The winter holidays are a great time to see a live performance, so here is our list of best bets in holiday entertainment in and around DC. Whether you are looking for a show to enjoy with your kids, your friends, or your sweetheart, these shows will fill you with the spirit of the season:
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Ford’s Theatre (DC)
November 21 – January 1
A DC holiday staple. Sure, your local theater may very well be doing A Christmas Carol, but few theaters do it with the plush opulence of the Ford’s Theatre production. Catch many well-known DC actors, including Craig Wallace as Mr. Scrooge, who return year after year to bring the holidays to life with this seasonal favorite. Read our 2018 review.
THE SECOND CITY’S LOVE, FACTUALLY
The Kennedy Center (DC)
December 3-29, 2019
A big hit for the Kennedy Center last winter, Love, Factually returns for a second year to parody the romantic comedy Love, Actually and many other classic holiday rom-coms. Featuring, improv, audience participation, and lots of laughs. Recommended for mature audiences. Read our 2018 review.
Synetic Theatre (Arlington, VA)
If you like jaw-dropping visuals with your holiday cheer, Synetic Theatre is the venue for you. Synetic, DC’s movement-based theater company tells classic stories with no dialogue but plenty of out of this world choreography and visual imagery. This holiday season, they will present a whimsical, family-friendly adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fairy tale, The Snow Queen.
STEP AFRIKA! MAGICAL MUSICAL HOLIDAY STEP SHOW
The Atlas Performing Arts Center (DC)
Step Afrika! steps up the holiday cheer with their Magical Musical Holiday Step Show. Stepping – the high-energy dance form that originated in African-American sororities and fraternities – meets holiday cheer in a family-friendly performance celebrating the spirit of wintertime with energetic beats and a special performance by DJ Frosty the Snowman. Children are invited to make drums and shakers with Step Afrika! 30 to 45 minutes prior to each performance.
L’ENFENCE DU CHRIST
The IN Series
Performed at Foundry United Methodist Church (DC)
Tickets: $21-$46 (Price is suggested donation)
Artistic Director Timothy Nelson believes that Opera should do more than entertain. Like all Nelson productions, L’enfence du Christ works to make audiences truly think about what is being presented to them. “In collaboration with Foundry United Methodist Church, Berlioz’s grand oratorio is uniquely staged as a community exploration of human migration and the power of hospitality to those fleeing persecution. Performed in the stunning Foundry sanctuary, this holiday-time performance seeks out the nexus of art, faith, and social justice to ask the most essential human question of how we offer kindness to the other.’ ”
IN Series Artistic Director Timothy Nelson discusses his approach to opera in this recent DCMTA interview.
TAYLOR MAC’S HOLIDAY SAUCE
The Kennedy Center (DC)
Who says DC is always staid and conventional? Not when Taylor Mac comes to town! The playwright, drag artist, and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient returns to the Kennedy Center with a show celebrating the disfunction of the holiday season. Mac will be joined on stage by longtime collaborators Machine Dazzle and a band of eight to offer a hilarious new take on the holidays. Read our review of Mac’s recent Kennedy Center performance ‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (abridged)’.
NSO POPS! A HOLIDAY POPS WITH LESLIE ODOM JR.
The Kennedy Center (DC)
December 13 and 14
Tickets: $29 to $109
Since Hamilton turned Leslie Odom, Jr. into a household name, he has released three albums including his recent release “Mr.” and an album of Christmas standards. Now he combines his talents with the Choral Arts Society of Washington in an event featuring songs from Odom’s albums, sing-along favorites, and even indoor snow in the festively decorated Kennedy Center.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Featuring Paul Morella
Olney Theatre Center (Olney, MD)
November 29-December 29
For ten consecutive years, Paul Morella has wowed audiences with his own adaption of A Christmas Carol. In what is now an Olney Theatre Center tradition, audiences can “experience the unforgettable characters and vivid imagery as Charles Dickens originally intended – in his own words – and rediscover this timeless classic presented in a masterful solo performance. Adapted from Dickens’ original novella and reading tour, Morella’s solo version will transport you back to Victorian England and into the heart of this classic morality tale.”
PETER PAN AND WENDY
Shakespeare Theatre Center (DC)
December 3 – January 12
Tickets: $35 – $120
It’s not exactly a holiday-themed show, but we have read Lauren Gunderson’s new script and let us tell you, it’s a winner and a perfect family holiday adventure. Gunderson – known for being the most produced playwright in America, and for her scripts that feature strong, scientifically minded females – puts the female characters front and center in the Peter Pan story. Featuring onstage magic, Instagram-worthy sets, and empowered heroines, this show will leave audiences of all ages ready to embrace the magic of the season.
HOLIDAY SINGIN’ POPS
Strathmore (North Bethesda, MD)
Tickets: $29 – $69
The National Philharmonic Orchestra nearly closed last summer before an angel investor stepped in to save orchestra in residence at Strathmore. With holiday favorites and Broadway standards sung by Broadway-caliber performers and deft conducting by DC-favorite Luke Frazier, this holiday show will make audiences grateful that the Orchestra is still around. Come early to take a festive photo with Santa, decorate an ornament and hear young carolers.
Creative Cauldron (Falls Church, VA)
Madeline’s Christmas has become a Creative Cauldron holiday tradition. In this musical adaptation, Madeline’s schoolmates and tutor are all sick in bed on Christmas Eve, unable to go home for Christmas. Madeline comes to the rescue with the help of a magical rug merchant and takes her friends on a Christmas journey they will never forget. Read our 2018 review.
