VIEWPOINTS – A recap of this season’s top holiday entertainments

Happy New Year, everybody! As we embark on 2018, I’d like to recap the roster of five worthwhile holiday-themed shows in New York I attended across the worlds of theater, dance, cabaret, and opera – many of which are currently wrapping up performances – that warmed me up and helped get me into the spirit over the past few weeks.


1. New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz in New York City Ballet's "The Nutcracker" at the David H. Koch Theater.

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz in New York City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at the David H. Koch Theater.

(David H. Koch Theater)

Perhaps my favorite of all holiday shows in New York is City Ballet’s annual set of performances of George Balanchine’s classic production of The Nutcracker. This year, I caught Megan Fairchild as Sugarplum Fairy and Sterling Hilton as Dewdrop. Ms. Fairchild has enjoyed a rejuvenated career as of late, and she was simply radiant – and technically sound – at the performance I attended. Ms. Hyltin continues to astonish with her versatility and attention to detail. I’m happy to report that the production, as a whole, continues to enchant with its sumptuous sets and costumes and consistently-consumate dancing. City Ballet’s The Nutcracker is perhaps the city’s premiere holiday tradition, (mostly) justifying its hefty price tag.


Closed December 31


2. Hansel and Gretel (and The Merry Widow)

A scene from Humperdinck’s "Hansel and Gretel" at the Metropolitan Opera.

A scene from Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” at the Metropolitan Opera.

(The Metropolitan Opera)

Last week, I caught the Metropolitan Opera’s atmospheric English-language holiday presentation of Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel. Although the staging is geared towards families, Richard Jones’s surreal, subversive production is sophisticated enough to captivate the adults in the audience. Musically, the performances were gleeful and inspired, particularly Maureen McKay’s sparkling Gretel (she only performed on December 28th). As part of the Met’s effort to attract holiday audiences, it has also revived its crowd-pleasing production of Franz Lehár’s popular operetta The Merry Widow starring superstar mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. I it see tomorrow.


Through January 6 and January 11, respectively


3. Who’s Holiday

Lesli Margherita in "Who's Holiday" at the Westside Theatre.

Lesli Margherita in Matthew Lombardi’s “Who’s Holiday” at the Westside Theatre.

(Westside Theatre)

If you’re seeking naughty holiday cheer sans kids, Matthew Lombardi’s entertaining one-woman show Who’s Holiday may fit the bill. Starring a rambunctious Lesli Margherita, Mr. Lobardi’s slight play is a sequel of sorts to Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas that’s written in the style of Dr. Seuss – i.e., in rhyming couplets. Even if the play is hardly a masterpiece (high brow humor this most certainly ain’t), Ms. Margherita, a musical theater favorite for her rowdy comedic antics, gave an outrageous, sweet-and-sour performance as a foul-mouthed, grown-up Cindy Lou Who.


Closed December 31


4. Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch: Snowfall

Christine Ebersole croons.

Christine Ebersole croons.


At Birdland, a well-known jazz bar in the theater district, the fabulous Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch played a pair of holiday-themed cabaret shows entitled Snowfall. The show was superlative, easily one of the most remarkable cabaret performances of the season. Both Ms. Ebersole and Mr. Stritch are the consummate professionals, bringing just the right mix of sentiment and wit to the table. They easily commanded the audience with their delicious patter and rapport with each other. In addition, both are remarkable musicians. Ms. Ebersole, in particular, has never sounded better. Her vocal range and stylings are a class act. Mr. Stritch remains the gold standard in musical directorship.


Closed December 28


5. Radio City Christmas Spectacular

The Rockettes in the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" at the Radio City Music Hall.

The Rockettes in the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” at the Radio City Music Hall.

(Radio City Music Hall)

Along with New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is another one of the city’s iconic holiday shows. Indeed, the huge production has been packing ’em at the hallowed venue for nearly a century. This year’s iteration is mostly consistent with those of years past. The most notable addition were the dazzling new video projections, which helped create an experience that’s more immersive than ever. Other enhancements included minor tweaks to some of the show’s choreographic sequences. The world famous Rockettes are as splendidly precise as ever; these statuesque beauties continue to be a marvel to behold. The holiday season just wouldn’t be complete without relishing those synchronized high kicks.


Closes today

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