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There is good reason why the stage versions of Charles Dickens’  A Christmas Carol and George Balanchine’s Nutcracker have endured: They are reliable classics that warm the heart and instill a feeling that, as the song goes, “our troubles will be miles away”. Still, they are not the only shows in town which will- figuratively speaking- add some glitter to your holiday balls. Below, you’ll find a variety of options throughout the city which will aid in making your theatrical yuletide merry:

Cast Members of NUTCRACKER ROUGE. Photo by Mark Shelby Perry.
Cast Members of NUTCRACKER ROUGE. Photo by Mark Shelby Perry.

Nutcracker Rouge    

It has “Nutcracker” in the title, but trust me: This ain’t your mama’s ballet, unless your mama is into louche burlesque and sugarplum fairy ass. (In which case, you probably don’t want to know).

Director Austin McCormick and his dance troupe, Company XIV (pronounced “Ex-eye-vee“) continue to thrill audiences and garner rave reviews for their thoroughly compelling dance spectacle which features elements of ballet, opera, pop, oldies, and classical music. The plot is practically non-existent, but it doesn’t much matter. The two-hour event, staged at the Minetta lane theater feels simultaneously verboten and delicious. Canned music does slightly decrease the production value, but given their presumably modest budget, it is understandable.

Like many dance shows, this left me gasping with admiration of their physicality and a sense that I’m not getting maximum use from my gym membership.

Leave the kids at home, but ensure your name on Santa’s naughty list by indulging in this feast. Don’t sweat it if you haven’t caught it by Christmas. The general themes will still resonate long after the ornaments are packed away and the tree is tossed to the curb. Nutcracker Rouge runs through Jan. 17th. Following that,  the company will stage their next offering: A dark and sensual re-imagined Snow White, beginning January 26th.  For tickets and information, vist http://CompanyXIV.com

Ensemble of A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Ensemble of A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

A Child’s Christmas In Wales  

Irish Repertory Theater’s Production of A Child’s Christmas in Wales is so well done that you won’t even feel like you’re seeing a theatrical piece. Instead, you’ll think you are with your own friends and family in the living room of a wise and beloved grandfather.

Multiple Tony Award winning actor John Cullum leads a cast of five in  this 70 minute musical trip down memory lane of a traditional Welsh Christmas. Inspired by poet Dylan Thomas’ work and originally written as a radio story, this engaging ensemble describes the minor annoyances of cheek pinching Aunts and Uncles, games in the snow, and a variety of Christmas foods including laverbread and cockles as breakfast foods. One of the most touching moments comes when Cardigan clad Cullum stands by the piano and sings a beautiful song entitled “The Greatest Gift of All”, written by John Jarvis. It alone is worth the cost of a ticket.

in our age of immediacy and technological reliance, A Child’s Christmas in Wales paints a beautiful portrait of how we once connected and used our imaginations, long before the advent of iPhones and internet. Mark Hartman’s musical direction is well observed by this talented cast and Charlotte Moore’s direction is simple but effective.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales is playing at Union Square’s DR2 Theatre through January 3rd, 2016.  For tickets and information, visit  http://www.irishrep.org/childschristmas2015.html.

James Followell at the piano with (clockwise from top) John-Michael Zuerlein as Smudge, Bradley Beahen as Frankie, Ciaran McCarthy as Jinx, and Jose Luaces as Sparky, in PLAID TIDINGS.  Photo Credit:  Carol Rosegg.
James Followell at the piano with (clockwise from top) John-Michael Zuerlein as Smudge, Bradley Beahen as Frankie, Ciaran McCarthy as Jinx, and Jose Luaces as Sparky, in PLAID TIDINGS. Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg.

Plaid Tidings 

Frankie (Bradley Beahen), Sparky (Jose Luaces), Jinx (Ciaran McCarthy), and Smudge (John-Michael Zuerlein) return to Earth and to the New York stage in Stuart Ross’ Plaid Tidings. Ross’ creation of Forever Plaid has been a long-standing staple of community and Regional theater companies, thanks largely in part to the nostalgia factor.  Currently at the York theatre,  the holiday version is delivering just as many smiles as the original. The storyline for both versions is as thin as a paper cupcake liner:  The Plaids, a singing group akin to the Kingston Trio or The Lettermen, are struck by a tractor-trailer and killed instantly. They have one night to return for one last concert on earth. In  Plaid Tidings, they are given-surprise!-yet another chance.

Plaid Tidings doesn’t purport to change the world with any deep themes or topics. It’s mostly a variety show, but a heartfelt one at that. With the original creator, Ross at the helm and James Followell’s swift musical direction, this quartet will leave you with a warmth and sweetness that comforts like fresh-baked Christmas cookies. For tickets and information to Plaid Tidings, which runs now through December 27th, visit http://www.yorktheatre.org/

Alex Gwyther in OUR FRIENDS THE ENEMY. Photo by  Pamela Raith.
Alex Gwyther in OUR FRIENDS THE ENEMY. Photo by Pamela Raith.

Our Friends The Enemy 

This one man show, imported from the UK, tells the real life story of the 1914 Christmas Truce in which British and German soldiers ceased fighting to exchange pleasantries, cigarettes, and other tchotchkes. English actor Alex Gwyther, who both wrote and performs in the drama has good intentions. This is a moment in history that is either unfamiliar or forgotten by most. However, it might have more dramatic grit if we witnessed the relationship between the two sides. While he does an excellent job at imitating a number of soldiers from both forces, the single sided aspect fails to conjure the depth of emotion we should feel by the gesture of peace.  The show made its New York debut Off Broadway on December 8th at Theatre Row and closed on December 20th. It continues to tour in various cities around the globe. For more information, visit: http://www.ourfriendstheenemy.com/