THE CHRISTMAS REVELS: CELESTIAL FOOLS
The Washington Revels performing at GW’s Lisner Auditorium (DC)
A perennial favorite, The Washington Revels have been performing their annual Revel – a celebration of the Winter Solstice – For 37 years. Each year, a cast of over 100 from ages 9 to 90 comes together to embrace the magic of the season. Led by the “Celestial Fools,” three wandering performers who tell stories from far-off lands, this year’s show promises to “lead us on a journey into the heavens to reclaim the light and restore its warmth to the world.” Read our 2017 review.
A CHORUS LINE
Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA)
October 29-January 5
No holiday theme here, but enough glitz and pizzazz to leave you glowing like a Christmas tree. This production opened last week to rave reviews, so get your tickets while you can and enjoy a good old-fashioned (yes, it’s now old enough to be considered a classic) musical featuring the songs you know and love and reworked choreography by Denis Jones.
Anacostia Playhouse (DC)
December 14-January 5
Black Nativity is the Afro-centric retelling of the birth of Christ through exuberant Gospel music and Modern dance and a great holiday staple.
THE VELVETEEN RABBIT
Adventure Theatre (Glen Echo, MD)
November 15 – January 1
Tickets: $20.50 (General admission)
Can true love make impossible things real? This retelling of the classic children’s tale is sure to give you the warm fuzzies. Adventure Theatre’s adaptation of Margery Williams’ classic story was written by Patrick Flynn, one of the DC area’s rising playwrights and a recent winner of the Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Award.
THE GAY MEN’S CHORUS OF WASHINGTON, DC: THE HOLIDAY SHOW
Lincoln Theatre (DC)
December 7, 14 and 15
Tickets: $25 – $65
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC has spent the last 39 years singing for equality. Last season alone, they performed 125 outreach performances and choir members contributed 5,000 volunteer outreach hours. Each winter they don their Santa hats to perform a holiday extravaganza featuring fabulous treats and festive favorites featuring tap dancers, drag queens, reindeer and more! Read our 2018 review.
THREE KINGS DAY (FIESTA DE LOS REYES MAGOS)
GALA Hispanic Theatre (DC)
Whether you are a newbie, curious to explore the traditions of Three Kings Day, or looking to embrace an old family tradition, experience the magic and splendor of the day at GALA Hispanic Theatre’s Three Kings Day celebration. Featuring the (bilingual) Magi, live animals, local performers, a walk through the neighborhood, and gifts for every child. This show is performed in English and Spanish.
THE NUTCRACKER (links below)
Seeing The Nutcracker during the holiday season is a tradition for many families. Luckily, the DMV offers several great options. Here are some good ones we’ve seen recently:
Ballet Theatre of Maryland (Annapolis, MD
Metropolitan Ballet Theatre (Rockville, MD)
Olney Ballet Theatre (Olney, MD)
The Washington Ballet (Warner Theatre, Washington, DC)
THE HIP HOP NUTCRACKER
WITH SPECIAL GUEST MC KURTIS BLOW
Music Center at Strathmore (North Bethesda, MD)
December 17 – 19
An innovative twist on Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet. Hip-hop choreography, a DJ, a violinist, and dynamic visual effects bring the 19th-century tale to present-day New York City. This reimagined performance explores themes of community and love for an experience the whole family can enjoy. Special guest and hip-hop legend, MC Kurtis Blow, opens the show with a brief set.
SETH KIBEL & THE KLEZTET
AMP, powered by Strathmore (North Bethesda, MD)
Klezmer fans—rejoice! Seth Kibel, a great local instrumentalists and winner of not one, not 10, but 28 Wammies (Washington Area Music Awards), brings his joyful quartet to AMP. Kibel & The Kleztet light up the night with joyful klezmer music, jazz, swing, and traditional Hanukkah tunes. A masterful woodwind player, Kibel blends Eastern European Jewish folk music with jazz and diverse modern influences. The band includes Sean Lane on piano, bassist Joshua Bayer, and percussionist Tim Jarvis.
SQUEAKERS AND MR. GUMDROP
Arts on the Horizon (Alexandria, VA)
Tickets: $10 (military discount available)
Geared toward children ages 2-5
Arts on the Horizon is run by a talented group of DC artists who truly love making theater for the youngest audiences. Squeakers and Mr. Gumdrop, written by company members Natalie Cutcher and Amanda Forstrom, introduces us to Mr. Gumdrop as he prepares for his annual holiday party. “When an unexpected and curious mouse appears, Mr. Gumdrop’s routine is thrown for a loop. Can these two wildly different characters work together to get the holiday preparations done in time?” The story is told entirely through movement.
EL JUICIO DE LA SEÑORA CLAUS (THE TRIAL OF MRS. CLAUS)
Teatro de la Luna (DC)
In Spanish Only
The Trial of Mrs. Claus … Everything She Says Can Be Used Against Her is a Christmas thriller written, directed by and starring by the esteemed Ecuadorian performer Juana Estrella. Unexpected Christmas Eve events force Mrs. Claus to hilariously defend herself while the rest of the world opens presents and enjoys a Christmas turkey. Ho, ho, ho!
(La Sra. Claus se defiende ante un jurado por hechos acaecidos esa “Nochebuena” que no fue tan buena… Juana presenta su hilarante versión y nos sorprende con un final inesperado mientras el mundo abre los regalos y saborea el delicioso pavo… Ho, ho, ho!)