the sassy-plucky title character who wins the adoption lottery in the end. Comedy, heartbreak, come-uppance, and a big, fat Christmas celebration--not to mention songs like “Easy Street,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” and, of course, “Tomorrow.”
A Charlie Brown Christmas Live 2015
WHERE: Redwood Studios, 55 9th St., Brooklyn
WHEN: December 11-20
RUNNING TIME: 30 minutes
TICKETS: $12, brownpapertickets.com/event/2433028
FYI: For ages 3 and up.
In this very merry Peanuts year, with a big-screen movie released to dazzle the little ones, what could be better than a stage adaptation of the original TV special, which aired 50 years ago? Even better, the music, script, and characters--Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, and the rest of the gang--are totally faithful to the source material.
A Christmas Carol
WHERE: The Clurman Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St.,
WHEN: December 16-23
TICKETS: $58.25; theatrerow.org - or call 212-239-6200;
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes, no intermission
FYI: May be inappropriate for younger children; children under 4 are not permitted in the theater.
The cast--which has been whittled down to seven performers--takes on all the classic characters, from Ebenezer Scrooge to the characters from his Past, Present, and Future to the in ghosts who serve as tour guides on his supernatural road to redemption.
A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House
WHERE: Merchant’s House Museum, 29 E. 4th St.
WHEN: December 10-24
TICKETS: $42.39 to 52.74 (Additional charge of $26.87 for pre-show celebration); merchantshouse.org/christmascarol2015 , or call 800-838-3006
RUNNING TIME: 60 minutes, no intermission
FYI: Probably best suited for older children, with non-alcoholic beverages available in place of mulled wing.
Amid evocative 19th-century holiday decorations, candles, and period furnishings
Kevin Jones appears as Charles Dickens the storyteller, weaving his iconic Christmas tale. Notably, the performance was created from Dickens’s own script. As for the pre-performance celebration, it is set in the Merchant House’s original kitchen, where Mr. Jones leads a toast of mulled wine and “light fare” is served
A Child’s Christmas in Wales
WHERE: DR Theatre in Union Square, 103 E. 15th St.
WHEN: Through January 3rd
TICKETS: $71; irishrep.org, or call 212-727-2737
RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes, no intermission
FYI: Older children will appreciate this... wee ones, not so much.
Tony winner John Cullum stars in the Irish Rep’s production of the classic Dylan Thomas work adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore and played out against a backdrop of both traditional and contemporary holiday music. A snowy Christmas Day in Wales is seen through the eyes of a child: Ghost stories are whispered, cakes are gobbled up, and wild Indians roam the city park--a lazy holiday afternoon.
Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas
WHERE: Viital Theatre Company at the Theatre at St. Jean, 184 E. 76th St.
WHEN: November 28-December 27
TICKETS: $49.40 to $59.50; vitaltheatre.org, or call 212-579-0528
FYI: Best for ages 2 to 7
After doing a stupendous job of musicalizing the first book in the series, Vital debuted this tuner last year about the pint-size fashionista's quest to find the most fabulous Christmas arbor ever. Of course, things don't go quite as she plans, but it all turns out OK in the end, with her family trimming the tree with help from children in the audience. We enjoyed it last year and think it's a must for Fancy Nancy fans.
WHERE: Classical Theatre of Harlem
WHEN: December 11-31
FYI: For ages 8 and up
For more than 15 years, the Classical Theatre of Harlem has been reimagining iconic shows for multicultural audiences and, more recently, incubating new works. As for this debut holiday musical set in Harlem, it manages to touch the heart as much as it celebrates the season. Featuring new tunes alongside famous Christmas carols infused with disco, rock, and gospel, First Noel focuses on three generations of one family impacted by the devastating death of a loved one. But a surprise holiday guest brings the spirit of healing to their home. I love that this show celebrates the season but also explores the harsh realities of life and loss.
FunikiJam Holiday Beat - A New Family Musical
WHERE: Elektra Theatre, 300 W. 43rd St.
WHEN: Through January 2
RUNNING TIME: 45 minutes, no intermission
TICKETS: $25 (general); $40 (premium); funikijam.com, or call 866-811-4111
FYI: Tiny tots and up
A sing-along, dance-along, play-along, globe-spanning adventure that begins when Bongo wants to throw a holiday party that all his friends can enjoy. Captain Jam takes him and all the "junior agents" on a rocking trip around the world to learn about different cultures and how they celebrate everything from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Diwali to the Chinese New Year and Shichigosan!
The Greatest Pirate Holiday Spectacularrr!
WHERE: Theater 54, 244 W. 54th St.
WHEN: December 24-January 3
RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes
TICKETS: $50 (regular); $75 (premium); greatestpiratestory.com/holiday/html, or call 866-811-4111
FYI: Ages 4 and up
Get ready to laugh and giggle as your suggestions are turned into songs, scenes, and more in this madcap, improvised version of A Christmas Carol orchestrated by the crew of the Riley Rose. The question is, will five pirates, three ghosts, a bumbling Sea Witch and Charles Dickens himself be able to tell the tale before time runs out?!
The Hard Nut
WHERE: BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn
WHEN: December 10-20
TICKETS: $25 to $125; bam.org/dance/2015/the-hard-nut/
FYI: Best for teens, but sophisticated pre-teens may be fine; visit website first.
The Hard Nut is retro-modern reimagining of The Nutcracker performed by Mark Morris Dance Group. Described as a “lavish, gender-bent love letter to a classic,” the show is set in the swinging 70s and features raucous parties and whimsical costumes, presented to Tchaikovsky’s complete original score.
Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid
WHERE: 2 Axis Theatre, One Sheridan Square
WHEN: December 4-22
TICKETS: $15. adults; $10, students & seniors; $5, kids; veterans, active service members & their families, Free Admission. Axiscompany.org, or call 212-352-3101
RUNNING TIME: 50 minutes, no intermission
FYI: For ages 4 and up.
Starting out in an urban setting--a Kid kills seven flies with one impressive swat and commemorates the event with a belt boasting “Seven in One Blow”--the show takes the kid on a fantasy journey filled with such colorful characters as the Scarlet Pimpernel, a Witch, an Ogre, and a Princess, most of whom think this belt refers to seven people. As a result, the Kid is assigned all kinds of difficult tasks based on this faulty presumption. In the end, however, each of the characters learns a valuable lesson of their own, and the Kid discovers that a parent’s love and care has no limits.
The Three Bears Holiday Bash
WHERE: Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater in Central Park (W. 79th St. & West Dr.)
WHEN: Through December 30
RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes, no intermission
TICKETS: $10 for adults, $7 for children under age 12; cityparksfoundation.org/arts/swedish-cottage-marionette-theatre, or call 866-811-4111.
FYI: For children under age 12; 8 may be the best cut-off.
Puppets rock the holiday season in song and dance (including an audience participation “12 Days of Christmas” sing-along!) in this innovative variety show that kicks off when Baby Bear invites Santa to star in Mama and Papa Bear's annual holiday show. Drawn from stories of Hanukkah, The Night Before Christmas, and Kwanzaa.
Young Charles Dickens
WHERE: NYC Children’s Theatre at Theater 3, 311 W. 43rd St.,
WHEN: December 5-January 3
RUNNING TIME: 60 minutes, no intermission
TICKETS: $25 to $45, nycchildrenstheatyer.org, or call 646-250-1178
FYI: Best for ages 8 and up.
Based on the true story of Charles Dickens’s childhood, this unique and uplifting holiday story tells how the famous author, then a typical 12-year-old with a gift for telling stories, found himself in the position of having to spend a year supporting his family. It was when he was working on Christmas Eve, however, that he realized just how important his stories could be.
Broadway for Families
A final note: If you are considering splurging on a Broadway outing a for the whole family, I strongly recommend the following shows: Matilda (matildathemusical.com); Dames At Sea (DamesAtSeaBroadway.com); Finding Neverland (findingneverlandthemusical.com) and, of course, Disney’s dynamic duo: Aladdin (Aladdinthemusical.com) and The Lion King (disneyonbroadway.com).