fb-pixel Skip to main content

10 traditional holiday treasures and shiny new productions on area stages

David Coffee and Cheryl McMahon are both returning for their 27th seasons in North Shore Music Theatre's "A Christmas Carol: A Musical Ghost Story."Justin Harris

ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914 A “documentary musical” inspired by episodes during the first year of World War I, when German and Allied troops emerged from their trenches and shared a Christmas celebration, complete with the singing of carols, exchanges of gifts like cigarettes and plum puddings, and an impromptu game of soccer. Written by Peter Rothstein, with vocal arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach. Directed by Ilyse Robbins. Music direction by Matthew Stern. Featuring Christopher Chew, David Jiles Jr., Michael Jennings Mahoney, Bryan Miner, and Gary Thomas Ng. Nov. 26-Dec. 23. Greater Boston Stage Company, Stoneham. 781-279-2200, www.greaterbostonstage.org


THE RISE AND FALL OF HOLLY FUDGE Karen MacDonald stars as Carol, a single mother renowned for the “Holly” fudge, named after her daughter, that she makes each holiday season. Amid the pandemic Christmas of 2020, Holly (Kristian Espiritu), now in her 20s, springs a surprise on her mother by coming out to Carol and bringing home her girlfriend (Eliza Simpson). Meanwhile, noisy protests are escalating against the city councilor who lives across the street. World premiere of Trista Baldwin’s play is directed by Courtney Sale. Live onstage Nov. 26-Dec. 12. Then available as video-on-demand Dec. 16-26. Production by Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell. 978-654-4678, www.mrt.org

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY A stage adaptation by Joe Landry of the classic 1946 Frank Capra film starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore. Directed by Damon Kiely, this production features live sound effects and a cast of eight that includes Tony Estrella as George Bailey, Lynsey Ford as Mary Bailey, and the redoubtable Fred Sullivan Jr. as both evil Mr. Potter and angelic Clarence. Nov. 26-Dec. 24. Gamm Theatre, Warwick, R.I. 401-743-9315 www.gammtheatre.org

BLACK NATIVITY There’s not a more stirring and joyful holiday experience on any area stage than this annual treasure, now in its 51st season. A gospel-music telling of the Nativity story, complete with a candlelight procession, African drumming, and the “Dance of Mary and Joseph,” this Boston version of “Black Nativity” was created by Dr. Elma Lewis and John Andrew Ross, inspired by Langston Hughes’s original song-play. With direction by Voncille Ross and choreography by George Howard. Production by National Center of Afro-American Artists. Two performances on Nov. 27 at Mechanics Hall, Worcester. 508-725-0888, www.mechanicshall.org/tickets/black-nativity-2021. Then performances from Dec. 10-19 at Robert J. Orchard Stage, Paramount Center, Boston. 617-824-8400, emersontheatres.org/Online/article/Black-Nativity-2021


A scene from Lightwire Theater’s "A Very Electric Christmas," at the Emerson Colonial Theatre Nov. 27.Courtesy Lightwire Theater

A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL With a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (”Dear Evan Hansen”), this charming adaptation stays true to the antic spirit of the 1983 film about the adventures of young Ralphie Parker and to the semi-autobiographical writings of radio humorist Jean Shepherd. When “A Christmas Story: The Musical” came to Boston in 2013, I wrote that it was “consistently enjoyable and sometimes more than that,” with “an overall buoyancy of mood and a fleetness of pace throughout.” Directed by Matt Lenz. Dec. 7-19. Boch Center Wang Theatre. 800-982-2787, www.bochcenter.org

CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE Christmas tree ornaments come to life and tell their own stories via performances by more than 20 skilled circus artists, blended with renditions of original music and seasonal songs like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Deck the Halls.” In reviewing this show five years ago, I called it “weirdly entrancing” and a “full-on sensory immersion in which Las Vegas meets family entertainment meets musical theater meets acid trip, with elements of Santa’s Workshop and an old-time TV variety show thrown into the mix.” Directed by Rye Mullins and choreographed by Kevin Wilson. Boch Center Shubert Theatre. Dec. 10-12. 866-348-9738, www.bochcenter.org


A CHRISTMAS CAROL: A MUSICAL GHOST STORY Featuring original music as well as seasonal songs, this annual production of North Shore Music Theatre’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens tale about one man’s overnight journey to redemption features the indefatigable David Coffee, returning for his 27th season as Ebenezer Scrooge. Coffee will be joined by Russell Garrett as Bob Cratchit, Leigh Barrett as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Mrs. Cratchit, Marcus M. Martin as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Derek Luscutoff as Young Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Alex Puette as Jacob Marley, Sommer Carbuccia as the Narrator, J.T. Turner as Mr. Fezziwig, and — also returning for a 27th season — Cheryl McMahon as Mrs. Dilber and Mrs. Fezziwig. Directed and choreographed by Kevin P. Hill. Dec. 2-23. North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly. 978-232-7200, www.nsmt.org

A GRINCHLEY CHRISTMAS CAROL She’s green, she’s mean, she’s utterly obscene. She’s Hermione P. Grinchley, an avaricious boozehound born of Ryan Landry’s fertile imagination (with an assist from Dickens and Dr. Seuss) and played by Landry. In this musical sendup, Mrs. Grinchley steals Christmas, and then, according to press materials, “reluctantly travels through her grossly checkered past, her absolutely rancid present, and, finally, deep into her most gruesome future.” Written by Landry and directed by Kiki Samko, with music direction by Tim Lawton and choreography by Delta Miles. For age 16 and up. Dec. 2-19. The Gold Dust Orphans. At the Iron Wolf Theatre, South Boston Lithuanian Citizens’ Association, South Boston. grinchleycarol.bpt.me


THE CHRISTMAS REVELS: IN CELEBRATION OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE This year’s Revels is set in present-day England, where patrons at a pub dating back to the 17th century have gathered for the pub’s annual Christmas carol party, canceled the previous year due to the pandemic. According to press materials, “the hiccup in tradition has disturbed the space/time continuum and triggered an audit by a fussy Revels bureaucrat from the 17th century,” who makes “an official visit to the 21st century to put things back in order,” triggering a collision between the music, dance, and culture of the Renaissance with that of today. Directed by Patrick Swanson, with George Emlen and Edmar Colón as music directors, and new dances by Tony Tucker (a choreographer from City Ballet of Boston’s “Urban Nutcracker”) and Revels choreographer Gillian Stewart. The cast includes, among others, David Coffin, Carolyn Saxon, Mark Jaster, Sabrina Selma Mandell, William Forchion, and Regie Gibson, with special appearances by Paula Plum and Richard Snee. Dec. 17-29. Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, Cambridge. 617-496-2222, www.revels.org. Then online from Dec. 30-Jan. 9. Tickets for virtual production at www.revels.org

LIGHTWIRE THEATER’S A VERY ELECTRIC CHRISTMAS Performing in complete darkness, light characters created by electroluminescent puppetry enact the story of a young bird named Max who gets blown off course as he and his family are headed south for the winter. Max ends up very far north — the North Pole, in fact. As he tries to reunite with his family, Max encounters toy Nutcracker soldiers, merry mice, an evil rat king, and dancing poinsettias. Created by Ian and Eleanor Carney, and featuring pop and classical music. For all ages. Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. Emerson Colonial Theatre. 888-616-0272, www.emersoncolonialtheatre.com


Don Aucoin can be reached at donald.aucoin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeAucoin.