For both mainstream theatres and theatres for young audiences (TYA), the December holidays are a time to engage with classic stories, holiday-themed or otherwise. “Grown-up” theatre offerings this season include Shakespeare in Love and Lauren Gunderson’s Pride and Prejudice sequel Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, and theatres for young audiences are offering a range of takes on well-known titles as well. From faithful revivals to fresh adaptations to the retelling of local histories, TYA companies are programming shows that resonate both with the adults who know the material well and the kids who’ll be encountering it for the first time.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical
Jahnna Beecham and Malcom Hillgartner’s adaptation of Barbara Robinson children’s book has the trouble-making Herdman kids singing and dancing as they take over the town Christmas pageant. Children’s Theatre of Charlotte in N.C. and the the Rose Theater in Omaha, Neb., are mounting productions that run through Dec. 23, each with a cast that includes both young theatre students and professional adult actors. Orlando Repertory Theatre is producing the show through Dec. 30.
The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party
Kids and their families are invited to attend a fancy tea party with Peter Rabbit and his friends, complete with cookies and hot chocolate for everyone, in this interactive trunk and puppet show from Chicago Children’s Theatre, running Dec. 2-17. Will Bishop directs, with puppet and scenic design by Grace Needlman.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Snoopy, Linus, and the rest of the Peanuts gang discover the true meaning of Christmas in Eric Schaeffer’s adaptation of the beloved television special. A TYA holiday favorite, the show has productions this season at Boston Children’s Theatre through Dec. 10, Main Street Theater in Houston through Dec. 21, Dallas Children’s Theater through Dec. 23, and the Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, Mo. and First Stage Milwaukee through Dec. 31.
E. B. White’s classic story of a friendship between a pig and a spider comes to Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Md. through Jan. 7 in an adaptation by Joseph Robinette, directed by associate artistic director Kathryn Chase Bryer.
A Christmas Carol With Katie McFadzen
Phoenix-based performer and teaching artist Katie McFadzen uses Dickens’s text to perform a solo adaptation of A Christmas Carol Dec. 1-24 at Childsplay in Tempe, Ariz., where she is an associate artist.
Scot Copeland’s Victorian-inspired take on the timeless fairytale returns to Nashville Children’s Theatre from Dec. 14-21. John Davidson’s comedic version of the story, originally produced by Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis is also back this year, this time with a production at Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati Dec. 9 –18. New York City Children’s Theater is producing Interstellar Cinderella, a sci-fi take on the story with songs by children’s music star Laurie Berkner, through Dec. 17.
Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis is bringing Whoville to the stage with Timothy Mason and Mel Marvin’s musical adaptation of the Dr. Seuss book through Jan. 7. Artistic director Peter C. Brosius directs.
The Eve/La Vispera
Community members from L.A.’s University Park neighborhood shared personal stories with professional theatre artists to create this original holiday play, a culmination of the Teatro del Pueblo community program at 24th Street Theatre, running Dec. 14-17. The play is performed in Spanish with English supertitles, with tamales and hot chocolate served after every show.
Extraordinary Stories From an Ordinary ‘Ohana
Honululu Theatre for Youth produces this world premiere play from Hawaiian writer Lee Cataluna about connection, community, and what it means to be a family, running through Dec. 16.
Frosty and Friends
Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts returns to Dallas Children’s Theater with the story of Frosty, a lonely snowman looking for friends who want play in the snow, running through Dec. 23. B. Wolf writes the book and musical arrangements.
Frosty the Snowman
Adventure Theatre MTC in Glen Echo, Md. brings back Bill Francis’s adaptation of the ubiquitous holiday song, set in present-day Glen Echo Park, running through Dec. 31. Jason Schlafstein directs, and artistic director Michael J. Bobbitt choreographs.
Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates
Metro Theater Company of St. Louis, Mo., is producing a modern take on Mary Mapes Dodge’s 1865 novel about a boy who enters a local speedskating contest. The show runs from Dec. 8-30, with a script by “House of Cards” writer Laura Eason.
Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic
Magician Jason Bishop returns to the New Victory Theater in New York City from Dec. 1–30 after a sold-out run last season. Expect some onstage disappearances, sleight-of-hand illusions, and a few surprises created specifically for the New Victory.
Mother Goose Christmas
In this Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre production, Bella and her Grandpa Andy introduce Memory, a girl who’s come to stay with them, to the world of nursery rhymes by traveling to the fantasy world of Mother Goose’s realm of romp and rhyme. The show runs Dec. 1-17, and is written by associate director Keith Smith, who’s written nearly 100 plays for the company over the past 25 years.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Richard and Florence Atwater’s novel about an English couple who come to care for a group of penguins from the South Pole gets an adaptation from Pins and Needles Productions, with music by Luke Bateman and lyrics by Richy Hughes. The show runs at Seattle Children’s Theatre through Dec. 31.
Adaptations of A Christmas Carol abound this time of year, to varying degrees of family-friendliness. Columbus Children’s Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, produces a version with young audiences in mind through Dec. 23, written by artistic director William Goldsmith with music and lyrics by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman.
The Night Fairy
Based on Laura Amy Schlitz’s whimsical children’s book, Bay Area Children’s Theatre’s production follows the adventures of Flory, a fairy who must fend for herself against spiders and other dangers after losing her wings in a bat attack. Executive artistic director Nina Meehan and Hannah Dworkin co-direct John Glore’s adaptation. Performances run through Dec. 30.
Arts on the Horizon in Alexandria, Va., focuses all of its programming on audiences ages 6 and under. This wordless wintertime piece for the very young follows a girl who, with the help of a mischievous elf, explores her very first snow day. Written and directed by Rex Daugherty, the show runs from Dec. 1-30.
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka
Not to be confused with the current Broadway incarnation of Dahl’s classic novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bay Area Children’s Theatre’s production features Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s songs from the 1971 film adaptation, with a book by Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald, running through Feb. 4.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta is bringing back its adaptation of the 1964 stop-motion animation special with rod, blacklight, and body puppetry, adapted by Jon Ludwig and directed by Tim Sweeney, running through Dec. 31. All-inclusive tickets include admission to the Worlds of Puppetry Museum and a Create-A-Puppet workshop.