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
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 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
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
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
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 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.
7. Circus 1903, Eventim Apollo
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.