What’s Onstage at Shakespeare Theaters in December

In December, many of our theater partners take a break from Shakespeare to celebrate the holidays with their communities! We reached out to them to hear about holiday productions including Cinderella, The Gift of the Magi, A Christmas Carol, It’s Christmas, Carol! and more.

Hurry to get your tickets to the African-American Shakespeare Company’s annual holiday production of Cinderellait has sold out for the past four years. A beloved event in the community, Cinderella always brings out girls in tutus and women in gowns. In her notes, Executive Director Sherri Young recalls meeting another fan of the production:

This summer, I met a special person in the community attending an outdoor event. Behind a desk in the outdoor evening air, a tall, lengthy, older gentleman, dressed all in black with long fingers and expressive hands stopped me for a conversation. . . I could tell he was an old-timer, a character from the neighborhood who I recognized by sight, but never got his name. After chatting about the event we found ourselves at, he said, “You do the Cinderella shows!” with such excitement that I was surprised. He wasn’t our normal target audience, but he had a thrill in his voice and said, “I just love that message at the end of the show. It touched my heart: ‘I found my voice.’” And as he was recalling Cinderella’s lines to me, his tall fingers clutched his heart and tears began dripping from beneath his sunglasses. We still do Cinderella after all these years because of the message. We’re not just reaching the kids. . . we are reaching all the kids at heart—no matter the age.

At the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, A Christmas Carol is a one-woman tour de force that’s onstage through December 24. Festival favorite Greta Lambert takes on more than two dozen roles to bring this holiday classic to life.  But that’s not all you can see at the Montgomery-based theater: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is onstage through January 2.

Brian Mani, Alicia Storin, Marcus Truschinski, Kelsey Brennan, and Hilary Caldwell in The Gift of the Magi, American Players Theatre. Photo: Liz Lauren.

At American Players Theatre, The Gift of the Magi is onstage through December 19. The original musical, adapted by James DeVita and Josh Schmidt from O. Henry’s classically twisty tale of love and generosity, was first performed at the theater in 2010, and this season marks its first time back since 2012. The Isthmus calls it “a Christmas delight” and The Shepherd Express writes that “It’s difficult to imagine a more idyllic holiday escape.” If you can’t make it to Wisconsin, watch the show online with the theater’s APT at Home program.

Gregory Burgess in A Christmas Carol, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Photo: Jesús Lopez.

Ebenezer Scrooge lives in Victorian Baltimore in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s spirited (see what they did there?) adaptation of the classic ghost story. A Christmas Carol celebrates Baltimore’s local history and Chesapeake culture while staying true to Charles Dickens’ novella. “It truly doesn’t feel like holidays without Gregory Burgess (our Ebenezer Scrooge since 2014), and our annual production of A Christmas Carol,” says Marketing Manager Brandon W. Vernon:

Last year we were only able to stream a Zoom reading of the show, and it just wasn’t the same, so being able to do it in-person this year has been an absolute joy. . . My favorite part of doing this show is watching the audience react when Scrooge has finally been redeemed and Greg lets out a whoop of joy (and if you’ve ever seen the show, you know the whoop I mean!). It always gets audiences laughing and cheering and is so much fun to watch.

At the Chicago Shakespeare Festival, the Q Brothers are back for the hip-hop-holidays with their hit ad-rap-tation of A Christmas Carol. See it through December 23.

⇒Related: The Q Brothers, GQ and JAQ, drop by our Shakespeare Unlimited podcast to talk about their show Othello: The Remix.

You can see two shows at Annapolis’s Classical Theatre of Maryland this month: A Broadway Holiday, the theater’s  hit original holiday music, and A Christmas Carolboth onstage through December 26.

⇒Related: “Shakespeare theaters stage A Christmas Carol”

The cast of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company takes a break from Shakespeare to spread holiday cheer with their annual smash-hit Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some), onstage through December 26. Three actors (with the help of drunk Santa) quickly transform A Christmas Carol into a slightly irreverent take on everyone’s “Beloved Holiday Classics,” along with hilarious bits, banter, and pop culture references thrown into the mix. The company’s production “isn’t only a tradition for the theater, but for Cincinnati families who come every year,” the company’s Kyrié Owen wrote to us, “After the long intermission of 2020, this year is extra special—we’re finally able to be together again, and that’s what Christmas is about!”

Gamut Theatre’s Annual New Year’s Eve Party for Children.

