Those looking for family-friendly shows are in luck at this time of year—after all, this is the season of Rockettes at Radio City and the Sugar Plum Fairy at the New York City Ballet. But those seeking more mature holiday fare can also take heart: there are plenty of alternative options. Most of these take a more skewed view of the holidays, featuring wicked humor, spoofs of the classics and eclectic musical sensibilities. Below, find a sampling of some the best alt-holiday offerings to be found this year in NYC.
The Imbible: Christmas Carol Cocktails at Elektra Theatre
Through January 2, 2016
Take a journey to “mix cocktails past, present and future” with the help of some Christmas spirits—much like (but also very unlike) the Dickens classic. If you enjoy music, comedy and cocktails all in one night, this is the show for you—tickets include three drinks. For more information, visit imbible.org.
Nutcracker Rouge at Minetta Lane Theater
Through January 17, 2016
Billed as a “baroque burlesque confection” this severely sexy take on the holiday dance show is strictly meant for a mature audience. The production by Company XIV (which specializes in spicing up fairy tales) uses Tchaikovsky's famed score but leaves the ballet behind for a more racy evening filled with glittery and revealing outfits, as well as some suggestive moves and stunning acrobatics.
Harry Shearer and Judith Owen's Christmas Without Tears at BAM
For 15 years, Harry Shearer and Judith Owen have gathered a mix of friends and performers around a piano for this homey holiday-party-style show that just happens to take place on a stage. The show tours around the country in December with a one-night stop in Brooklyn, where special NYC guests will include Alan Cumming and Olympia Dukakis.
A John Waters Christmas: Holier and Dirtier at City Winery
Indie filmmaker and self-professed trash connoisseur John Waters brings his one-man show to New York City for one night only. A gifted storyteller and humorist, Waters will monologue about his intense dislike of all things Christmas, including cards, sweaters and his least favorite holiday films.
A Well-Strung Christmas at Feinstein’s/54 Below
December 9, 10 and 14
The humorously named Well-Strung, a handsome all-male string quartet, will play a wide range of traditional holiday songs like “Silent Night” mixed in with more contemporary classics like George Michaels' “Last Christmas.” In addition to their classical skills, they also happen to sing boy-band style and even encourage the audience to join them on a few numbers as well. Think of it as high-class karaoke.
The Yorkville Nutcracker at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
This very NYC version of The Nutcracker takes the well-known ballet and gives it a truly New York spin. Set in Gracie Mansion at the end of the 19th century, the main characters are the mayor's family, although there's an appearance by a dancing Teddy “Bear” Roosevelt (police commissioner at the time). The show also has a scene set in Central Park where the Snow King and Queen dance with some ice-skaters.
The Ginger Minj & Friends Christma-Hannu-Kwanzaa-Ka Spectacular at Laurie Beechman Theatre
One of the breakout stars of the most recent season of RuPaul's Drag Race, Ginger Minj hosts this hilariously inclusive, gay-themed holiday extravaganza where singing and merriment will be accompanied by some fabulously out-there outfits.
The Hard Nut at BAM
Choreographer Mark Morris has created something of a Brooklyn holiday tradition with his groovy 1970s take on The Nutcracker. Utilizing the original score, he has not only changed the time period of the story but even the gender of some of the main players to create an original, funky and retro spin on this magical tale of Christmas.
Homo for the Holidaze at The Delancey
This decidedly downtown party will celebrate the season with a diverse array of LGBTQ+ performers including Glenn Marla, Kevin Aviance and the legendary Penny Arcade as host and ringmaster. In addition to the actual show, there will be plenty of DJs, dancing, drink specials and homemade marshmallows.
Angels We Have Heard When High at Joe's Pub
Performer and professional raconteur Justin Vivian Bond originally made a splash as one half of fictional lounge duo Kiki and Herb, whose boozy, blasphemous Christmas show was an annual downtown event. Now Mx. Bond is back for a solo holiday-themed show, which features soulful singing, mystical angels and a few other topics.
A Murray Little Christmas at (Le) Poisson Rouge
Comedian and drag king Murray Hill returns with another edition of his annual Christmas bonanza, which draws together the City's hippest cabaret performers—including chanteuse Bridget Everett (Rock Bottom at Joe’s Pub), some dynamic burlesque dancers and other downtown denizens—for a holiday-themed evening that’s more naughty than nice.
Sandra Bernhard: Feel the Bernhard at Joe’s Pub
Sandra Bernhard returns with her yearly run of holiday shows at the end of the year for those who are not exactly fans of the holidays. There will be singing, cursing, storytelling and the usual sass from this inimitable performanatrix.