7 Fantastically Festive Theatre And Dance Shows To See In London This Christmas

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 7 months ago

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7 Fantastically Festive Theatre And Dance Shows To See In London This Christmas

There's something extra-enchanting about the London stage come Christmastime. Here's our roundup of festive goodies on the stage. Some of these shows are Christmassier than Bing Crosby in an eggnog swimming pool, while others are lightly sprinkled with seasonal cheer.

1. La Clique, Spiegeltent

A su-per toned chap balances on his hands
La Clique is in town, which means Christmas is almost here. Image: Craig Sugden.

Though not yuletidey in and of itself, La Clique's annual pitch-up in Leicester Square's Spiegeltent tells you it's not many sleeps till Christmas. Squint at impossibly-toned acrobats while sipping a beer and muttering under your breath: "I could do that if I wanted to." This one could be a decent shout for a Christmas work outing, we'd venture.

La Clique, Spiegeltent, 9 November-7 January

2. Elf The Musical, Dominion Theatre

The 'Elf' logo, with the L as a curly toed green boot
The classic 2003 feelgood movie finds its way back to the West End stage.

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear — and so enter Elf The Musical, the inevitable stage adaptation of the hilarious, heartstring-tugging Hollywood classic. In fact, this all-singing-all-dancing version first appeared at London's Dominion Theatre back in 2015 — returning this year with Simon Lipkin filling Will Ferrell's curly-toed boots in the role of the ineffably upbeat Buddy the Elf. Basically, if they recreate the spaghetti scene, we're sold.

Elf The Musical, Dominion Theatre, 14 November-7 January

3. The Snowman, Peacock Theatre

The Snowman drives James around in a yellow motorbike/sidecar
Altogether now: "We're bombing through the wooooods..." Image: Tristram Kenton

We've done a separate roundup of family-friendly Christmas shows, but c'mon, The Snowman is for adults just as much as it is for kids. This balletic version takes the late Raymond Briggs' masterpiece and runs dances with it; not only are there snowman hoedowns and escapades through snowy woodland with a motorbike and sidecar — but a marauding troupe of tropical fruits, and a baddie in the guise of Jack Frost. Watch this, or switch on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve while on acid, and you'll probably get a similar effect.

The Snowman, Peacock Theatre, 20 November-2 January

4. It's A Wonderful Life, London Coliseum

A pair of angel wings rests by a bench by a lamppost, in the snow
It's a Wonderful Life is turned into an opera, and we're not sure how we feel about it. © English National Opera

To quote Jimmy Stewart in, like, half of his films — including It's a Wonderful Life — "Now wait a minute!". Is the operatic make-over of the greatest Christmas film of all time really in the public interest? Composer Jake Heggie thinks so — he's set the 1946 movie about a selfless family man pushed to the brink of suicide, to music. Whether that means cadenzas about "wonderful old building and loans", or an impassioned aria from Violet Bick, we're not sure. But frankly, we're intrigued. Anyway, the London Coliseum hopes It's a Wonderful Life the opera will "create a new holiday tradition", and good luck to 'em.

It's A Wonderful Life, London Coliseum, 25 November-10 December

5. Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, Sadler's Wells

A woman holding a rose in the woods, with a huge full moon behind her
Matthew Bourne's gothic Sleeping Beauty is the antidote to pantos. Image: Johan Persson

If you're the kind of classy theatregoer who prefers your Sleeping Beauty NOT to feature some innuendo-flinging Hollyoaks actor parading about in tights, then Sadler's Wells is the place for you. 10 years since it caused something of a stir on the stage circuit, this highly-charged, gothic-dipped rendition of the narcoleptic fairy tale reawakens, bubbling over with pirouetting princesses and flic flac-ing fairies.

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, Sadler's Wells, 29 November-15 January

6. The Nutcracker, Royal Opera House, London Coliseum, Royal Albert Hall

A man in a grey wig swishes a velvety blue cape on stage
Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer in ROH's The Nutcracker. © 2015 ROH. Image: Tristram Kenton.

A seven-headed mouse king and pirouetting candy set to a swirling Russian overture sounds like the fever dream of some kid who's knocked back a tin of Roses while watching the 6 o'clock news — but of course, we're talking about timeless Christmas tale, The Nutcracker. As you'd expect, there's a glut of 'em in the capital this Christmas, with blockbuster Nutcrackers at the Royal Opera House (Peter Wright's beloved take, with sparkling set design), London Coliseum (feat. over 100 dancers and musicians) and the Royal Albert Hall (featuring baubles the size of the national debt hanging from the ceiling). All are equally bizarre, bewitching — and have one of the most enchanting scores of all time.

The Nutcracker: Royal Opera House (6 December-14 January), London Coliseum (15 December-7 January), Royal Albert Hall (28-31 December)

7. Circus 1903, Eventim Apollo

The circus team, led by the ringmaster take a bow on stage
Circus 1903 has become a firm fixture of the festive calendar. Image: Dan Tsantilis

The puppeteers behind War Horse bring life-sized 'elephants' to the stage, in this action-packed recreation of a Barnum & Bailey big top of yore, minus the cruelty. Throw in a top-hatted ringmaster, balloon-based audience interaction, and the occasional flamethrower to really get things cooking — and you've got yourself a show that's firing on all cylinders. Like La Clique, though Circus 1903 is not strictly a Christmas show, it's become a firm fixture of the festive calendar, and makes a refreshing switch-up from a ballet or panto.

Circus 1903, Eventim Apollo, 15 December-1 January

Looking for stagings of A Christmas Carol? There's a sled-load of them in London this year — and we've put together a dedicated roundup.

How about pantomimes in London? We've got that covered separately too. Oh yes we have.

Last Updated 23 November 2022

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