Entertainment

21 Greater Boston holiday shows to brighten your December

Check out our curated holiday entertainment calendar — and let us know your own family's live show traditions.

Some Boston-area holiday options, clockwise from top left: Hanneke Cassel; "A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage"; "A Christmas Carol"; Chris Isaak; "Urban Nutcracker"; Holiday Pops; "A Christmas Story: The Musical." Courtesy and Boston Globe Photos

As the great Joni Mitchell once said, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” — wise words that could be something of an unofficial motto for the last 19-plus months. And this was rarely truer than during last year’s holiday season, when COVID-19 forced a bevy of seasonal traditions by the wayside. 

But even if we’re not quite out of the pandemic woods yet, the vaccine rollout and a series of safety precautions have brought back some of the staples of the season that we missed last year — including no shortage of concert and theater productions sure to put you in the holiday mood.

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After a 2020 season glued to Lifetime Christmas movies on the tube (oh, like you don’t watch them), getting back into the spirit of live holiday entertainment this year should seem especially sweet. Check out our curated list of 21 extra-special local events below — you can click the links for details from Boston.com’s Things To Do section — and don’t forget to fill out our survey below on what Greater Boston shows and concerts make up your own annual traditions. 

Boston-area classics:

“The Nutcracker.” What’s the holiday season without a little Drosselmeyer? (Not to mention Clara, the Mouse King, and all the rest.) It’s been a tradition for more than 50 years, and now Boston Ballet is back with the Christmas classic. (Opera House, through Dec. 26)

The Holiday Pops. Keith Lockhart returns to bring a little class to “people who don’t know they like orchestras,” as the conductor likes to say — you’ll be able to sing along with holiday favorites and enjoy some of the best decorations in town. (Symphony Hall, Dec. 2-24)

“A Christmas Carol.” This original musical version of the Dickens classic is celebrating its 30th year of performances on the North Shore, 27 of those with perennial local favorite David Coffee as Scrooge. God bless us, everyone! (North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, Dec. 2-23)

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“Christmastime in Concert.” If you’re a fan of old-fashioned Christmas fun and would rather not trek to Radio City Music Hall, check out this local favorite. Featuring holiday songs and vignettes, adorable costumes, high-kicking dancers and a live orchestra, it’s been entertaining holiday crowds for almost four decades. (Reagle Music Theatre, Waltham, Dec. 4-12)

“A Christmas Celtic Sojourn.” Fans of Brian O’Donovan’s “A Celtic Sojourn” on GBH will surely flock back for the return of this celebration of Celtic, Pagan, and Christian traditions, started in 2003 and featuring some of the Celtic world’s best performers. (Cutler Majestic Theatre, Dec. 17-19) 

The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice.” What’s Christmas without a little reveling? This 51st version of the Revels features its usual mix of traditional songs and stories from around the world, along with a new merging of street and traditional English dance, thanks to a collaboration with choreographers from the “Urban Nutcracker.” (Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, Dec. 17-29)

“Anthony Williams’ Urban Nutcracker.” What if “The Nutcracker” was set in Boston, mixed Duke Ellington in with the Tchaikovsky, and featured a diverse cast engaging in a fusion of modern, multicultural, and classical dance? No need to wonder — it’s all there in one of Boston’s most exciting and original holiday traditions, now in its 20th year. (Shubert Theatre, Dec. 18-22)

Catch a Christmas (or Hanukkah) concert:

Low Cut Connie Solo Hanukkah Concert. How much Hanukkah will be involved in this solo show from Adam Weiner, a.k.a. Low Cut Connie, remains to be seen — but it’s bound to be festive even if it just showcases the raucous piano rock ’n’ roll that’s earned the band fans the world over. (City Winery, Dec. 2)

Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie. – Courtesy Photo / City Winery

Chris Isaak Holiday Tour. Nothing says Christmas like echoey noir-rock, except maybe hot rockabilly licks or a falsetto ballad. Fortunately the “Wicked Game” singer has all of those in his repertoire, in addition to a full album (the aptly titled “Christmas”) of holiday material to draw from. (Chevalier Theatre, Medford, Dec. 3)

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Brett Eldridge. Ready for some country comforts with “Mr. Christmas”? That just happens to be the title of Eldridge’s new album, and he promises to bring some holiday magic to the stage when he comes to Boston. (Boch Center-Wang Theatre, Dec. 3-4)

“Rock the Holidays” with Darlene Love. The 80-year-old ’60s icon was sidelined temporarily by a kickboxing injury (!), postponing her annual Christmas show from Nov. 27. But Love promises she’ll be good as new when she finally brings “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” “He’s a Rebel” and other favorites to the stage this year. (The Cabot, Beverly, Dec. 5.)

Jane Lynch, “A Swingin’ Little Christmas.” TBH, they had us as soon as we heard that the “Glee” star’s holiday extravaganza also features Kate Flannery, a.k.a. Meredith from “The Office.” But the swinging jazz and comic banter sound pretty pleasing too. (City Winery, Dec. 7-8)

Kat Edmonson. The Texas singer-songwriter brings her own unique brand of “vintage pop” for a seasonal show that draws extensively from her new release “Holiday Swingin’,” an album she describes as “pure joy.” (City Winery, Dec. 9)

Josh Kantor’s “7th Inning Stretch” Hometown Holiday. He’s the man who knows — or can fake — a thousand cover songs, at least when he’s taking requests as the Red Sox organist. And now Josh Kantor will celebrate the season with “songs, stories, laughs, special guests, and holiday cheer.” (City Winery, Dec. 10)

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Hanneke Cassel Christmas CD Release Show. Combine virtuoso folk violin with traditional songs of Christmas and you’ve got both “Oh Come Emmanuel,” the new album from Boston-based fiddler Hanneke Cassel, and the celebratory show she’s playing to launch it. (Club Passim, Cambridge, Dec. 14)

For the whole family:

“All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.” It’s a Christmas story you may have heard, but you’ve certainly never experienced it like this. This unique musical by Peter Rothstein puts you in the trenches of World War I for a most unexpected cease-fire, with music and words direct from the era. (Greater Boston Stage Company, Stoneham, through Dec. 23)

Nile Scott Studios
David Jiles, Jr., Gary Thomas Ng, Alexander Holden, Zachary McConnell, Bryan Miner, and Phil Tayler in “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.″

“A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage.” Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? To find out, you might want to check out this cartoon-come-to-life featuring Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy and the gang — plus a jazz trio! (Chevalier Theatre, Medford, Dec. 5)

“A Christmas Story: The Musical.” You’ll shoot your eye out, kid! But it’s worth the risk to see this delightful musical take on the classic 1983 film, complete with tongues-on-poles, leg lamps and the Bumpuses’ dogs. (Boch Center-Wang Theatre, Dec. 10-19)

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze.” Known for its “dizzying level of circus artistry,” to quote the Boston Globe, this holiday spectacular literally soars (and climbs and jumps and swings). If you like your Christmas entertainment to defy gravity, this is the show for you. (Shubert Theatre, Dec. 10-12)

For the grown-ups:

The Slutcracker.” Who says Christmas isn’t sexy? That’s right, everybody. Well, you may feel differently after checking out this burlesque-themed parody of the classic ballet, complete with “risqué costumes and blush-inducing props.” (Somerville Theatre, Dec. 3-31)

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A John Waters Christmas.” To paraphrase inventor-of-Festivus Frank Costanza, John Waters has got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re gonna hear about it. The ribald filmmaker is riding his “sleighride-of-sleaze” back to Boston with his unique amalgam of standup and storytelling. (Berklee Performance Center, Dec. 10)


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