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.
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.
The Nutcracker, Southbank Centre, Royal Opera House and London Coliseum
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 an entire tin of Roses — 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 — new for 2023 — a jazzy take, from The Tuff Nutt Club at Southbank Centre. All are equally bizarre, bewitching — and have one of the most enchanting scores of all time.
Velvet Pines, Tanner Street
A warehouse building not far from London Bridge is transformed into kitsch 1970s ski lodge Velvet Pines — an immersive cabaret experience, in which lights flicker, hotel porters break into spontaneous dancing, drag queens pull unsuspecting diners on stage (that may or may not have been us), and you might just encounter a yeti in the lift. This is definitely one of the better themed variety type dinners we've been to — and if the meal ticket is a bit steep for your taste, there's also the option to watch the madness with a drink. (And with that yeti lurking about, you'll need one.)
Velvet Pines, Tanner Street, 6 November-23 December 2023
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, 8 November-6 January 2023
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 Matthew Wolfenden 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, 15 November 2023-6 January 2024
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, 18 November-30 December 2023
Cinderella, Brixton House
There are more pantos than you can shake a Dick Whittington-style bindle at this year, but for a fairy tale with street smarts, you'll want to watch Brixton House's spin on Cinderella. Starring Alex Thomas-Smith (& Juliet, Dear Evan Hansen) and Julene Robinson (Get Up! Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical), glass slippers are swapped for flip flops, camp songs make way for rapping, and pantoland is switched out for the streets of south London. Let's hope they're serving Morley's chicken at the interval...
Cinderella, Brixton House, 23 November-31 December 2023
Father Christmas Needs a Wee!, Arts Theatre
Nicholas Allan knew what he was doing when he wrote the title for Father Christmas Needs a Wee! The comical escapade, in which... well the title gives it away really... is turned into a chucklesome musical, performed at the Arts Theatre this December. Let's just hope it's not so funny that your kids wet themselves too.
Father Christmas Needs a Wee!, Arts Theatre, 2-23 December 2023
Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands, Sadler's Wells
It's not Christmas in Theatreland without a Matthew Bourne musical, and this year, the Tim Burton classic Edward Scissorhands gets the Sadler's Wells treatment. With its surreal snowscapes, and spine-tingling musical score, this horror-tinged gothic ballet is one for those who love festive shows, but aren't so keen on the whole "he's behind you!" schtick.
Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands, Sadler's Wells, 5 December 2023-20 January 2024
Christmas Actually, Southbank Centre
"I feel it in my fingers..." A starry line-up is promised for the debut of this ribbon-wrapped festive orgy, curated by Love Actually director Richard Curtis. Live music, Christmas stories, poetry, comedy and celebs are on the (Christmas) cards, although exact details are not forthcoming. We are, however, informed it is NOT an adaptation of Love Actually itself (although we are secretly praying for an all-singing-all-dancing cameo from Bill Nighy). Anyway, it's in aid of Comic Relief, so you know your cash is going to a good place.
Christmas Actually, Southbank Centre, 7-11 December 2023
Hansel and Gretel, The Globe
Poet Laureate Simon Armitage respins the age-old tale of the brother and sister who discover sugary temptation in the woods, with a stage premier at the Globe Theatre this festive season. Music, magic, songs and a sprinkling of hope are promised — and it's suitable for ages 5+.
Hansel and Gretel, The Globe, 8 December 2023-7 January 2024
A Christmas Gaiety, Royal Albert Hall
For one night only, the Royal Albert Hall hosts a queer Christmas extravaganza, starring a bevvy of LGBTQ+ performers, treating you to West End belting, voguing and spiced-up Christmas classics. On the line-up are Sandi Toksvig, Baga Chipz, Kerry Ellis, Le Gateau Chocolat, Sister Roma, Anna Lapwood and the Fourth Choir — with the whole bawdy affair hosted by Peaches Christ and Edwin Outwater. Sounds like quite the evening.
A Christmas Gaiety, Royal Albert Hall, 12 December 2023