10 Holiday Theater Shows for NYC Kids: 5 Under $15, 5 Worth the Splurge
This post is in the process of being updated for 2014. Please check back in mid-November. 'Tis the season to get the gang all dressed up to see some holiday shows. While there are certainly lots of spectacles to splurge on beyond the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, if you've got young children you may not want to blow all of your bucks on theater tickets. That's why our roundup includes five inexpensive, low-key shows, perfect for fidgety preschoolers, as well as five eye-popping extravaganzas that are worth the splurge. Bonus: We've got the scoop on how to save money to a few of those higher-priced offerings.
From A Charlie Brown Christmas live onstage to a puppet take on Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus to kid-friendly mountings of The Nutcracker and The Magic Flute, here are our top ten holiday shows for NYC families. You can find lots of other seasonal fun in our NYC Holiday Guide.
Holiday Shows for Families Under $15
Yes, Virginia: The Musical – Midtown West
Macy’s Herald Square Puppet Theater, 151 W 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenues, 8th Floor
Friday-Sunday through December 24 9:30am-8pm. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
After meeting the big red guy in Macy's Santaland, head across the floor to the store's theater to see Puppetworks adaptation of this true-life tale about a 19th-century girl who questioned the existence of Santa Claus. The enchanting marionette show features the vocal talents of Whoopi Goldberg, Matthew Broderick and a host of Broadway stars. Monday through Thursday performances are reserved for school groups so Friday through Sunday are the days to go.
The Three Bears Holiday Bash – Upper West Side
Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in Central Park, enter at 79th Street and Central Park West
$10 for adults, $7 for children under 12
Through Friday, December 30. See our listing for the complete schedule.
The three bears and all their fairy-tale pals are back for this annual holiday variety show. This spirited marionette performance celebrates the season, whether you observe Christmas, Kwanza or Hanukkah.
Seven In One Blow or the Brave Little Kid – West Village
Axis Theater Company, 1 Sheridan Square at Washington Place
December 6-22: Friday-Sunday at 2pm
$15 for adults, $5 for children and students
An offbeat stage adaptation of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the show stars Kid, a young boy who kills seven flies in one shot and gets caught in a tangle of lies surrounding his feat. In the end, he learns about love and caring, with help from the kids in the audience.
A Charlie Brown Christmas – Park Slope
The Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 Fourth Avenue between Union and President Streets
Thursday, December 12-Sunday, December 22. See our listing for the complete schedule.
$10, $25 for a family four-pack
The Pig Brooch Theatre Company brings its live stage adaptation of the iconic TV special back to Brooklyn for the fifth year in a row. Extremely faithful to the source material (right down to the 30-minute running time), the show features Charlie, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang along with that sad little Christmas tree. A lively jazz trio plays Vince Guaraldi's memorable Charlie Brown music.
A (15-Min!) Christmas Carol – Battery Park City
Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, 220 Vesey Street at West Street
Wednesday, December 18-Friday, December 20 12:30 and 1:30pm
The always energetic New York Classical Theatre mounts a 15-minute, two-person adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic Christmas tale. Perhaps not long enough to explore all of the nuances of Scrooge's spiritual journey but since it's FREE it's certainly worth a look.
Must-See Holiday Spectacles Besides Radio City
A Christmas Story: The Musical – Midtown West
The Theater at Madison Square Garden, 4 Penn Plaza at 33rd Street
Wednesday, December 11-Sunday, December 29. Visit the website for the complete schedule.
$40-$165 but save money on tickets through our affiliate Goldstar
My daughter and I adored this heart-warming musicalization of the beloved 1983 movie of the same name, which was inspired by humorist Jean Shepherd's wry tales of Americana. Even if you've seen the flick a hundred times (it runs ad nauseam on cable at this time of year), this production is as delightful as a leg lamp. The songs are catchy (I've had "Ralphie to the Rescue!" stuck in my head since last Christmas), the kids are cute not cloying, and the choreography, especially the tap-dancing, is phenomenal. I worry the show will suffer in its new, cavernous venue, but it's got so much charm I'm pretty confident it will satisfy all of your Christmas wishes.
American Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker – Fort Greene
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street
Friday, December 13-Sunday, December 22, times vary. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
There are a lot of Nutcrackers twirling around town right now of varying prices and quality. I realize that many families want to give their kids the classic Balanchine experience at New York City Ballet. But ABT's version definitely rivals Lincoln Center's. My daughter and I went when it debuted a few years back and were totally blown away by the choreography, sets and especially the glorious costumes. At two hours it's the full ballet, not excerpts but it's very easy to follow.
The Magic Flute – Upper West Side
The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, 63rd Street and Columbus Avenues
Monday, December 16-Saturday, January 4, 2014. Visit the website for the complete schedule.
The Met's holiday family production is the perfect introduction to opera for kids. This year it's reviving its magical mounting of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Director Julie Taymor (of Broadway's Lion King fame) incorporates fantastical costumes and puppets into the production, which is whittled down to just 100 minutes and is sung in English. It always receives rave reviews from critics and, more importantly, kids. The performances tend to sell out so act quickly.
Cirque Éloize: Cirkopolis – Greenwich Village
Wednesday, December 18-Sunday, January 5, 2014. Visit the website for the complete schedule.
$40-$80 but click here to save 35% on tickets
I'm really looking forward to seeing this circus show, which tells the story of a downtrodden worker whose imagination transforms his office into a fantastical place full of acrobats, aerialists, balancers and jugglers. The premise reminds me of Cirque Mechanics Birdhouse Factory, which I loved. At 80 minutes and no intermission, Cirkopolis is short enough to keep even the youngest audience members engaged.
Holiday Circus – Brighton Beach
Master Theater, 1029 Brighton Beach Avenue between Brighton 11th Street and Ocean Terrace
Friday, December 20-Sunday, December 29. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$35-$65 save money on tickets through our affiliate Goldstar
This third annual spectacle mixes circus skills with seasonal spirit. Santa himself hosts the show, which features acrobats, jugglers, animal acts and, new this year, Grandma the clown, formerly of the Big Apple Circus, which is mounting its own wonderful circus show this season.
Photo from A Christmas Story: The Musical; photographer: Carol Rosegg