From Scrooge to Sugar Plums: Holiday Performances in and Around Philly
Nutcrackers, fairytales, Mariah ... this season has it all.
Whether you’re planning a family outing over winter break or a twist on nostalgic tradition, the holidays always bring the heavy-hitters to the stage. All imaginable variations of The Nutcracker, a handful of family-friendly plays, Scrooge realizing he’s a miserly jerkface … they’re all coming to a theater near you, so get those tickets and enjoy the show.
First off, we’ve got A Christmas Carol in many iterations.
WST for Kids presents Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
This one’s good for the whole family. It’s a musical adaptation, which keeps things livelier for little ones, and it’s only an hour long with no intermission.
December 2nd-17th, Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street.
A Christmas Carol musical
Instead of their annual holiday panto, People’s Light is staging a musical version of A Christmas Carol this year, blending original music by Zak Berman and traditional English carols to tell the classic story. They did a “Little Library” concert to give you a peek at what to expect, and it’s quite lovely:
(For those of you missing People’s Light’s holiday-season musical comedy, mark you calendars for December 16th, when they’ll hold an all-ages Panto Brunch hosted by drag queen Eric Jaffe in the farmhouse. The brunch will be a kind of panto of pantos — it’ll feature music and characters from past People’s Light holiday pantos including Cinderella, Three Musketeers and more.)
November 15th-December 31st, People’s Light, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern.
A Christmas Carol Comedy
After last year’s premiere sold out and delighted, Hedgerow Theatre Company is bringing back Katie Leamen’s two-person version of A Christmas Carol. This year, it’s starring Brian Anthony Wilson as Scrooge; Christopher Patrick Mullen returns as “everybody else.” The 75-minute show is full of mischief and best for ages five and up.
November 22nd-December 24th, Hedgerow Theatre Company, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley.
A Christmas Carol one-man show
If two actors still sounds like too many, Lantern Theater Company’s dramatic retelling of A Christmas Carol is accomplished by just one actor. Anthony Lawton returns to bring the story to life, playing each character in the span of 95 minutes. Best for ages nine and up.
December 2nd-27th, Drake Theatre, 302 South Hicks Street.
A Christmas Story: The Play
Not to be confused with A Christmas Carol. Bristol Riverside Theatre presents Philip Grecian’s adaptation of the beloved 1983 holiday movie.
November 28th-December 31st, Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol.
And let’s round it out with some plays that aren’t holiday-themed, per se, but are family-friendly and warm-and-fuzzy enough to fit into your season.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s classic fairytale gets the Broadway musical treatment at Walnut Street Theatre this season. You won’t be able to get “Be Our Guest” out of your head for days. And say what you want about the toxic character, but “Gaston” is one of the best Disney villain songs ever written. He uses antlers in all of his decorating!
November 29th-December 31st, Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street.
Blending the novels of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film, Media Theatre presents Mary Poppins. The stage version brings the familiar story to life, and its run has already been extended into mid-January due to popular demand.
December 5th-January 14th, Media Theatre, 104 East State Street, Media.
Whit MacLaughlin directs David Wood’s adaptation of the beloved Roald Dahl book. Eight-year-old Sophie befriends a Big Friendly Giant; mayhem and sweetness ensue. The show runs for 90 minutes with one intermission.
December 7th-January 29th, Arden Theatre, 40 North 2nd Street.
The Little Prince
“Draw me a sheep.” Quintessence Theatre stages a musical version of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s bittersweet and transformative tale of a stranded pilot and a mysterious extraterrestrial boy.
December 2nd-31st, Sedgwick Theatre, 7137 Germantown Avenue.
The No Name Pops’ A Very Philly Christmas
It’s our first holiday season without the Philly Pops, but the No Name Pops Orchestra is coming to save the day. Led by Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez, and featuring Philly choirs, Broadway singers, and some Philly surprises along the way, they’ll play new arrangements of holiday favorites.
December 1st-December 23rd, Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street.
Q102’s Jingle Ball
The lineup for this year’s annual concert includes Usher, OneRepublic, Jelly Roll and more.
December 12th, 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, 3601 South Broad Street.
A Soulful Christmas
Led by creator and director J. Donald Dumpson, this uplifting performance of holiday spirituals and gospel favorites unites choirs and performers from churches and organizations across the region. Now in its tenth year, the program closes with an inspiring “Finale of Lights.”
December 12th, 7:30 p.m., Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street.
Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas One And All
The Queen of Christmas, herself, Mariah Carey is gracing Philly with her multi-octave presence. Her setlist includes holiday songs as well as some of her classics (“Dreamlover,” “We Belong Together”). I’m not sure the Wells Fargo Center can contain the jolliness that will erupt when she finally sings “All I Want For Christmas.”
December 13th, 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, 3601 South Broad Street.
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s The Glorious Sound of Christmas
Did you know that the orchestra’s The Glorious Sound of Christmas was first recorded in 1962? Over 60 years later, it’s still a grand tradition, with holiday selections everyone will recognize, from age-old carols to The Nutcracker — plus a more recent addition: “The Rittenhouse Carol” by Bramwell Tovey.
