Mariah Carey is ubiquitous again and pumpkin spice has been replaced by peppermint stick at the local coffee houses. It must be time for…holiday theater experiences! Explore the traditional and/or the untraditional — there’s something for every Christmas aficionado. You can find shows comforting and family-friendly, as well as thought-provoking and edgy. You could even see some version of A Christmas Carol five days in a row with no repeats! (It would have been six, but the Ahmanson’s staging was cancelled due to COVID.)
Many of the shows have had multi-year (even multi-decade) runs in Los Angeles, so you owe it to yourself to see what all the love is about. And don’t forget: theater tickets make great stocking stuffers!
Here are some highlights.
The 1960 Billy Wilder movie The Apartment, starring Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon, was the basis for the 1968 Broadway hit Promises, Promises. Neil Simon wrote the book, Burt Bacharach and Hal David the music—and it is awesome. The action includes a raucous office Christmas party; there are two great holiday songs—“Turkey Lurkey Time” and “Christmas Day”—and plenty of other familiar favorites.
Group Rep in North Hollywood presents the musical Dec. 9 through Jan. 15 Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm. There are after-show talkbacks on Dec. 11 and 18. Tickets are $40 and are available here. The theater is at 10900 Burbank Blvd.
Bob’s Holiday Office Party
For 25 years, Bob’s Holiday Office Party has earned a solid cult following. It’s definitely one of LA’s longest running holiday hits. The play, at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, is set in the office of insurance salesman Bob Finhead in Neuterburg, Iowa (population 382). Every year, Bob’s wacky friends and clients stop by for their annual holiday bash. But Bob has dreams of a bigger life. Will he be able to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional inventor and move to the big city, or will he realize he’s the heart and soul of the town?
Tickets are $35 general admission, $45 preferred seating, and available here. Beverly Hills Playhouse is located at 254 S. Robertson Blvd.
Chriskirkpatrickmas: A Boy Band Christmas Musical Music
And now for something completely different…Chriskirkpatrickmas! After a successful run at the 2022 Hollywood Fringe Festival, this original musical moves to Actors Company Theatre in Hollywood. It’s a parody mashup of holiday classics, with a little boy band magic added in. It’s set on Christmas Eve 2009 when Chris Kirkpatrick from *NSYNC has a big decision to make.
Show times are 8:00pm Wednesdays through Saturdays; 2:00pm Saturdays and 3:00pm Sundays Dec. 1-11. Am actual boy band Christmas party follows each performance, next door to the theater at 916 N Formosa Ave. For tickets, which are $45, click here.
The Wonderful Winter of Oz Panto
The Buzz covered The Wonderful Winter of Oz Panto at the Laguna Playhouse in our recent roundup of children’s theater. It’s a traditional British pantomime show, with audience involvement and a holiday theme crossed with the Wizard of Oz. For more information and tickets (Dec. 8-29), click here.
Santasia–A Holiday Comedy
Now in its 23rd year Santasia–A Holiday Comedy, running December 9 through Dec. 25, is a musical sketch comedy show. There are Broadway musical parodies, heartfelt sentiment and classic Rankin and Bass inspired Claymation movies. It’s at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays starting Dec. 11 at 8:00pm. There’s one matinee (Dec. 18) and one Thursday show (Dec. 22). For details, a trailer and tickets, click here.
Elf the Musical Jr.
When Elf was released in 2003, it quickly became a holiday classic. It became a stage musical seven years later. See it in a special adaptation, Elf the Musical Jr., starring child actors, at Young Stars Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave. in South Pasadena. For more information and tickets, click here.
A Christmas Carol
It seems like the theater community turning en masse to the Dickens classic in this first (semi) maskless Christmas in three years. For whatever reason, we have a wealth of straightforward productions of A Christmas Carol, along with others that have special twists and one comedic reimagining.
In the traditional vein is A Christmas Carol at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (1760 N Gower St.), billed as “The way Dickens meant it to be.” The performance takes place on Dec. 2 at 7:30 in the 100-year-old gothic church sanctuary. Immediately following the show is Fezziwig’s Dance Party (limited availability), with music and cider, where you can learn a Victorian jig (limited availability) Tickets are $20, $45 including the party, and are available here.
A Noise Within in Pasadena offers a special, sensory-friendly, “relaxed” performance of its beloved production of A Christmas Carol on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 11:00am. Relaxed performances provide an inviting environment for those living with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays, neuromuscular disorder, sensory integrative dysfunction, attention deficit disorder, or any other disorder of social interaction and communication. Production levels remain high, but light and sound levels are adjusted.
- smaller audience size
- shorter run time
- freedom to talk and move around the theater during the performance
- reduced lighting and sound effects
- house lights left on during the performance
- cozy activity/relaxation spaces for those who need a break
- fidget spinners and drums—or bring your own device
- trained staff available to assist patrons throughout the event
- a “social story” that describes the logistics of the entire experience, for those who want to know exactly what to expect
For more information, including to view the “social story” and an instructional video about how staff are trained, click here. (There’s another sensory-friendly show, from Bob Baker Marionettes, below.) A Noise Within is at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena.
The Independent Shakespeare Company re-creates the experience of a public reading of A Christmas Carol With Charles Dickens at ISC Studio in Atwater Village. David Melville stars as Dickens himself. Enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate or spiced (and spiked!) cider as the ISC Studio transforms into a cozy Victorian drawing room.
There are nine performances, from Dec. 10-23. Showtimes are weekdays & Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets start at $25 and are available here. The theater is located at 3191 Casitas Ave.
