According to Google, somewhere in the region of 160 countries celebrate Christmas, so we’ve taken inspiration from that hefty number and put together our top 16 shows to see this festive period. Yep, we divided it by 10. I mean, we love theatre and all but squeezing in 160 shows would seem excessive. You need to leave time for the Downton Abbey Christmas special at the very least…
So, sit back, grab a mince pie, pour yourself a mulled wine, enjoy one decision being made simple for you before the rows over the merits of turkey vs goose vs beef vs Tofurky begin and get booking.
Well, we’d have been cotton-headed ninnymuggins to have led with anything else wouldn’t we? This show is Christmas times three; one for those of you who truly embrace December for every candy cane, Gingerbread spiced latte and Smooth Christmas Radio filled hour you get your mitten-clad hands on. Adapted from the best Christmas film of the 21st century so far – yep, that’s a fact – the red and green sparkling musical features original songs and a tantalising mix of new scenes and favourite moments (O Come All Ye) faithful(ly) lifted from the film.
Book tickets to see Elf here
Not every show you see this Christmas comes with a guaranteed sprinkling of stage snow, but, with its proximity to the always beautifully decorated Savoy Hotel, a trip to the hugely acclaimed Chichester Festival Theatre hit Guys And Dolls this winter will still ensure you get in the spirit. Often described as the greatest musical comedy ever written, a stellar cast including Sophie Thompson, Jamie Parker and David Haig leads this vibrant story about gamblers, show girls and the art of wooing.
Book tickets to see Guys And Dolls here
Oh how we love The Lorax. We may have only first set eyes on The Old Vic’s puppetry depiction of Dr Seuss’ cantankerous critter yesterday, but he has already won our hearts. The fact that he’ll be operated by West End puppetry musical theatre veteran Simon Lipkin (Avenue Q, I Can’t Sing!) is also nudging us towards the book button, while the addition of Simon Paisley Day on the cast list is yet another reason why this play may just be as much for the adults as it is the kids. As the company implies in the show’s recently released trailer, take your mum, your child or even your fish, this one is for everyone.
Book tickets to see The Lorax here
It’s arguably the UK’s best loved and most popular Christmas story, so what could be better than a brand new production starring one of the UK’s best loved and most popular actors Jim Broadbent? There are still several days until the first preview, but with just seven cast members and the innovative The 39 Steps writer Patrick Barlow behind the adaptation, we already suspect theatrical ingenuity will play a vital part in what promises to be a spectacular treat.
Find out more about A Christmas Carol here
If the aforementioned The 39 Steps has peaked your interest, you’re in luck. Barlow and the team behind the former West End hit have been hard at work with a new adaptation of the epic Ben Hur. And, in the spirit of The 39 Steps, just four actors will race through the fast-paced classic with the promise of “a 103% bona fide chariot race featuring real chariots, a sea battle with real water and a decadent and unexpurgated Roman orgy that is suitable for all ages.” We can’t wait.
Find out more about Ben Hur here
We are huge fans of the Olivier Award-winning farce The Play That Goes Wrong so we’re more excited for the arrival of the next instalment from the accident prone company than we were for Pret’s Christmas sandwich menu. And that’s saying something. Head to the Apollo Theatre to see the original cast of The Play That Goes Wrong royally mucking up another play. In the very best way possible, of course.
Book tickets to see Peter Pan Goes Wrong here
If you’re of the opinion that reality bites, head to Sadler’s Wells for some fantastical entertainment and a dose of Matthew Bourne magic in his popular take on the classic fairytale. In this sparkling version, the slumber-stricken heroine wakes up to modern day London where life is even more mystical than any fictional land could be.
Find out more about Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty here
For some of you, Christmas will mark the most anxiety-ridden day of your life to date as you prepare to bring your new partner home to meet the family. Feel better about the prospect with Jamie Lloyd’s take on The Homecoming because, however badly your introductions could go, it’ll never be as bad as Harold Pinter paints it in his explosive drama. We promise. Gemma Chan stars alongside Gary Kemp, Ron Cook, Keith Allen, John Simm and John Macmillan.
Book tickets to see The Homecoming here
We all know it’s officially “the most magical time of the year” so why not take in some actual magic to celebrate? The West End has gone magician crazy in recent months and this Broadway import is the latest to appear from thin air (or, less magically but far more likely, by what we call in the trade a ‘get in’). Multiple magicians, including one runner-up from Britain’s Got Talent, and a person whose actual job title is ‘mentalist’, what more could you want?
Book tickets to see The Illusionists – Witness The Impossible here
Clowning around during the winter months has become the norm at the Southbank Centre and this year is no exception. Catch Slava, his troupe of clowning friends and a truly blizzard-tastic show for a fifth year running to guarantee you have a white Christmas.
Book tickets to see Slava’s Snowshow here
Acclaimed director Lucy Bailey will be taking audiences on a journey never to be forgotten this winter at the St James Theatre. Eight actors will play an impressive 100 characters from Jules Verne’s epic adventure, with the production promising “six trains, five boats, four fights, three dances, two circus acts and an elephant”. Sold.
Find out more about Around The World In 80 Days here
While this story isn’t particularly Christmassy, there is something very festive about a trip to see a bona fide children’s classic on stage; perhaps it’s the old timey traditional feel of David Wood’s heart-warming, Olivier Award-winning adaptation or maybe it’s just good old capitalism subconsciously sinking in and it’s the John Lewis advert drawing us to any tale about a child making friends with a seemingly grumpy old person. Nope, it’s definitely the Olivier Award.
Book tickets to see Goodnight Mister Tom here
Roll up, roll up for the return of this eclectic, electric, eccentric circus of impossible feats and hilarious skits! But only if you’re 15 or older… this Olivier Award winner is strictly one for the adults with plenty of cheeky cabaret and naughty shenanigans all staged in a sumptuous tent.
Find out more about La Soirée here
To even things up, here’s one for the kids. Stick Man and his Stick Lady Love are back at the Leicester Square Theatre with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much-loved twig back in his famously sticky situations. While it’s not strictly a festive tale, we have it on good authority that a certain bearded man and his jelly-like belly does make an appearance…
Find out more about Stick Man – Live On Stage! here
We can’t believe it but this family favourite has entertained festive audiences at the Peacock Theatre for a staggering 18 years. And with good reason too. It’s a stunning, magical and snow-filled delight that could thaw even the most Scrooge-like cynics. If dancing penguins don’t have that effect, nothing will.
Find out more about The Snowman here
No Christmas list would be complete without a production of the most famous Yuletide offering of them all, The Nutcracker. So, we have two for you! Covent Garden’s two famous and equally stunning opera and dance venues, the Royal Opera House and the London Coliseum, will both be offering audiences a dose of Sugar Plum Fairies and villainous Mouse Kings set to Tchaikovsky’s glorious score.
Book tickets to see Nutcracker at the London Coliseum here
Find out more about The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House here