December 14th-16th, Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street.
Silent Night Sing-In
Annually, thousands of singers come together to sing the holiday standard in Commonwealth Plaza. Philly composer John Conahan created a new arrangement in 2018, so be sure to download the free sheet music from his site to learn your part and join in this free sing-along.
December 15th, 5:30 p.m., Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street.
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Children’s Holiday Spectacular
This annual family-friendly orchestra performance features joyful sing-alongs, dancers, storytelling, and even a visit from Santa. Selections range from The Nutcracker to Frozen. Do you want to build a snowman? Of course you do!
December 16th, 11:30 a.m., Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street.
York Street Hustle Holiday Spectacular
This Philly-based 10-piece 1960s soul tribute brings its holiday show to World Cafe Live for its 11th year running. Expect Motown and Stax holiday classics and more ’60s soul hits.
December 16th, 8 p.m., World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street.
Fans of the epic rock band’s Christmas music — and Dwight Schrute —will love TSO’s Ghosts of Christmas Eve concert.
December 17th, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, 3601 South Broad Street.
The Philadelphia Orchestra and Philadelphia Symphonic Choir’s annual performance of Handel’s classic work is a holiday tradition.
December 20th and 21st, Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street.
Dance (or, Just a Whole Lot of The Nutcracker)
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
The ultimate classic. From the Tchaikovsky score to the fantastical journey to the Land of Sweets and back, this ballet never really changes, and never really has to. Come early for a pre-show picture with the Mouse King to really make your holiday season complete — or book Tea with the Sugar Plum Fairy on December 16th and 17th for some extra sweetness.
December 8th-30th, Academy of Music, 240 South Broad Street.
Dorrance Dance’s Nutcracker Suite
Michelle Dorrance’s tap-dance troupe presents a jazzy update to the Tchaikovsky classic, tapping into (pun intended) Duke Ellington’s 1960 interpretation.
December 8th and 9th, Zellerbach Theater, 3680 Walnut Street.
The show’s name and description is self-explanatory: “You know the Nutcracker the ballet, but what if the ballet was performed by only one man?” Well, that one man is Chris Davis, and he’s back for a second year to dance it all, from Marie to the mice to the Sugar Plum Fairy, all in an hour.
December 12th-31st, Theatre Exile, 1340 South 13th Street.
The Lady Hoofers’ all-tap adaptation of the holiday classic includes music by both Tchaikovsky and Duke Ellington, and transports audiences to Paris, where “an infestation of rats has thrown the city into chaos.” The family-friendly performance is a lively 90 minutes, and lots of fun.
December 9th and 10th, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street.
The Rock School’s Classic Nutcracker
Dancers from Philly’s Rock School of Dance perform the holiday classic with choreography by the Rock School’s own Peter Stark after Marius Petipa’s original.
December 15th-17th, Miller Theater, 250 South Broad Street.
The Nutcracker Dipped in Chocolate
For its third year, the Chocolate Ballerina Company stages its all-Black version of the holiday classic, with a twist. The music will blend Tchaikovsky’s score with influences from hip-hop, Brazilian Carnival and Egypt.
December 16th and 17th, Mandell Theater, 3220 Chestnut Street.
Elf in Concert
The Philadelphia Orchestra plays the score as Will Ferrell travels through the seven levels of the candy-cane forest, the sea of swirly-twirly gumdrops and the Lincoln Tunnel to make some Christmas magic. And remember: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
December 22nd and 23rd, Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street.
A Very Tammy Faymous Christmas
She may live in NYC now, but this “riotous and raucous hairy drag queen” Tammy Faymous got her start in Philly. She’ll return home for Christmas for a night of singing, storytelling and all-out chaos.
December 22nd, 7:30 p.m., City Winery, 990 Filbert Street.
Reverend TJ McGlinchey & Friends’ Jim Henson Holiday Extravaganza
When I was little, Statler and Waldorf singing “Marley and Marley” in The Muppet Christmas Carol terrified me, and I haven’t watched the movie since. But I love the Muppets, so I’m glad there is a Muppet-adjacent way to celebrate the holidays now. This concert features “over a dozen of Philadelphia’s most-Muppety singers, songwriters, musicians and puppeteers,” with songs from Muppet movies, shows, and even Sesame Street. It sounds delightful.
December 23rd, 7 p.m., The Lounge at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street.
Disney on Ice
You know the drill, parents: Get the kids out of the house and in their most glittery princess costumes for a couple hours of figure skating set to their favorite Disney movie soundtracks. This year’s theme: “Magic in the Stars,” continuing its century-long focus on wishing upon a star. There’ll be princesses, Encanto, Mickey and Minnie … Also, Frozen, because Disney knows where its bread is buttered. Buy the $30 light-up wands and commemorative cups while you’re at it.
December 24th-January 1st, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 South Broad Street.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Acrobats, aerialists and more dazzling circus-arts performers create holiday magic with a whole lot of sparking, music and gravity-defying.
December 26th-31st, Miller Theater, 250 South Broad Street.