How about a road trip to Santa Barbara this weekend? The Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara presents a comic adaptation of A Christmas Carol written by Patrick Barlow (Broadway’s The 39 Steps) at The New Vic Theatre, 33 W. Victoria St. in Santa Barbara. Five actors bring Dickens’ vast array of beloved characters to life on Saturday, December 3 at 8:00pm
There will be a reception immediately following the performance. More info and tickets here.
Finally, there’s Mrs. Dilber’s Fabulous Bedcurtains, a world premiere comedy playing now through Dec. 18 at Loft Ensemble in North Hollywood. It’s a comedic reimagining of the classic Christmas Carol, but without the old rich guy. Instead, playwright Arthur M. Jolly focuses on Mrs. Dilber, the housekeeper in the original story, and her epic attempt to get some bedcurtains despite a series of ghosts and other diversions—on a night adjacent to the more familiar story.
General admission is Donate What You Want. The performance schedule is Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday at 7:00pm., plus Fridays, Dec. 9 and 16, at 8:00pm. Tickets are available here. Loft Ensemble is located at 11031 Camarillo St.
Other Holiday Celebrations
The 17th annual La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin is LA’s largest theatrical holiday production. It features more than 100 actors, singers and indigenous Aztec dancers, as well as children and seniors from the community. They gather to tell the story of Juan Diego, a simple peasant to whom the Virgin Mary appeared on four occasions in the mountains of Tepeyac near Mexico City in 1531.
Adapted for the stage by Evelina Fernández from the mid-16th century text The Nican Mopohua, the show runs Dec. 2-3 only, 7:30pm at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W Temple St.. General admission tickets are free and don’t require reservations; doors open at 6:00pm. Reserved premium seating is available here for $45.
A Stocking Full of Nutcrackers
As with A Christmas Carol, this year offers multiple ways to see the classic 130-year-old Nutcracker ballet:
LA Ballet offers The Nutcracker in four different locations: Downtown, Redondo Beach, UCLA’s Royce Hall and Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre. For ticket and pricing information, click here.
The American Contemporary Ballet’s Nutcracker Suite is presented on a snow-shrouded stage set within an immersive space on the 28th floor of DTLA’s Two California Plaza, Dec. 11-18; tickets are $60-100, available here.
Marat Daukayev Ballet Theatre will present four performances of the ballet school’s annual Nutcracker at the Luckman Theatre on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, on Dec. 10 and 11. Tickets are $46-77 and are available here.
Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, presented by the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, has been an LA classic since 2009—although one that veers from the classic storyline. This time, it’s Christmas Eve and the Johnsons are having a grand party. Young Kara receives a nutcracker filled with hot chocolate. She falls asleep and the journey begins.
Three wise cracking mice: Harvey, Schmink and Buckey, escort Kara to Candy Cane Land, Egypt, the Indian Rainforest/Bollywood, Jazzland, Russia and the Land of the Kimono Dolls. With dazzling choreography, music and costumes, this is a holiday theater experience for all ages from an LA icon.
Check out Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, a documentary about the show on Netflix. And see the real thing at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd. Tickets are $50-125 and are available here.
Bob Baker Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is the holiday favorite at LA’s treasured Bob Baker’s Marionette Theatre. Bob Baker’s Nutcracker has been performed since 1969. As if that weren’t enough, each performance is followed by ice cream!
There’s also a sensory-friendly version on Dec. 18 at 10:30am for guests who would prefer a show environment that includes modifications similar to those described above. If you do not want to be approached by the puppet during the show, please reserve a seat on the left side of the theater, indicated in blue (floor seats) and orange (chair seats). Tickets to all performances are available here.
Winter Wishes: A Holiday Cabaret Theatre
Winter Wishes: A Holiday Cabaret Theatre features a cast of 15 singer-actors performing treasured songs and telling stories of holiday memories. It’s at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, from Dec. 2-11, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door. And can be purchased at http://theatrewest.org.
Latina Christmas Special
Latina Christmas Special is an Off-Broadway comedy about those who ride the edge between the culture of immigrant parents and the culture of their home, America—especially during the holidays. Three comedian friends, Sandra Valls, Maria Russell and Diana Yanez share their personal tales, proving that every family has its own hilarious peculiarities, everyone wants to belong, and everyone, regardless of their background, has a hard time at some point in their life. At A Noise Within. Tickets are $ and are available here, where you can also catch a trailer of the returning show. A Noise Within is at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena.
LA County Holiday Celebration
This year’s 63rd annual LA County Holiday Celebration is hosted by opera singer Suzanna Guzmán and pro roller skater Candice Heiden. It will be broadcast live on PBS SoCal and streamed at PBSSocal.com, or you can go to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and see it live for free for the first time since 2019. The two-time Emmy-winning event features 21 music ensembles, choirs and dance companies from the many neighborhoods and cultures that make up L.A. County. It’s 3:00-6:00pm on Christmas Eve. For details, click here.
Holiday Music from LA Phil at Disney Hall
LA Phil has a number of holiday-themed performances, starting this weekend with the annual Holiday Sing-Along and The Nutcracker with Dudamel: Tchaikovsky & Ellington. Highlights include Home Alone in Concert. For details and tickets, click here.
Theatricum Botanicum Holiday Family Faire
The annual Theatricum Botanicum Holiday Family Faire is scheduled for Dec. 10 this year, from 11:00am to 5:00pm. Head on out to the canyon for an artisan holiday marketplace, photos with Santa, festive food and drink, caroling and madrigals, aerialist Lexi Pearl, and more. Don’t miss a special performance of Harry Nilsson’s The Point! with Kiefo Nilsson and Kate Micucci.
Tickets are $20 general admission, $10 children (those under 4 are free) and a family 4-pack is $50. An add-on ticket for The Point! is $25, with all proceeds going to support Theatricum Botanicum’s extensive artistic and educational programming.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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