In Harrisburg, PA, join Gamut Theatre Group for a New Year’s Even party! Things kick off on the morning of December 31, when the Popcorn Hat Players Children’s Theatre presents the 29th Annual New Year’s Eve Party for Children. At this annual shebang for kids, the company counts down to noon instead of midnight! The celebration features the Popcorn Hat Players’ family-friendly performance of Thumbelina, party hats and leis for children to wear, and a big balloon drop at 12 pm (instead of a waaaaaay-past-bedtime 12 am).

That evening, TMI Improv presents Last Laughs of 2021. Gamut’s resident improv company will performs on the hour at 9, 10, and 11 pm. Patrons can buy tickets to individual shows or a pass for the whole night; passholders can come and go throughout the evening and get free non-alcoholic drinks. The final show finishes in time for patrons to see the downtown Harrisburg fireworks display just a few blocks away.

Here in DC, the Folger’s Folger Consort returns to in-person performances with A Medieval Christmas, an intimate program revisiting its classic 2007 album. Join us for medieval carols in English—like “Lullay, lullow”, “Ah, my dear son,” and “Gabriel from heaven’s king”—and in Latin, performed in unique arrangements for historical instruments. Performances run through December 18 at St. Mark’s Church: first-time Folger ticket-buyers can access a special $15 ticket price for live, in-person performances. Can’t make it to Capitol Hill? Watch our concert video on-demand starting December 17.

Andrew Polec as The Grinch in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2021. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

Keep an eye on your stockings, San Diego, because the Grinch is back. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is onstage at The Old Globe through December 31. “It’s hard to imagine the holidays in San Diego without the mean, green Grinch, so we are especially happy to welcome him back to our stage live and in person, after he sheltered in place for 20 long months on Mt. Crumpit,” said Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director Barry Edelstein. “That the Grinch will be played for the first time by the extremely gifted Andrew Polec is a special joy. The company that surrounds him includes new faces and returning veterans and is bursting with talent. The 24th annual iteration of this beautiful and moving show will be better than ever.” Want a sneak peek? Check out Polec, John Treacy Egan, and Tommy Martinez’s performance of the classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” below.

Lisa Birnbaum, Amy Lizardo, and Ensemble in It’s Christmas, Carol! Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo: Jenny Graham.

It’s Christmas, Carol! the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s very first holiday special, comes from the minds of company members Mark Bedard, Brent Hinkley, and John Tufts. On Christmas Eve, three ghosts take miserly businesswoman Carol Scroogenhouse through time and space to reckon with how she’s abandoned humanity for hollow capitalism. Whisked to a Shakespearean theater, prehistoric holiday celebrations, and a Zombie future, will Carol find her soul with the help of these apparitions? The silly, song-filled, joke-tacular show is onstage through January 2.

⇒Related: Actor John Tufts heads into the kitchen with our Shakespeare Unlimited podcast to talk about his book Fat Rascals: Dining at Shakespeare’s Table.

On December 23, Shakespeare in Detroit returns to its annual Christmas-Eve Eve reading of A Christmas Carol in the Brownstone in the Madame Cadillac Building at the Marygrove Conservancy. “The reading is a way for us to connect with our audience every year and celebrate the holidays,” Executive Artistic Director Sam White tells us, “It’s quite informal. . . We have champagne and cookies and milk and enjoy Shakespeare in Detroit’s version of the Charles Dickens classic. We are very excited to be in-person this season and reconnect with our incredible audience, as we have missed them very much.”

After almost two years of darkness, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey lights up its Main Stage again for the holidays. The company’s long-awaited return to indoor, in-person performances kicks off with a new production of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, based on the classic story by poet Dylan Thomas and adapted for the stage by Jeremy Brooks and Adrian Mitchell, onstage through January 2. Based on Thomas’ classic story about his childhood holidays in Wales in the 1920s, this heartwarming piece about a time gone by rejoices in the simple joys of childhood, the spirit of goodness, the comfort of family, and the magic that music and imagination bring to us all. Last produced during the theater’s 2016 season, critics and audiences alike praised the production, encouraging those who had not yet seen it to come and “experience the wonder and joy that will become a treasured part of your holiday season” (BroadwayWorld). The production features traditional music from the British Isles and is sure to touch the hearts of all who see it.

The cast of Hamlet, from the Southwest Shakespeare Company.

Even though it’s the season for Scrooges and Grinches, you can still see an even more famous literary sadsack onstage in Mesa, AZ: There are three more performances of the Southwest Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet, onstage through December 12.

African-American Shakespeare Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, American Players Theatre, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Chicago Shakespeare Festival, Classical Theatre of Maryland, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Gamut Theatre Group, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare in Detroit, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and Southwest Shakespeare Company are part of the Folger’s Theater Partnership Program.