With Christmas around the corner, what better than to celebrate with a festive show. We round up the best that London has to offer
The classic James Stewart film basically is Christmas. Who doesn’t shed a tear at George Bailey being shown how terrible life in Bedford Falls would have been without him… and on Christmas Eve too? Well now it’s been turned into an opera – and let’s face it there aren’t too many festive ones – starring Danielle de Niese as guardian angel Clara. Wonderful indeed, and don’t forget to bring hankies.
The much-loved Raymond Briggs tale is brought thrillingly to the stage with colourful sets and costumes, exuberant dancing and a good dollop of nostalgia. Still going strong in its 25th year. Walking in the Air? You will be.
A Sherlock Carol
Very much a mash-up of much-loved characters here as Sherlock Holmes meets a grown-up Tiny Tim – not so tiny now – who implores the detective to investigate the mysterious death of his reformed mentor Ebenezer Scrooge. A fun Christmas mystery performed just a stone’s throw from 221B Baker Street, well, if 221B existed.
The Wind in the Wilton’s
Award-winning children’s author Piers Torday brings a new adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows to Wilton’s Music Hall. Set in modern-day London, this version starts in Hyde Park in spring with the adventure unfolding through the season and finishing up at Mole’s for Christmas, that is if Toad Hall can be saved from the weasels ferrets and stoats. And of course Toad is never too far away. Poop poop!
The Lion and the Witch in the Wardrobe
Not necessarily a traditional Christmas show per se, but what a wonderful, fantastical world to step into during the holidays. Samantha Womack stars as the cruel white witch in this production that brings CS Lewis’ much loved novel to the stage. What better time to relive this magical tale of Aslan and four children desperate to escape the reality of wartime Britain.
After a false start in lockdown, National Theatre’s festive show is properly here, with an official opening and everything. This new musical based on Sleeping Beauty follows a lonely fairy looking for someone to bless. But it all goes horribly wrong when she accidently curses a princess and is plunged into a quest to make things right. Lisa Lambe stars, taking over the role from Rosalie Craig.
Again, not technically a Christmas show, but the snowy setting couldn’t be more seasonal. Anna and Elsa’s appeal is clearly far from waning and what better festive treat for the kids than seeing their heroes live on stage. Just be prepared for Let It Go to lodge firmly in your head until long after the decorations have come down.
This feel-good, funny take on Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol – we’ll get to the more traditional versions shortly – follows the miser Ebony Scrooge who has plans to gentrify Peckham. A big-hearted show which immerses the community in the Christmas story.
The first homegrown show to be staged in a Brixton theatre in over 40 years, this new production of the much-loved story sets Alice’s adventures in Brixton Underground station and brings the community into the story. Hold tight please, and mind the doors.
A Christmas Carol
Adapted by the Olivier Award-winning writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Emilia), this new version (yep, another one) of the Dickens tale features a gender-switched Scrooge played by the wonderful Penny Layden and original music composed by Eamonn O’Dwyer with costumes by rising star Frankie Bradshaw.
Bugsy Malone the Musical
This revival of the Lyric Hammersmith’s hit show, directed by Sean Holmes and choreographed by Drew McOnie, stars a talented cast of performers aged between nine and 16 in the leading roles, supported by adult actors and a seven-piece live band. One to take your stage-hungry budding stars to.
Christmas would not be Christmas without joining Clara on her magical adventures in The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s score continues to thrill old and young alike as does Peter Wright’s much-loved, lavish production for the Royal Ballet. Crack on…
Danielle de Niese’s second appearance on this list, this time alongside Nicky Spence, Idunnu Munch and Cody Quattlebaum. The show promises to immerse audiences in a powerful new setting for Handel’s much-loved musical telling of the story of Christ.
A Christmas Carol
For serious theatres who wouldn’t think of putting on a panto, A Christmas Carol has become a staple. For the Bridge Theatre, Simon Russell Beale, Eben Figueiredo and Lyndsey Marshall tell Dicken’s classic tale, playing all the parts between them. Clicking on the website’s information for themes and content it warns of “infrequent swearing” — We’re intrigued…
Christmas Carol-ish… by Mr Swallow
A musical retelling of the story by Nick Mohammed’s Mr Swallow, one of Britain’s best-loved-slash-most-irritating comic creations, promises an untraditional night out. The show co-stars Mr. Goldsworth (David Elms) and Jonathan (Kieran Hodgson), joined by P&O Ferries favourite, lounge singer Rochelle Kelly (Sarah Hadland).
Leave the kids at home for this heartfelt grown-up comedy starring Miz Cracker, star of RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. The show follows Cindy Lou Who as she looks back on how her life has turned out since she met the Grinch one Christmas Eve. It comes over from the US, where reviews have called it “very funny” and also “as tasteless as possible” in a good way it seems, as the same review called it “flawless”.
Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol
Robert Bathurst takes on the role of Scrooge in this Tennessee-set Christmas Carol conceived by Dolly Parton, and featuring her songs. Set during the 1930s, it imagines Ebenezer as the greedy owner of a mining company town. But a Christmas Eve snowstorm approaches, and with it a new kind of Christmas spirit…
The writing team behind last year’s OFFIE award-winning (and unlikely festive) hit Beowulf are back with this re-telling of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale. Charles Court Opera reimagines the story to create a 21st century morality tale of names, identities and hilarity suitable for the whole family (be warned though — there are ‘adults only’ performances, so make sure you get the right one…)
Designed for children aged three and up, this puppetastic Pinocchio revolves around Hugo, a lonely boy whose mum makes him his very own Pinocchio, setting them both on an adventure to the top of a snowy mountain, out to pleasure island (nothing to do with Love Island) and into the belly of a whale.
The title may have lost its definite article, but nothing else is missing from English National Ballet’s traditional crowd pleaser. More than 100 dancers and musicians bring the story of Clara and her enchanted Nutcracker to life, following her adventures from a magical balloon ride across London to a run in with King Mouse. A real Christmas treat.
Roll up, roll up… In a new home for 2022, the circus spectacular returns, bringing elephants back to the ring with sensational puppetry from the award-winning team behind War Horse, plus strong men, contortionists, acrobats and high wire acts. Traditional, but with a 21st century twist.
The Fir Tree
This reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale by the Globe’s resident writer Hannah Khalil returns for its second year. Suitable for all ages, it tells the story of a little fir tree, living a peaceful life in the forest but dreaming of adventure in the outside world.
A Christmas Carol
David Burt and Richard Dempsey lead the cast of Antic Disposition’s musical adaptation. First staged in 2012 and now established as one of London’s most lush festive treats, the show is performed in the spectacular Tudor setting of Middle Temple Hall, where Dickens himself studied law.
Dream Big: Disney on Ice
Much-loved numbers from Frozen aren’t the only chilly thing about this high-spec Disney spectacular, so bring a jumper. Sequences from all the mouse house’s favourites, from Moana to Aladdin, Cinderella to Coco, are enhanced by elaborate floats, fabulous lighting and dramatic music, as well as insanely high quality skating.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker
David Bintley’s utterly magical production of the glittering Tchaikovsky classic returns for a brief visit to the grandest venue in town. With its astonishing projections, gorgeous design and a 60-strong young cast drawn from Carlos Acosta’s Birmingham Royal Ballet Company, it couldn’t be a more enchanting end to Christmas.